Director Bhaskar Sakthi's "Rail" explores social issues faced by migrant workers in Tamil Nadu

Bhaskar Sakthi's debut film "Rail" sheds light on the challenges and prejudices faced by migrant workers in Tamil Nadu through a poignant narrative inspired by real-life incidents.
A still from 'Rail'
A still from 'Rail'File Photo

CHENNAI : Author Bhaskar Sakthi makes his directorial debut with Rail, previously titled Vadakkan. In an exclusive conversation with CE, Bhaskar opened up about the film’s inspiration by sharing a personal story that highlights the unfair treatment of people who came to Tamil Nadu for work. “Two years ago, someone next to me at a tea stall said at the sight of a group of guest workers, ‘These people (North Indians) are pouring into our state; they need to be chased away.”

Despite the initial plan to do a short story on this incident, the writer-director said that he chose to base a film around it since the incident promoted the problematic notion of viewing people from other states as ‘outsiders’ who are stealing opportunities from Tamil Nadu natives. “Since this attitude of treating people from outside Tamil Nadu as though they do not belong here is rampant, I decided that this story should be conveyed through cinema,” he adds.

Having worked as a writer and associate director in films like Naan Mahaan Alla, Em Magan, Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu, and Azhagarsamiyin Kuthirai, Bhaskar is equipped with the skill set required for this medium. Bhaskar believes that those in need should not be seen as enemies; he also has a strong opinion about the concept of othering. Opening up on whether Rail would face criticism for its portrayal of Tamil people, he says, “Such criticism will only come from people with a shallow outlook on cinema and society. I have even questioned the hegemony practiced by powerful people from other states in Tamil Nadu in a scene in Rail. My only request and message is not to antagonise the poor based on their native. There is no question of showing Tamils in a negative light; I have only said how alcoholism can give rise to the baser qualities of a human. Alcoholism is making Tamils lose jobs, not people from other states. Many characters in Rail emanate the ideal and noble life rooted in virtues expounded by Tamil culture and literature.”

Author Bhaskar Sakthi makes his directorial debut with Rail.
Author Bhaskar Sakthi makes his directorial debut with Rail.File Photo

About the decision to change the film’s title from Vadakkan to Rail, the director said that the Censor Board found the original title objectionable and potentially offensive. “There is no direct connection between the two titles; since I have a strong story to tell, I think the change will not have a detrimental effect. Also, I went with this harmless title as rail is the mode of transport for thousands of workers who come to our state in search of a fortune,” he adds. He contends that Rail should be viewed in light of the ancient Tamil maxim, yaadhum oorey yaavarum kelir. The film stars Kungumaraj Muthusamy, Vairamala, and Parvaiz Mahroo in central roles, as well as Ramesh Vaidya, Kochadai Senthil, Shamira, Pintoo, Vandana, and Baby Tanisha in supporting roles. Rail, produced by M Vediyappan under the Discovery Cinemas banner, has a technical team that includes cinematographer Theni Eswar, music composer SJ Janani, and editor Nagooran Ramachandran. The film is slated for a theatrical release on June 21.

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The New Indian Express