On Screen- Dancing with the camera

Nalini Akal is one of our country’s most popular and eclectic dancers. From classical Indian dance to the tango, she has carved out a very successful professional career and teaches and entertains the local glitterati at exclusive events. Now, she has extended her passion to film making and is currently at the University of the West Indies pursuing a BA in Film. So how exactly does a dancer make the transition from stage to film? Well as she explains,

“I started film in the first place because I believe the fastest way to make an impression on people is through film.”

Nalini believes her experience with dance gives her a unique approach to film and she speaks about one of her motivators, Mary Jane Gomes, a BA of Film Lecturer and accomplished film technician and filmmaker,

“She taught us how to unlock our eyes and she having a penchant for drumming and her loving dance helped me understanding movement of the camera as a dancer. The subject matter becomes the other half of a duet and the camera has to dance with the subject.”

Nalini’s Dancescape project, which appeared at the last Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival is just a taste of things to come as she explains,

“This is my first piece for the Film Festival and hopefully it will not be my last. Right now we are working on a piece called ‘Four Roads’ which deals with the incidence of deaths on our roads. It’s a piece of work I feel very strongly about.”

There is something distinctly refreshing about Nalini’s optimistic outlook with regard to film funding. When asked how she plans to raise the capital for her project he bravely says,

“I am basically trying to create my own money. I’ve done that with my dance work and I am doing the same thing again with my film work. Some of the best films have been made with very little money but with a great story, films that won at the Academy Awards. I think we need to focus more on the script. Writers are the most underappreciated people but at the end of the day they are the bones of everything that we do and if those bones are very strong, then everything is going to fly and you don’t have to worry about the money.”

Nalini actively participates in her education and seeks out the support and advice of local film pioneers like Yao Ramasar. She credits him with teaching her about “found spaces “and not having to use big budgets on sets and locations. As she elaborates,

“In terms of Four Roads a lot of the locations are found locations not sets. I’m not talking about making things on the cheap, because cheap connotes ‘poor quality’, but something that can be made at low cost with a high spiritual and a high cognitive influence.”

Ms. Akal is full of praise and gratitude to the people who continue to make a positive impact on her and her fellow artists. The Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (TTFC) is high on her list of support systems and she admits,

“I have been very lucky and blessed that the TTFC gave me a bursary and I have been trying to go to all the workshops. I have to admit that it is nice sometimes just to be in the space with all the artists.”

As for the UWI Film Programme, she respects their approach to the artform and describes it correspondingly,
“They do not push us towards the big Hollywood, blockbuster model. They are realists. We look at lot at the Latin American filmmakers and look at how they make films about people, about space, about culture and being in their own space. So sure you can make films that can be shown all over the world but at the end of the day, what is important is that it reaches people’s souls and their minds.”

To any filmmakers who are struggling and on the verge of giving up, Nalini wants them to know that the recession does not have to put a damper on their dreams. Her positive take on it is this,

“With the recession right now, the media is bawling because there is less advertising out there. But it is really an opportunity to challenge us as a people to look at alternatives and see if we can accomplish great things with little money. Once you have a great idea, the sky’s the limit!”

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