A passion fostered in childhood for drama and arts paved the way into the world of cinema for Sri Lankan-born Aravindan Ramakrishnan. He is not a film student. He has no formal training or background in film-making. But his inquisitive mind and a thirst for knowledge unfolded the celluloid chapter in his life.

Ramakrishnan, a student at Concordia Institute of Business, came to Auckland last year in November. He will be graduating soon, but he already has reasons to celebrate. In August this year, a short film directed by Ramakrishnan was awarded at the second annual short film competition conducted by the Tamil Youth Organisation of New Zealand (TYONZ)—a non-profit organisation that unites young Tamilians across New Zealand to help promote and understand their unique language, history, culture, and identity. His film, Vigatpam, was nominated in six categories—the highest nominations received by any short film this year. And on the evening of August 20, in an event held at Raye Freedman Arts Centre in Epsom, Auckland, the short film took away two awards: Best Music Director and Best Crew. And it did not stop there. The film was also recommended for several other short films festivals that would take place later this year in the UK and Norway.

“My passion towards film-making made me enrol in the short film competition,” Ramakrishnan says. “We were nominated in several categories that including best actress, best supporting actor, best music director, best cinematography, best editor and best director. The event was grand, and the support we received was overwhelming.”

Learning on the job

Ramakrishnan’s interest in film-making goes back to his childhood days. He grew up watching Tamil movies and his greatest inspiration comes from actors such as Rajinikanth, Vikram, and Vijay and directors Mani Ratnam, K. Balachander, Karthik Subbaraj and Kamal Hassan.

During his schooldays at S Thomas’ College in Sri Lanka, one of the oldest and prestigious schools in the country, Ramakrishnan often took part in cultural programmes. “The school gave importance to extracurricular activities, and as a young school boy, whenever there was an opportunity to showcase my talent, I always grabbed it. Slowly, I developed an interest in different fields such as dramatist, poet, actor and an orator.” He won several school- and national-level competitions but it wasn’t until Ramakrishnan enrolled in SRM University in Chennai, India that he first forayed into film-making.

“At SRM University I learnt about film-making through my fellow mates who were studying film-making and visual communication,” he says. “I always allocated time from my studies to help them out with their assignments on short films.” The time Ramakrishnan spent behind the camera, he picked up technical knowledge and gathered enough experience to work on his own short film. He believes that through experience and practical knowledge, nothing is impossible. “I started learning the technical aspects of making a film when I was in India. All the knowledge that I have now in film-making is through experience, online reading, and observations. As soon as I completed my course in India, I went back to Sri Lanka, started working in a multinational company and during weekends, I would work as a director on several short films to keep me attuned with what I had learnt in the university.”

Ramakrishnan's Vigatpam (meaning difference) is based on current events seen in the society. “The basic message conveyed through the story is that when we leave our own problems behind to courageously stand up against others, we will make a huge difference,” he says. “In the film, we have tried a different way to shoot a scene that is rarely seen in short film scripts, and it has created a huge impact on the audience.” But Ramakrishnan says that he owes it all to the team. “I worked with a young and talented crew who coordinated everything so well. This wouldn’t have been possible without teamwork.”

Quick and easy—the two ingredients, Ramakrishnan says, you need to make a good short film. “The game plan is to take a simple concept and add beauty to it with a unique script.” But he stresses that the way a story is conveyed to the audience is more important. “A script can make a simple story line more complicated and a more complicated story line, very simple.”

The road ahead

Ramakrishnan would be graduating by the end of the year and would soon step into the corporate world, but he says his love for films will continue to thrive. “I am never going to give up on cinema,” he says. “My passion and commitment towards film-making will always remain the same, and I am confident that I will come up with something new and exciting. I will definitely concentrate on making better films in the future. I believe that passion and career is not always the same for all winners. It differs; it actually depends on how well you manage both.”

Ramakrishnan’s aim is to start a production company through which he can not only entertain people but also to support fresh talent. So is he looking at developing feature film? “If there is an opportunity, then why not grab it?” he says. “I would love to do a full-length feature film. All you need is a correct platform to showcase your talent. I am just waiting for the right opportunity.”