Cinematographer-cum-filmmaker M Manikandan is confident that his second directorial venture Kutrame Thandanai will be as successful as his debut film Kaaka Muttai. Speaking to CE he says, “I had planned this script even before Kaaka Muttai was released. Though the film has a dark tone, the audience will find it realistic to go along with the story. It’s about seven characters and I have tried portraying how one’s conscience can actually punish an individual.”
The film premiered at a few international fests, including the New York Indian Film Festival and Mumbai International Film Festival, and was received well. “Though there are no songs in the film, I am sure Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja’s background score will complement my style of filmmaking,” he says.
Manikandan adds that he has addressed the problem of tunnel vision (a retinal disorder) in the film. “People who suffer from this are sensitive to light and have difficulty seeing at night; they bump into people or miss steps on a staircase. I did extensive research on the subject and it was really hard to find people who have this problem. I met a few to understand their difficulties. Though we completed the film in 33 days, we took considerable time in both pre and post-production stages. We shot extensively in Chennai and Kolkata,” he explains.
What’s Kutrame... all about? “The protagonist (a credit card agent) who has tunnel vision, witnesses a murder. What he does when he discovers a dead body of a young female neighbour and how he fights the war between morality and money, forms the rest of the story,” he explains.
The director says how he moves out of his comfort zone every time to do something different. “I don’t want to do regular films and be predictable to the audience. I keep experimenting with varied shades of characters and scripts. For instance, Kaaka Muttai was a mixture of commercial and art cinema; but Kutrame, a slow-paced murder mystery, is a full-on art film. My next Aandavan Kattalai, which stars Vijay Sethupahi and Ritika Singh, throws light on discrepancies in the passport-issuing process and the various problems we face because of that. It’s a light-hearted entertainer. Kadaisi Vivasayi focuses on farmer suicides,” he says adding that he wants to present simple and relevant issues to the audience. “There are so many stories around us that I want to explore,” he smiles.
But why is he keen on sending his films to film fests first? “I never make films with an intention of bagging awards. It just happens. I love making good films. When a film has a ‘festival’ tag, it always has the risk of not doing well commercially. So, it’s important that the story is outstanding. Even when I was a cinematographer, I was interested in storytelling. I can visualise things easily, and they are translated on to the screen,” he shares. Andavan Kattalai will have a theatre release unlike his other films.
Quiz him on why he does not rope in big names for his films, Manikandan grins. “I always believe that the core content of any film is its narration and story. Stars definitely add great value to the script. But then, we can’t force anyone into the script. We do not get big names on board always. When there are commercial heroes in the film, there’s a mild possibility of it getting stereotyped because of the regular masala elements,” he admits candidly.
Kutrame Thandanai has Vidharth of Mynaa (2010) fame playing the male lead, besides Aishwarya Rajesh, Pooja Devariya, Nasser, Rahman and Gurusomasundaram in pivotal roles.