After three years of collaboration with ‘Junoon — arts at play with schools’, cinematographer Ajay Noronha has stopped being surprised at how bright, open and forthcoming the children are.
The Pune edition of the festival will take place between November 4-10 and Noronha is a part of ‘Meet the Artist’ segment. He will be interacting with kids of Delhi Public School on November 9.
When asked what he has planned for the interaction, Noronha says, “I am trained as a cinematographer and make my own documentary films. What I share with the kids is the idea of multiple perspectives. As an introduction, I give them a peek into what a cinematographer does. But, eventually, all I want them is to escape the school atmosphere, and ask questions.”
Find your story
As a cinematographer and photographer, Noronha creates images and emotions. That’s his way of telling stories. And, he wants kids to find their stories, starting with, ‘Where do we get our stories from’. “One way is to get them to think of the fact that they can get their stories from ‘where they come’. Get them to share the stories of or told by their ajji-ajoba, nana-nani, or dadu-dadi,” he explains.
Next step is to make the students aware of the dangers of a single narrative. “The idea is to get them to see things from different points of views. I start off with myself; I tell them not to take whatever I say as the complete truth. Talk to different people and you might get to see different sides of the stories. I want the children to move from ‘one’ to a binary, which is ‘two’. And, then get them to think of several possibilities in between,” says the cinematographer of Hindi film Ferrari ki Sawari.
Many shades of grey
Noronha wants children to know that life is really in greys and it’s not fair to take a position — like or dislike, you are with me or against me. “Is it as simple as that? While I am discussing this with the students, I am also encouraging teachers to think about it — the hard positions that everyone is increasingly forced to take,” he explains.
His solution is to ask questions. “It’s important to ask questions and take nothing at face value. Only when one questions, can some true learning take place,” Noronha points out.
The Mumbai-based cinematographer has worked with Seeds of Peace, an organisation that works with children from conflict-ridden zones of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine. He discusses this side of the story with the older students.
Says he, “I worked with Seeds of Peace. My interest has broadened and deepened and I have been working independently and exploring, making my next film around the idea of home — longing and belonging. What does it mean to have a home? What does it mean to leave a home? This story is set in Israel and Palestine. I try to make teens understand the privileges that we take for granted. ‘Get up in the morning, put on the uniform and get into school bus and reach school’. Whereas when you are in Palestine, you can’t take any of this for granted.”
Screening of documentaries
Noronha might also screen a clipping or two from his documentaries. “If necessary, to make a point, I might screen clips from my documentary — A picture of you. It might help them to think of their own childhood or to think about, ‘where they come from’. I also have a small, three-minute clip of what I have shot in Israel-Palestine — because what we get to hear from these parts, Kashmir and North-east is — terrorism.
But one’s not going beyond that to say that there are people living there and trying to live as normal lives as they can. The bottomline is that I want the children to ask questions, to find out what’s happening in the world around them,” he says and concludes.