CANNES: On his first visit to the Cannes Film Festival, Pa Ranjith, one of the most exciting filmmakers working in Indian cinema today, launched the first look poster of an upcoming film "Vettuvam" (The Hunted).
The "Sarpatta Parambarai" director, whose films have given voice to rising Dalit assertion in Tamil cinema, will begin filming "Vettuvam" later this year.
The film will be delivered for release in 2023.
The writer-director's calendar, which includes his long-awaited Hindi-language Birsa Munda biopic, is full for the next couple of years.
"It is not easy," says Ranjith, "to consistently articulate a specific social consciousness in mainstream cinema but mainstream cinema, thanks to the reach and appeal it has, is the best vehicle that there can be for training the spotlight on stories of communities that have faced exploitation and marginalization for centuries."
"Vettuvam" will tell the story of a notorious gangster, Cholan, a modern-day Robin Hood, who establishes his control over the Ponni region of Tamil Nadu. As he fights to protect his people, he makes many enemies but also legions of supporters who swear by him. When his rivals realise that Cholan is too powerful for them, they harness the power of the state in an attempt to bring him down.
"The film is the story of an ordinary daily wage labourer's rise to a position of power," says Ranjith, indicating that "Vettuvam" will be another essential addition to a body of work that includes two Rajinikanth starrers "Kabali" and "Kaala", besides the director's first two films, the romantic comedy "Attakathi" (2012) and the political action drama "Madras" (2014).
"The deeper question that 'Vettuvam' will address hinges on power and on how historically those that wield power perpetuate a sense of inferiority and push people to the margins," says Ranjith.
Riding on the back of the films of Ranjith and other directors who have been influenced by the anti-caste stance of his stories, Tamil cinema has seen much change in the ten years that the director has been delivering his cinematic punches.
He says: "Despite decades of Dravidian politics, caste is deeply rooted in Tamil society. This did not allow neglected stories to find their way through. I want to tell my own stories while using a popular idiom that communicates and provokes all at once."
Ranjith recalls the time when he put a portrait of Babasaheb Ambedkar in a scene in his first film and people advised him to delete the scene.
"Today," he points out, "there has been marked change. A lot of filmmakers from oppressed communities want to use the medium to convey their concerns, challenges and aspirations. I do my bit to pave the way for them."
"Vettuvam" is produced by Abhayanand Singh, Piiyush Singh and Ashwini Choudhary of Golden Ratio Films in collaboration with Ranjith and Aditi Anand's Neelam Studios.
As "Vettuvam" takes shape, Ranjith is in the process of giving finishing touches to a romantic comedy "Natchathiram Nagargirathu" and preparing to film his first collaboration with star-actor Vikram from next month.
The Vikram starrer, Ranjith reveals, is set against the backdrop of early 19th century mining.
His first Hindi film, a drama about the life and times of tribal icon Birsa Munda, is also in the works.
"I will shoot the film next year," says Ranjith.
"In the current scenario, it is important to bring the Birsa Munda story to the big screen and highlight his social and political thought."
"Birsa Munda wasn't only a freedom fighter battling the British but also a crusader against exploitation of the tribal population by powerful landlords," Ranjith adds.