The Pied Piper
Wherever KM Lo goes in Gunehar, there is generally a string of children tagging along after him. KM says ‘KM’ stands for Kon Man, by the way; I dunno, maybe the children believe that.
KM’s a Singaporean film maker who’s worked in various capacities in the film industry since the ‘80s. He also attended the first ShopArt in 2013 and is back by popular demand to host Tuk Tuk Cinema, also known as 1-rupee Cinema. (1 rupee is more or less equal to 1 cent.)
KM’s worked in the film industry for decades, in various capacities, including acting. These days he mainly lectures in film-making, when he’s not engaged in budget film-making throughout Asia. The two roles see him operating at polar ends of the industry, one very sophisticated, the other at the extreme end of amateur. The former provides income and contacts, the latter is his new passion.
‘I’m not aiming high with this. I just want to create happiness and let the people enjoy cinema art. Maybe some of the kids will learn some new skills, although there are few aspirations for art – most of the kids want to join the police or the army.’
Of all the ShopArt projects in Gunehar, this is the one that most engages the children. KM’s long string of pint-sized fans have created several of their own movies, with the focus on zombies, Batman, Star Wars and the like. The similarities and differences between village kids and city kids is sometimes surprising and sometimes not. Older boys border on delinquent in their behaviours; boredom being what it is in a small village, they tend to focus on teasing girls, bullying younger kids and finding opportunities for destruction. A sign advertising Tuk Tuk cinema, painted by the younger kids, was destroyed by the older kids for fun.
Once a week – weather permitting – KM hosts an evening outdoor cinema in a dedicated space along Gunehar’s main road. It’s eagerly anticipated all week and well attended. If there’s a new video from the kids, that gets shown of course. Amrit Vatsa’s 3-minute documentaries from the village are shown, but rather than look at themselves the villagers were more interested in Amrit’s holiday video from New Zealand, showing his canyon swing in Queenstown, dubbed over with an Indian pop song.
KM’s taken his model for village film-making and the 1-rupee cinema to four or five countries through Asia now. If he can find local hosts and some support for his travel costs, then it works well for him; he definitely doesn’t want any financial support from Bollywood.
‘I’m happy being a little mickey mouse challenging Mike Tyson. Bollywood wouldn’t ‘get’ this model. This is about a different experience. Anyway a lot of people talk; I’m a do-er – it’s important for me to do my thing and do it well.’
KM totally gets that it’s all about the village. There is no take involved here; it’s all give. I’m not sure KM realises fully what a hero he is among village 8-year-olds, nor am I sure how much influence this will have on their lives or for how long. One thing is certain though: for a month in summer in Gunehar, a bunch of villagers get to become movie stars and it’s very cool to see the pleasure they take from the experience.
Photo credits: copyright ‘ShopArtArtShop’