‘Baaram Moved People’

Filmmaker Priya Krishnaswamy’s 91-minute Tamil film Baaram (The Burden) about elder abuse, set in rural Tamil Nadu, is based on true incidents.

Published: 02nd December 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th November 2018 10:11 PM   |  A+A-

A still from Baaram

Express News Service

Filmmaker Priya Krishnaswamy’s 91-minute Tamil film Baaram (The Burden) about elder abuse, set in rural Tamil Nadu, is based on true incidents. But what is a matter of joy for Priya is that her film was not only a part of the Indian Panorama section of the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) that concluded last week, but also one among the 12 films nominated for the International Council for Film, Television and Audio-Visual Communication (ICFT) UNESCO Gandhi Medal.

The medal will be given to a film that best reflects Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals of peace, tolerance and non-violence, on November 29.“I first read about Thalaikoothal, the killing of the infirm elderly by their own families, in an online news in 2012.

It wasn’t really in mainstream media, and it was unbelievable and horrifying. I thought of making a documentary on the subject. But midway, I changed track and decided to make a feature film instead. Accordingly, I began working on it in full earnest in mid-2016. We shot the film in January 2017. The post-production took almost two years,” says Priya on Baaram’s cinematic journey. It is her second feature film, after Gangoobai, which was released in 2013.

Baaram’s story revolves around Karuppasamy, an ageing watchman, who meets with an accident, and breaks his hip. Two weeks later, he dies. At his funeral, an old woman makes his murder accusation. And that’s how the plot moves forward to explore the theme of killing infirm elders. “I wanted to bring the little-known practice of Thalaikoothal to the foreground of our social discourse,” she quips.She cast R Raju in the lead role of the watchman within two minutes of meeting him. “Later, I learned that he is an alumnus of NSD, Delhi. I am delighted that my instinct paid off,” she says.

But casting for the film was a huge challenge as the story demanded more than 80 actors. She says, “Since it was a story of communities, and we had limited shooting time, my producer Ardra Swaroop suggested we approach actors from the Department of Performing Arts, Pondicherry University. While the main cast came from there, we worked with local people for majority of roles.” 

Priya held a two-week acting workshop during which the team worked through most of the script, which helped in the shoot and identifying other key performers.“People loved the film. It moved and disturbed them,” she adds.In the offing is her martial arts epic feature film on Unniarcha, a Kalari warrior in 16th century Kerala. “I’ve been working on it since 2000,” she says.


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