CHENNAI: There can seldom be a political speech of note in Tamil Nadu that does not have the names Kamaraj, Anna and Periyar feature in it. And yet, when filmmaker A Balakrishnan attempted to make and then digitise and remake his biopic of former CM K Kamaraj, practically nobody agreed to help. “A few people heard me out. But nobody who is using his name to further their politics in Tamil Nadu today, agreed to help with a film about him,” he said quietly. “This film is as much about his as it is about how clean politics in India was like till 1965. There weren’t scams and politicians with convictions like they are now,” he added.
With the film, initially released in 2004, gearing up for a 40-screen release on Friday, Balakrishnan hopes that the emergence of the Internet will make all the difference. “Kamaraj’s life can be a fantastic lesson to the youth, who don’t know much about him except a few mentions of his name here and there. I hope that with all the different social media in play this time, the reach will be larger,” he stated, “Even if 10-20,000 people watch it this time, I think it will have served it’s purpose,” he added.
What’s new about Kamaraj version 2.0? About 30 per cent and a whole new viewpoint: the kind that would have made Mani Ratnam proud. “Some time after the film’s initial release, I met a government official, who sought me out and said that he was the corporation official who had to examine Kamaraj’s effects and calculate the Estate Tax (a practice discontinued since) after his demise in 1975. He told me that there was no land, no house, no bank account. Only a tin box that held`110 in change. That was all he had in the world,” he revealed. “I was shocked that nobody knew this part and so I wanted to reimagine the film from this man’s point of view,” he added. Director Samuthirakani, who has become a seasoned character actor, came on board and agreed to play the corporation official.
With better edits and slick flashbacks, the old film featuring Richard Mathuram as Kamaraj needed a few extra shots — a tough call as Richard had passed away in 2005, “Luckily, his son Pradeep agreed to step in and we canned the shots quickly,” said the director. The film also has segments about Kamaraj’s career in Delhi as INC chief and that section of his political life. (Kamaraj will release on July 10)