Camera : Ganesh Babu | Text: Arun
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The Aval Peyar Tamilarasi contest organized by witnessed a massive response. The winners had a special screening of the film on 7th of March at Four Frames Theatre in Chennai which was followed by an interactive session with the team of APT comprising Moser Baer‘s Dhananjayan, director Meera Kadiravan, hero Jai and heroine Nandagi. Excerpts from the interview

Why the ‘Vayathu 18 maaniram’ tagline with the title of the film?

(Dir) When the audience hears the description of an 18 year old girl of medium complexion, an image is naturally developed in their minds which help the film. Not only that, this film is about the search for a girl who has gone missing. Usually, in all man-missing news items, there is a brief description of the person. That is why I went in for this tagline.

Is the movie based on a true story?

(Dir) I wrote the script for the film with the aim of satisfying all classes of movie goers. But, I have been influenced by many characters that I have known in life and have incorporated those elements into the narrative to make it look closer to life. But, the story is purely fiction, nothing to do with any real life incident.

" I have been influenced by

many characters"

What attracted you to Tamilarasi?

(Jai) Well, I would not have been as excited if the description had said that Tamilarasi was 32 years old… (laughs). The director narrated the story and I liked it immediately.

How did you get involved despite the offbeat nature of the story?

(Jai). What involvement? (with a smile) The director told me what to do and I just followed his instructions. He first told me the story after the release of Chennai 28. Subramaniapuram was only in its shooting stage at that time. After its release, a lot of people came to me from all sides, but he was the only person who came to me when I was still a relative nobody. That is what prompted me to commit to his project. More over, he waited more than a year for me to get free from other commitments. It is for his patience, persistence and good nature that I agreed in the first place, the story came only later.

Why the name Tamilarasi? Is that special to you in any way?

(Dir). Definitely not any romantic interest of mine! When I was thinking about the title of the film, I wanted it to instantly connect to the Tamil audiences. I did think of many names like Radhika, Shanthi. But, to capture the minds of the audiences instantly, I felt that there was the need for a name that was in some way connected to the identity of the Tamil audience. And what better name than Tamilarasi to do that? Of course, it might not look like the catchiest title in the commercial sense and I must thank the producer for allowing me to go ahead with my idea.

" That is the faith I have in

the Tamil audience "

What gave you the confidence to produce this kind of an offbeat venture?

(pro). That is the faith I have in the Tamil audience. Every time a new or different effort has been made, the Tamil audience has always supported it. Right from the days of 16 Vayadhinile. When I first read this story, I got the feeling of reading a novel, there was also something poetic about it. It gave me the kind of feeling that I had after watching Azhagi. At that time, we were in the process of making Poo. Even that film had a similar feel about it. I thought that even this story, if brought out on screen can reach into the minds and hearts of people.

But, making this film was not an easy job mainly because the director is a non-compromising person. He wanted everything to be real and not give out any artificial feel at all. He was against even fake hair, like the beard that was used in Kattradhu Tamil. So, we waited for the right time and shot. The most difficult portion was perhaps the ones that we shot in Kulasekara town, filming the Dussehra celebrations. For that, we had to wait for the month of October to arrive. The problem was that it was a Herculean task to replicate that kind of a celebration anywhere. We would have needed around 5 lakh extras and the appropriate costumes and make up to go with. So, we decided to finish off all other portions by April-May and then wait for October to can the portions in Kulasekara.

I did not interfere at any of these points because I felt that this was a director’s film and had to be left that way for best results. I got the confidence to do that because of the faith in the audiences’ discretion. I would also like to mention that Behindwoods has been very helpful in this direction by organizing a contest for our film. They usually do such things only for the big films. But, if they have done it now, it is because of their commitment towards good cinema and the desire that it should reach the people. I would like to thank Inian (Behindwoods associate) for his efforts. Without such an event, I don’t know how many of you have would have seen this film. But, now that you have seen it, I hope that you realize that this is not just another offbeat venture; there are a lot of creative things to enjoy in the film and I am sure you will convey this to many others.

