When we entered Sathyam Cinemas on Monday morning, we saw Karthik Subbaraj supervising arrangements for the launch of his company, Stone Bench. His friends and family received instructions from Karthik, and ran from pillar to post to ensure that everything was in order.
Stone Bench had been Karthik’s dream since school days. Quite literally so. “There was a stone bench in my school. I have written many scripts for school plays while sitting on that. So our company is named after that,” he began. It wasn’t just that. The director had also harboured the dream of setting up a platform to promote talent, and offer creative solutions.
“We couldn’t get a host today,” he continued, “so I am going to anchor.”
And, Karthik Subbaraj was quite good at it.
Meanwhile, Siddharth, Vijay Sethupathi, Bobby Simhaa and other young directors like Balaji Tharaneetharan, Balaji Mohan and RS Prasanna had arrived. “Not everyone will get a Naalaya Iyakkunar to showcase their creativity. Hence, a platform like Stone Bench is necessary,” Karthik explained.
A neat presentation was screened.
There are three divisions in the company, we learnt: Bench Flix, Bench Cast and Bench Subs
Bench Flix would allow short filmmakers to upload their movies, and the company will compile about six short films, and screen it at Sathyam Cinemas under their banner, Bench Talkies. The first compilation has been named First Bench. “I hope there is no last bench at Bench Flix,” quipped Subbaraj. The shorts will also be available online and viewers can make their contribution. “Pulavargal sabaigal la iruppadhu pola.”
A poignant documentary was then screened to explain Bench Cast. The short video featured Vijay Sethupathi and many other artistes who made a mark in Tamil cinema on their own. The actors described their struggle – from finding production houses to the countless auditions they had been a part of – to gain a role.
Anthony Daasan lent his voice to the song that played in the background. “Aspiring artistes can upload their photos, basic details and audition samples on Bench Cast. Filmmakers will use our database to find artistes,” said Karthik. Through Bench Subs, Karthik and team will carry out sub-titling. “We have already sub-titled 25 films and our clients are happy,” he declared proudly.
Director SJ Surya, one of the special guests, recalled staging protests to join Bharathiraja as his assistant director. Bharathiraja, who was the chief guest, wore a bright smile, when SJ Surya narrated the incident. “I used to jump in front of his car. When I finally got a chance to speak to him, Bharathiraja sir told me that he has 10 assistants and that I would have to kill one to get a position. Yaaraiyaavadhu pottu thalidalaamaanu paathen,” laughed SJ Surya.
The filmmaker thanked Karthik Subbaraja for creating a platform that eliminates many problems that budding filmmakers and artistes face. Director RS Prasanna said, “Cinema is the biggest democratic medium. I’m very happy for Karthik, who has paved way for more new people to come in. And short films are like brain-gyms, R&D labs… Give me an opportunity to make one short film in your banner, Karthik,” asked Prasanna.
Bharathiraja had a few observations about Karthik handy. “There might be some Western influence in Karthik’s way of working. But his work screams of Tamil. I have always noticed that,” he said.
The veteran filmmaker revealed that he didn’t sleep the night he watched Jigarthanda. “Eppudiya ipdi padam eduthaan!” he exclaimed in his unique style. “This happened to me after Nayagan as well. Jigarthanda didn’t let me sleep.” Bharathiraja patted Karthik for the novel effort, and then opened the miniature door that was fixed on stage as a metaphoric representation of Karthik’s initiative.