Julian Karikalan always knew that love was universal. He just needed a way to show it on film. And that’s exactly what he did in his debut feature film Love and Love Only. Karikalan, who is the producer, director and writer of the film has portrayed a love story between an Indian International student and a working class Australian girl, set in contemporary Australia. Explaining his journey, Julian says, “I was born and brought up in Madurai where my real education happened in the theatres — where I would watch two shows in a day (Morning and Matinee), whenever I felt like bunking college.”
Love and Love Only follows the story of Kris (played by Mr India Australia 2014, Rohit), a boy from a wealthy Indian family who goes to Australia as an international student. While there, he meets Stacey, a school drop-out with a difficult family life. The film deals with the universality of human emotions and love, despite the cultural differences. Studying in Australia opened his eyes to a new genre of films, “Through my screen writing education here, I was exposed to another kind of Hollywood films that would never get released in India, but were commercially very successful in the western world. Those films had no visual effects or expensive anything. Films like Dhavamaai Dhavamirunthu from director Cheran further strengthened my belief in the power of the script and that they can be made on a shoestring budget, and thus came “Love and Love Only.”
Casting was a series of happy accidents, “Rohit, a well-trained stage actor, was actually chosen for another role in this film. But then, he himself suggested that he could do the lead role and performed the whole script and filmed it on his mobile phone, and gave it to me. I really liked his perseverance and decided to go with him. For the female role, there were around 180 applications from well-trained actors, as it was an Australian girl. I found this girl in a list of extras, as I saw the spark in her”
And then there was the ‘Raja’ factor. Maestro Ilaiyaraaja was roped in to compose music for the film and that made all the difference, said Julian, “He told me that my approach was very different and if it was the usual style of film, he would have just done it immediately. ‘But for this, I don’t know what music should I give. I just know that it should be very special. From the tone of the music, to the voice of the singers, it should have a very special feel.’ I felt very honoured to hear that from him.”
Ilayaraaja wanted an Australian accent and voice for the song, so the director advertised for the gig and got around 50 applications. Rachael Leahcar was one of them. When he saw her profile, he found that it was her birthday. She didn’t have just an angelic voice but she also had the right attitude and passion. He liked her rendition very much and approved her immediately. Rachael was so excited to hear that she would be singing in Ilaiyaraaja’s first ever English song for an English film.
Recalling the challenges, Julian shares that the film, which was shot in 30 days, had shoots running as long as 20 hours. And then there was the funding issues, “I funded the whole film with my credit cards, and personal loans.”