Filmmaker S.A. Chandrasekaran spells out the reasons for the interest his 66th film, Sattappadi Kutram, has generated.
Sattappadi Kutram has all the ingredients of a political satire. Hence the timing of its release is intriguing. “I conceived the story a year and a half ago. And when I planned to release the film in March, I expected the elections to be held in May. So nothing was intentional,” director S. A. Chandrasekaran clarifies. “We should learn to see cinema as a medium, far different from politics. As a keen observer of the happenings around me for long, don't I have the right to showcase my angst,” he contends. Even before SK came out, a case was filed to stop the release. During MGR's tenure, I made Needhikku Thandanai, a film that had a political slant to it, but he wasn't flustered because he saw it as a film, nothing more.”
After a series of films — including Sattam Oru Iruttarai, the blockbuster with Vijayakanth, and Naan Sigappu Manidhan, the runaway hit with Rajnikanth — on the judicial system and society's maladies, SAC changed tack to romance. After a long gap, he's back to where he began, with Sattappadi Kutram. Why the shift? “When my son Vijay wanted to enter cinema he was just an adolescent, and none was willing to give him a chance. He was too thin. So I decided to launch him myself. If you watch those films, you'll not believe it's the same Vijay you see now,” he laughs. “But I couldn't give heavy roles to the young boy, could I?”
Now that Vijay is riding really high, SAC has gone back to his favourite theme. That a couple of his efforts in the romantic genre met with lukewarm response could be another reason.
“In a country where nearly 50 per cent of its citizens don't care to cast their votes, things are bound to go awry. Not exercising your franchise should be made a punishable offence,” fumes the maker. The point is one of the many underlined in Sattappadi Kutram.
SAC's anger against the corrupt system finds an outlet in SK. Satyaraj embodies the feelings of the director on screen. The Che Guevara kind of look that the actor sports in SK has been done with a purpose. “The resemblance to the revolutionary, I feel, increases the intensity of the character. Swami Vivekananda's clarion call to young Indians to effect changes that augur well for the nation forms the crux of SK. None but an actor of Satyaraj's stature could have carried it off so wonderfully,” says SAC. Vikranth and Harish Kalyan are the other heroes.
SK's cinematographer is Anjaneyulu, a youngster from Andhra. “The fire in him is much in tune with the spirit of the film,” observes the maker. “Every technician and actor who has worked in SK shares my fury and that made the atmosphere at the workplace congenial. Just close your eyes and listen to the background score of SK, you'll notice that the music reveals ire.” Vijay Antony, the composer, got so involved in the project that he refused to take money for his work. “I feel as much about the injustices as you do,” he told the director. So did Seeman, who plays a conscientious lawyer in the film. “‘I did it because my views concur with yours. Don't make it a mercenary exercise,' he told me,” says SAC.
SK has been shot in locations far removed from human habitation. “We are the first team to shoot in the forests of Sathyamangalam and Aasanur, where Veerappan was hiding.” The unit camped there for 45 days to can vital scenes. “Elephants would move in herds, and we would wait in silence in our vehicles till they chose to leave. ‘A honk could spell tragedy for you,' we had been warned,” laughs SAC.
“It's not just about corruption. The film dwells on society's warped approach to love, where couples elope and seek refuge at police stations, beliefs that allow religious heads to take the gullible for a ride, officials of the anti-corruption department, who are themselves corrupt, and much more.” But most of these aspects have been dealt with before, haven't they? “In my earlier films too I've touched upon atrocities but I've never given solutions. For the first time I've suggested redressal, Utopian all right, but measures that are a balm for the frustrated and straightforward among us,” he justifies.
Summing up, “Sattappadi Kutram isn't a dry take on politics. It has all the elements that our youngsters like to watch on screen. And the solutions offered are the highlights,” he says.