Now playing, Balu Mahendra’s ‘dream’ project at a Chennai library

Balu Mahendra Noolagam has built a reputation for itself for taking an unconventional path. Imaging: Immayabharathi K

It was a casual conversation with Ajayan Bala when celebrated filmmaker Balu Mahendra mentioned his desire for a place where he could talk about cinema. But he died (in 2014) before finding one such place. The brief conversation stayed with Ajayan. In 2018, Ajayan, a writer-filmmaker himself, started a library with a collection of 2,000 books from his cramped-up, single-room office in Chennai’s Saligramam. He named it after the veteran filmmaker.

Today, Balu Mahendra Noolagam (Tamil for library) doubles up as a meeting spot for aspiring directors, cinematographers, camera operators, actors as well as film enthusiasts. Every evening, the library – which has recently shifted to a bigger place – illuminates with the sounds and lights of movies directed by the likes of Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa. Each screening is followed by vibrant discussion on the day’s movie.

What about weekends? Experts speak on various topics related to literature, art, culture and, of course, cinema.

The idea

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