Tuesday May 22, 2018
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BR Ram Kumar Finds His Passion Through The Kovil Kodai Documentary in Chennai

Today, BR Ram Kumar's dream is to make movies on the ancient heritage, science, art and lifestyles of India

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kovil kodai
Temple Umbrellas in Chennai. Image courtesy: templeumbrellas.co
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  • BR Ram Kumar is a filmmaker who is mainly interested in creating documentaries that capture emotions and tradition
  • His recent documentary, Kovil Kodai, captured the traditional hand-made woven umbrella culture in Chennai
  • These umbrellas form a very important part of Chennai’s culture

The founder of Madras Documenting Company, who is 62 years old today, acquired a bachelor’s degree in Physics, and a Master’s Degree from CalArts in the USA. BR Ram Kumar used to work as an ad filmmaker before he shifted to filming documentaries on topics of his interest. Having spent his childhood in an environment of film makers, he had always been very comfortable with all the film jargon. Kumar has worked on around 400 documentaries till date, including industrial films and a feature film as well.

His recent documentary, Kovil Kodai – The Umbrella Of The Gods, is a huge success and has attracted a lot of attention. In Chennai, woven umbrellas of vibrant colors are an important part of the religious traditions. Kovil Kodai is the act of carrying umbrellas by devotees to protect the deity from sunshine and rainfall. It is also considered as a symbolic way to pay respect to the Gods.

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“These umbrellas are made by about 12 Saurashtrian families who live in Chintadripet,” Kumar told Times of India, who uses his own funds to make the films that range from a few minutes to half an hour. “The name of the area is derived from “Chinatari pettai”, when the British East India Company decided to create a facility to supply England with woven cloth at a controlled price. The weavers were settled in the area,” he says.

These families are descendants of the migrants from Saurashtra. Even though each family owns different companies, they all work together in unity to create around 3,000 umbrellas every year. Each umbrella is around 4.5 feet to 18 feet, and ranges from 3,000 to 6,000 INR, depending on the requirements. These umbrellas have assumed such an important role in performing rituals, that no deity is taken out of the temple without their shade. Each god is believed to be suited a particular color palette. For example, the umbrellas for Vishnua are only white and brown, while the ones used for Shiva are multicolored.

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Ram Kumar enjoys capturing these emotions and candid moments to help portray Chennai’s culture. The documentary was shot over a period of 24 hours with the willingness of the families, which made Kumar’s work easier.  Kovil Kodai – the Umbrella of the Gods will be screened followed by a talk on temple umbrellas by C N Magesh at Apparao Galleries, Nungambakkam on 18th June.

-written by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter Handle: @saurabhbodas96

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  • AJ Krish

    Documentaries that depict the great heritage and culture of India makes people aware of the traditions carried out in the country. These documentaries inspire people to know more about the land they belong to.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Inspiration should be taken by budding filmmakers as capturing culture at this point if time in India when there is less importance given to it is an important step. Also, there will be time when a few cultures would be forgotten, this is when such documentaries would be seen as a masterpiece.

  • AJ Krish

    Documentaries that depict the great heritage and culture of India makes people aware of the traditions carried out in the country. These documentaries inspire people to know more about the land they belong to.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Inspiration should be taken by budding filmmakers as capturing culture at this point if time in India when there is less importance given to it is an important step. Also, there will be time when a few cultures would be forgotten, this is when such documentaries would be seen as a masterpiece.

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Waves of black as Modi visits Chennai

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Black flags and balloons and activists in black shirts and trousers greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he paid a whirlwind visit to Chennai with helicopter as the chosen mode of transport in the wake of statewide agitation demanding constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).

Protests were also held with black flags and placards throughout Tamil Nadu in cities like Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Coimbatore and Tuticorin against the Prime Minister’s brief visit to the state and the Centre’s failure to constitute the CMB despite a Supreme Court order. Black flags were hoisted on homes and business establishments across the state.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Narendra Modi welcomed with black flags in chennai.

In a bid to avoid protesters, Modi, who arrived here by a special aircraft in the morning, chose a helicopter to reach Tiruvidanthai, in neighbouring Kanchipuram district where he opened the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry. From there he took another chopper to come to IIT Madras, in the heart of the city. From there, he took a one-kilometre ride by car to the neighbouring Adyar Cancer Institute for an event.

The Prime Minister walked a few steps from the helicopter to the car that ferried him to the Cancer Institute. As he did so, he encountered some 30 students from IIT Madras who stood silently but held posters demanding a Cauvery Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court — an issue which has whipped up emotions in Tamil Nadu. Modi then left by helicopter to the airport before returning to Delhi.

Also Read: Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

#Go back Modi trended on top as netizens took to the cyberspace to register their protest against the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB as directed by the Supreme Court to ensure proper sharing of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other states.

DMK leader M.K. Stalin, who was on a padayatra of the Cauvery delta areas, wore black shirt and trousers as he protested along with state Congress President Thirunavukkarasar and CPI-M state unit chief Mutharasan. “The Prime Minister may be flying in the air today but he has to come down when the elections come,” he said taking a dig at Modi.

A black flag was hoisted at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s residence. The ailing leader wore a black shirt. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and leaders of DMK allies wore black dress and marched on the road near the Chennai airport.

In the morning outside the Chennai airport, activists of the Federation for protection of Tamil Art and Culture, led by noted film director Bharatiraja and other film personalities like Amir, Gautaman and Vetrimaran protested against Modi’s visit. They were arrested.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Cauvery River Dispute is going on for a while now. Wikimedia Commons

While MDMK chief Vaiko held a black flag protest in Velachery, Naam Thamizhar Katch convenor Seeman, a film director, was arrested elsewhere. Vaiko called Modi a “coward” for choosing to fly. Political leaders Velmurugan and P. Nedumaran were arrested from Alandur metro station in Chennai for holding black flag protests.

Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre, saying the BJP was interested only in winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka. Even the hugely-popular IPL cricket matches have been shifted out of Chennai to Pune in view of the disturbances on Tuesday. IANS