Director P. Rajamanickam on why he feels strongly about the content of Home Minister, an hour-and-a-half docu-feature in English starring Venu Arvind
The five-minute face-to-face with P. Rajamanickam, the director of Home Minister, a feature that runs to an hour and a half, reveals the passion behind the endeavour. His grit and guts to make a film that’s both different and purposeful, without giving a thought to its viability, is surprising! “Exactly,” says Venu Arvind, who plays the protagonist in the film. “I asked him who his target audience will be. He just shrugged and said, ‘No idea, I feel very strongly about the content, and my thoughts have to be transferred on to celluloid.’” Rajamanickam nods, “Technically Home Minister was in the Oscar race. Effective campaigning and promo activities were required and that’s where we fell short. We plan to send it to other fests also. But I’m glad that an English film has been made in Chennai, with only one actor in the entire film.”
“It isn’t a one-man show exactly,” Venu explains. “A docu-feature, you could say.”
Generally documentaries showcase problems but don’t offer remedies. But HM does. The practical aspect of the solutions offered is another question. HM says that all maladies from terrorism to population explosion can be tackled, provided you have the will. It speaks of communism and Corporate Social Responsibility, but isn’t didactic.
Despite a very moderate budget, if HM appears to be high in production value, credit goes to the lush locales and to cinematographer Primus Dass, whose angles and tones enhance the beauty of Nature.
At no point in the film does the viewer feel he’s watching a single performer throughout. The reason is not just that other characters are heard, though not seen, but also because of Venu’s versatility as an actor. The myriad expressions of joy, anguish, guilt, fear, love and self-confidence dance on the actor’s face, and make you wonder why his talent is going unnoticed in cinema. All the same, as it is an English film, he could have honed his diction more. The voiceover of Niladri Bose is an asset to Home Minister.
Having settled down for a documentary, you are surprised when the film opens with a hectic day in the life of the Home Minister of the country, touches upon his extra-marital affair with an Australian journo and suddenly turns into a kidnap drama. The intrigue revs up interest and you forget that it is supposed to be a docu! But the rest of the 40 minutes or so of the film when the actor holds a serious discussion with the Almighty himself on various issues — social, political, moral and ethical — a little tedium sets in.
An International Peace Conference is to take place in Chennai, and Home Minister Venu Venkatraman (Venu Arvind) leaves Delhi to attend it. Soon he is told that his girlfriend has been kidnapped. He can’t pay ransom, because he’s a Mr. Clean. But the caller doesn’t expect money …
Probably Rajamanickam should have continued to make it a suspense tale. Or at least when in the latter half of the film, the Minister interacts with God about the ills in society, and learns of Utopian solutions to the problems, the backdrops could have been changed often to beat the ennui. Also, it would have helped to drive home the message better. Hills, dales, clouds and greenery are fine, but in the last 20 minutes the impact of the beauty begins to wear out. Soothing at times and jarring at others, re-recording drowns the dialogue. HM also has a few avoidable gaffes.
Not a flaw-free attempt, but appreciable nonetheless.