Operating from his Kuilapalayam-based studio Yatra Arts Media – which also doubles up as an art school where classes in music, dance and painting are held – Yatra Srinivassan has been making short and documentary films made for over a decade. Two of his films have made their way to the ongoing Auroville Film Festival – ‘Garbage to Gold’, about converting organic kitchen waste into biogas, and ‘Be Part of the Solution and Not the Problem’, on the threat posed by plastic consumption.
Like these films, social and environmental awareness runs through the heart of Yatra’s work, be it the 30-odd short and documentary films or the 45 corporate films he’s made for NGOs. “It’s something I carried over from my work in street theatre,” he mentions. Many of the street plays which he was a part of during his youth were intended to bring about social change, and when he made the shift to filmmaking, it seemed only natural that he should continue in the same vein.
Hailing from a family of performers (both his father and maternal grandfather were Therukoothu artists), Yatra Srinivassan grew up in an atmosphere of art and culture, and would accompany his father in several performances. When the time came for him to choose a vocation, he knew what he wanted. After graduating in Economics, he enrolled for a Diploma in Film Direction in Chennai.
But has he ever considered making the move to mainstream commercial cinema? “Definitely” he says, “but it’s a dream I’ve been putting away for so many years. I do have an idea for a feature length film, I only need a producer willing to back it.”
As a native of Kuilapalayam, the village just outside Auroville, Yatra Srinivassan has been witness to the growth of the international township, and has also been part of so many initiatives taken up within Auroville, that though he isn’t an Aurovilian, he admits he feels very much aligned to the ideals of Auroville.
Yatra Srinivassan continues to be active in theatre, and regularly stages performances in the surrounding villages. While it is part of his efforts to keep alive the now-fading art form, it serves as another vehicle through which he hopes to effect social change. As the title of his film says, Yatra wants to be part of the solution, not the problem.
His films, ‘Garbage to Gold’ and ‘Be Part of the Solution, Not the Problem’, were both screened on Sunday the 17th of December in the Auroville Film Festival.
Nikhil Jayakrishnan for Auroville Art Service