Youth, the seamy side
|It was not easy to recreate Madurai of the 1980s for ‘Subramaniapuram.’ But the effort has paid rich dividends.|
A scene from his Subramaniapuram
The success of ‘Subramaniapuram,’ has heralded the arrival of yet another promising director, M. Sasikumar, from the school of popular filmmakers Bala and Ameer to Kollywood.
If you think the film is an outcome of decades of mulling over a plot by the creator, you are mistaken. For, it took hardly 12 months for Sasikumar to conceive and write the script.
The idea to make a period film germinated when Sasikumar was working with Ameer for ‘Ram.’ He wanted to make a subject on youth, throwing light on the darker side.
“Immediately, after the movie, I walked up to Ameer making my intentions to become a director clear. For long, I wished to portray the other side of the youth and I feel happy for having done justice to my urge,” he recounts.
A gripping start and narration — a mixture of romance flavoured with comedy — culminating in tense moments, was the recipe the director adopted to convey his message convincingly. Right from the word ‘go,’ the movie transports the audience to Madurai in 1980.
Promising director: M. Sasikumar
The challenge was recreating the past with an authentic touch. “We put in serious efforts to make sure that anything representing the contemporary would not creep in. We bought most of the articles used in the picture. The task called for extensive homework. Starting from hairstyle to costume design, the movie demanded a lot and we were equal to the task. You might have noticed that each character wears clothes of a distinct design pattern. For instance, ‘Paraman’ (the role donned by me), bosom-friend of the protagonist, always prefers shirts with checks while ‘Azhagar,’ his friend, selects shirts with motley designs,” he says.
The film has won critical acclaim for its authentic presentation of things that were in use during 1980s.
“It was like walking on razor’s edge. Masking modern day sophistication was strenuous, for instance, the overhead cable television network wires that snaked over the walls of almost all the houses. However, the dividends have been rich, Sasikumar beams.
On choice of music director and use of Ilaiyaraja’s popular number ‘Siru ponmani’ as a sort of love theme, Sasikumar says: “We wanted to use that song from ‘Kallukkul Eeram’ as an alternative to the background score and it worked well.
“James Vasanthan was our first choice since he was my music teacher at school and we do complement each other. I was able to extract work, which a debutant cannot expect from an established music director. The songs, re-recording with its spaces for silence synchronised well with the narration.”
More than the entertainment, the accent was on documenting the past. The anguish of the unemployed youth, who are made scapegoats in the political power struggle, is well-captured by him, reflecting the political ethos.
The presence of the portrait of freedom fighter V.O.Chidambaram Pillai at the heroine’s house, shifts the focus to the political and caste equations that have always played a significant role in the history of Madurai.
Azhagar is hacked to death and the heroine’s uncle says to her, “You have proved that you are one of us.”
It comes as a rude shock to the viewer savouring the romance beautifully portrayed up to that point. The man betrayed by his sweetheart?
“The family bond is stronger here than the love. If the girl and the boy had united, the film would not have become a talking point now. But this is reality,” asserts Sasikumar. “I did not discuss the script with any of my cinema friends. Instead I told the story to a friend totally unconnected with the field. When he understood what I was trying to say, I knew I would make it.”
The film does not show that it was the failure of the State to provide employment, as quite a few films made at that point of time sought to show.
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