Monday, October 31, 2011

The face behind the mask

'Masks and Mirrors', a one-minute film, was one of 25 films short-listed for the 'Filminute' international competition, which received more than 2000 entries from all over the world. The director was the Mumbai-based George Mangalath Thomas

By Shevlin Sebastian

In the one-minute film, ‘Masks and Mirrors’, the first scene is of a 12-year-old boy suddenly awakening in a Mumbai apartment. He opens the door and goes to the dining room. His father is sitting at the table, tears streaming down his face. He holds a glass of whisky, with ice cubes in it. A bottle, which is three-fourths empty, is nearby. There is a photo of a somber-looking woman on the table. The man toys with a gold wedding ring.

The boy fills a glass of water from the kitchen and is about to drink it when he has a change of mind, and brings it to the table and offers it to his father. The man looks at the boy silently, then takes the glass, stares at the photo of his wife, looks back at the boy, and says, with a smile, “Breakfast?” The boy nods, and gives a smile. (Link:

It seems that 'Masks and Mirrors' is about a man who is grieving over the break-up of his marriage. Director George Mangalath Thomas, a Mumbai-based advertising and documentary film-maker, laughs, and says, “It is an open-ended film. Viewers can bring in their own interpretations. If my film makes you think, wonder, speculate and discuss, it means it has worked.”

‘Masks and Mirrors' was one of 25 films that were short-listed for the highly competitive ‘Filminute’ international competition. There were more than 2000 entries from all over the world. Incidentally, George is one of only three film-makers who made it to the short-list three times. His earlier entry, 'Staircase', a multi-award winning film, is also stunning.

“It requires a lot of discipline to tell an effective story in 60 seconds,” he says. “Your planning of each shot should be immaculately conceived so that everything is crystal-clear in your head. That way, you know the answer to every question that the crew puts to you. Finally, the biggest challenge is to make the film on a zero budget!”

Asked why the name 'Masks and Mirrors', George says, “Everybody wears a mask, even with the people closest to them. But there are times when the mask slips and the person is exposed. It can be a naked feeling and might make you feel very uncomfortable. As far as mirrors go, every son feels that he will be forging his own path, but in the end he tends to follow in the footsteps of the father. He becomes a mirror image of the father.”

George has had a successful award-winning career in advertising, corporate and documentary films in India, USA, Europe, and UK for over 20 years. His notable achievement was the documentary, ‘Legacy of the Mahatma’, which was shot on three continents. It focused on the relevance of the teachings and beliefs of Mahatma Gandhi in the modern world. Made for the Aditya Birla Group, it had its premiere at a conference on nonviolence at Bethlehem, Palestine, in December, 2005.

Cinema buff Ramesh Menon, who has seen George's work, says, “He makes films from his heart and shows reality in its utter rawness. You can see the films again and again and you learn something new each time.”

George's turning point came when his brother, Subhash, aged 38, died of lung cancer in May, 2009. “After his death, I found it difficult to go back to full-time commercial work,” he says. “His passing-away helped me rediscover my soul.” George is now devoting a part of his career to making meaningful films. Or, as he says, “Sometimes I am paid to make films. At other times I pay others to help me make films that exist within me, their stories a living thing that beats against my chest, asking to be heard.”

(The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)


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