Twenty-seven-year-old Halitha Shameem—perhaps the youngest woman director in Kollywood—is all smiles at the success of her directorial debut Poovarasam Peepee (PP), with three kids in the lead. “Attaining success is easier than sustaining it and I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” says Halitha, who’s worked as assistant director to Mysskin, P Samuthirakani and Pushkar-Gayathri for seven years.
“Viewers want something new when they go to theatres. Veterans like K Balachander and Bharathiraja have had their innings, now it’s the next generation’s turn to deliver,” says Halitha.
“I have always wanted to become a poet, but the last couple of years saw quite a few successful women directors coming up with offbeat films, but how well the industry has acknowledged them is a question of concern, says Halitha, adding, nobody has inspired her to venture into filmmaking.
So, how did she choose to direct kids? “PP script was the first story I could think of. It was fun directing kids. You don’t have to deal with jealousy and egos. Once you tell them what has to be done, your job is done. I would love to do more films casting kids,” she says.
Halitha observes how women filmmakers were relegated to art-house films and smaller budgets previously. Unlike earlier women filmmakers, this new generation isn’t making women-centric cinema, she adds. “With women like Soundarya Rajinikanth venturing into cinema, a handful of women have cracked Kollywood’s glass ceiling by succeeding where it counts the most—the box office.”
Recalling her days of struggle, Halitha says, “When I ventured out as an assistant director, I faced a lot of troubles. Many directors refused to take me in because they had gender issues. But I am a director first and then a woman.”
The filmmaker says she doesn’t want to keep repeating the same kinds of movies she did. “I want to do both critically and commercially acclaimed films. I have not only directed and edited the film, but also penned lyrics for the songs. Also, it’s easier to do a serious subject because somehow people will relate to it at some point of time. Your script becoming a film depends mostly on timing, rather than on genre or who’s making,” she says.
Talking about the most challenging aspect of filmmaking, Halitha says it’s important to present a concept well. “When you take care of that, everything falls into place. I want to make films vastly unusual from each other,” says Halitha.
How does she respond to criticism? “People think women directors can only make women-centric films. I wanted to break that mould. There is no better way for women to start than by producing movies they want to see,” she says.
Future plans? Halitha says she’s working on a second script, which is based on girlhood. “A commercial venture with zero vulgarity is always possible. But it should be packaged in such a way that the audience can love it. After all, I can weigh the pulse of the audience well,” she says.
Halitha says she would love to direct actor Nani someday and hopes it to make it big. “I don’t want to restrict myself to Tamil films. I will do films in other languages soon,” she says.
Is marriage on cards? “Right now, I am focused on my career. Why settle for something less this soon?” she smiles and signs off.