About the Dubai film festival experience!

The organizers for the film festival were here in Tamil Nadu watching various films as part of their selection process. At that stage, the double positive of our film was ready. It was Suhasini Mani Rathnam who prompted them to take a look at our film. They were highly impressed with what they saw and selected our film on the basis of being a bold theme to come out of the Tamil industry. It was a very proud moment.

It felt great to be afforded hospitality in a 7 star hotel, to be given a red carpet welcome and then have our film appreciated by an international audience. It was really satisfying. But, greater satisfaction comes from knowing that a huge number of people in Tamil Nadu are now watching the film in theaters. The satisfaction that one gets from theaters cannot be matched by film festivals. It is not about the money that comes from theaters, the movie has to reach the common audiences.

" The satisfaction that one gets

from theaters cannot be

matched by film festivals"

Why Vijay Anthony for a village subject?

(Dir). Basically, Vijay Anthony is a good composer and I was confident that given a chance he will surely deliver the goods. And, he has come good and kept my belief in him. He fully understood the story and delivered the score accordingly.

The Tirunelveli accent has come out well. How did you choose the same?

(Dir). Almost all the artistes in the film have dubbed for themselves. But, the main reason is I belong to Tirunelveli and when I set out to do a rural subject, it is best that I do it in a setting that is familiar to me. Only then will I be able to produce the best possible results.

It is said that you picked the heroine from a temple in Madurai! I too have my portfolio ready, will I get a chance?

(Dir). Definitely, if there is a right character!

Your experience with Ajith.

(Jai). When Chennai 28 was released, he was the first person to call and congratulate me. Ajith appreciated my voice modulation and body language a lot. Then, I messaged him when he was unwell and he responded with a call and gave me lot of tips on acting.

" Ajith appreciated my voice

modulation and body

language a lot "

Why did you choose to depict puppetry in your film?

(Dir). Every art form owes its origin in some other art form. There is a dialogue in the film that states ‘we are the first to tell stories on a screen’. Today, I am a director of the big screen, but the origin is from this art form. I wanted to thank the art form.

The heroine looks matured in the film, but very young in person. How did you mould her?

(Dir). Your question itself indicates that she is a quality artiste.

Your theme is novel, but isn’t there a resemblance to a few other films.

(Dir). When you narrate a story of a person’s life from the age of 8-30, there is no way one can skip the childhood part.

Similarly, there are many films that have shown the search for a missing person. There also have been many films based on life in the villages. This might give rise to a similar feel to the movie, but besides that, there is no resemblance.

" Meera Kadiravan’s instructions

were shocking "

In person, you look very different from the character in the film!

(Nandhagi). This is the same question that I asked the director. He said that this is the way he wanted Tamilarasi to look. Meera Kadiravan’s instructions were shocking at first. He wanted me to stand in bright sunlight, not highlight my eyebrows and more importantly, he asked me to completely avoid the beauty parlor. Though I felt uncomfortable at first, he told me that the value of this would be seen once the film releases. I went by his word and took everything in my stride. And, one last thing, I am not a native of Madurai, I am from Kancheepuram.

About your shooting experience.

(Nandhagi): I felt a bit down when there were long gaps between schedules. Then, the director explained that I had to gain and lose weight alternately for different portions of the film and that it could not be done overnight. He also said that our ‘dream hero’ was busy with many other commitments and that we have to wait for him to get free and change into the character. But, overall, it was a very good experience.

Was your film entry planned?

(Nandhagi). Not at all, not even in my dreams did I think about a career in films. I have to say that this is God’s gift. The director saw me in a temple and asked me straight and that was it. Otherwise, I do not have any connection to the film industry even through my family.

Your experience shooting in the villages.

(Nandhagi). Good experience
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