Ahead of the release of Kalavaadiya Pozhuthugal, director Thankar Bachan tells Subha J. Rao why it is still important to make a good love story

Eleven years after Thankar Bachan’s Azhagi, people still speak about Dhanam and Shanmugham’s silent love. The mercurial director, known for his fiery scenes, tender love stories and rustic rhapsodies, is back with yet another film that celebrates love — Kalavaadiya Pozhuthugal.

The film, produced by Ayngaran International, sees an unlikely cast coming together for a love story that spans years and is set in Chennai and Coimbatore. Prabhu Deva puts aside his dancing shoes and plays the role of Porchezhian. Bhumika has had an image makeover too. Thankar says he chose the actress “because her eyes have a sadness about them even when she smiles.” That was integral to her character Jayanthi, a rich girl who falls in love with Porchezhian.

As for choreographer-actor-director Prabhu Deva, the ace director says he could think of no one else for the role. “I wanted someone with middle-class looks who would flit about like a butterfly when in love, and mature with age. Over the years, thanks to his dancing, we’ve forgotten that Prabhu Deva is a good actor too. In fact, veteran director Mahendran rates him as his favourite actor,” says Thankar.

Based on his short story

Kalavaadiya Pozhuthugal (Stolen Moments) is based on Thankar’s short story Sarugugal (dry leaves). What prompted him to turn it into a movie? “No one can escape love. It is an education, an experience. But, films have always portrayed it wrongly. I wanted to show everyone — those in love, out of love and who will fall in love — what love is all about. It is most certainly not singing and dancing around trees. If Azhagi’s mouna kaadhal moved you, so will the love in this film. Love is a process and Kalavaadiya… is about this process. It will force us to re-examine our lives and think of those stolen moments.”

There have been talks of a sequel to Azhagi, which had an open-ended climax. “There is a plan yes, but I’m waiting for my actors to grow older. My son Arvind played Nandita Das’ son in the film. He has to fit the role. I want Parthiepan and Nandita to attain the natural wisdom and maturity that comes with age. I don’t want them to act; they must live their roles,” says Thankar.

Such waiting might sound strange in a fast-paced industry, but Thankar has always waited for the right person, the right season. For Onbadhu Roobai Nottu, that moving ode to old age, he waited a whole year because he wanted to shoot in the season of mango and jackfruit. “The geographical setting is very important to my story. So is contemporary politics. My films must reflect the age they are shot in. They must serve as a reference point,” says the director. They do. Many students are pursuing their research based on his movies, says the director.

“We can entertain, but that must not be our only goal. If we do just that, we are abusing the medium of cinema. Our attitudes have changed. That is why great masters are jobless now,” he rues.

The director feels his anger is justified. “Cinema has become exclusive. We turn the spotlight only on young, unmarried couples. Can only they fall in love? How about spending time to come up with different angles/dimensions?” But, why this fixation with “pure love”? Says Thankar: “Almost everyone would have fallen in love at some point in their lives. But, hardly two per cent marry the person they love. Love happens in an instant, but is difficult to forget even after decades. It remains your deepest secret in a corner of your heart, doesn’t it?”

How does it feel that Kalavaadiya…, which waited for more than a year for a release, will soon hit the big screen? “I’m very relieved. I’ve borne this story in my heart for eight years. I’ve done 50 films as a cinematographer and eight as a director. But, this one has taken my all.”

Shades of love

Thankar Bachan has portrayed different dimensions of love in his films.

Azhagi Two childhood sweethearts meet after years. He’s a doctor, and married. She’s a widow with a young son and works as a labourer. He’s moved on, but feels responsible for her. A dignified love story.

Solla Marandha Kadhai A rich girl marries a man from a poor background. They fall in love, but the girl’s father throws him out of the house. The couple yearns to be together.

Thendral An innocent girl grows up idolising a revolutionary writer. Years later he seduces her thinking she’s a sex worker. She raises the son of the only man she’s ever loved.

Pallikoodam A potter’s son and a zamindar’s daughter fall in love. Trouble erupts over their relationship. After a few years, she works at the village school and he’s the district collector. The silent love story continues to brew.

The Kalavaadiya Pozhuthugal team

- Prakash Raj came on board willingly. Twenty minutes into the narration, he agreed to do the film. I wanted 22 days of his call sheet; he was willing to give me 100. He is indispensaible in the movie. So is Sathyan, who has done a very important role.

- Music director Bharadwaj and I share a comfort level. We’ve worked together in three movies now. He knows classical music and composes great melodies. His music lingers long after the film is over.

- I’m delighted that editor B. Lenin came on board. He brings years of experience and passion to the table. As for lyricist Vairamuthu, I wanted someone of his standing to write about what it is to love and lose. Art director Kathir is an old team-mate too.