You need guts to make bold film: Madhumita speaks of five films that inspired her style

‘I grew up in Indonesia, where Tamil films did not get released in theatres. As a family, we would fly to Singapore to watch movies.
Mouna Ragam, a Tamil film
Mouna Ragam, a Tamil film

Mouna Ragam (1986)
‘I grew up in Indonesia, where Tamil films did not get released in theatres. As a family, we would fly to Singapore to watch movies. It was also a common practice to carry loads of VHS tapes back home. Cinema, in a way, was our only connection to India back then. I watched Mouna Ragam then. As a sucker for emotion, I felt there was something so beautiful about the central relationship of the film. The character played by Revathy ma’am is independent and stubborn. There is a thin line between stubbornness and arrogance, which Mani sir captured beautifully. Every character has their own reason, and nobody is wrong here. The nuances in emotions impacted me a lot.’

Arangetram (1973)
‘According to me, the two most important scenes in the film are: one, when the mother has to break the news to the whole family—who have assembled to have a meal together—that they have run out of food; two, when the protagonist reveals to her mother why and how she got pregnant. There are actors of different calibers and age groups in these scenes, and I found it intriguing how KB sir had directed each one of them differently. I interviewed him for a documentary and learned that he has different styles to direct each actor. I learned how you focus on each scene from the film. As a viewer, when I first watched it, its statement on society hit me hard. It taught me that films can make a statement on society. That’s what Arangetram is to me. One ceratinly needs guts to make a bold film like this.’

The Host (2006)
‘The Host is a South Korean monster film. And what attracted me the most about it is that it will remain a perfect film even if you remove the monster from it. Bong Joon-Ho’s writing addresses many facets like single-parenthood, economic status, dysfunctional families and the class system. It is a family drama where the monster element adds a layer of surprise. I find it fascinating because those who want to see it as a thriller will experience it differently. And those who want to read it as a layered commentary will experience it differently.’

The Unforgivable (2021)
‘I loved how The Unforgivable plays with perspectives. We look at Sandra Bullock’s character through a particular lens for the most part of the film, but after a reveal, our perception of that person changes. I think that was the most powerful thing about the film. You first see a scene and perceive it in a specific way. After a while, the same scene is played to invoke a completely contrasting effect.’

Children of Heaven (1997)
‘The kids in the film and their shoes will remain etched in my heart forever. Children of Heaven reminded me that there are stories in worlds whose existence we are unaware about. It makes you empathise with the characters. When Ali aims to come third in a running race to win a pair of shoes and is placed first instead, the heartbreak and disappointment on his face feel so real and hard-hitting. It made me wish I could get him a pair of shoes. In my 15-year-long career, the biggest compliment I received was when someone messaged that my film reminded me of Children of Heaven. This is the film that inspired me to tell stories.’

(As told to Ram Venkat Srikar)

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The New Indian Express