Hariharan Viswanathan's Tamil short film, “Idukkan,” has been selected for a world premiere at Cannes on May 16

The scene opens outside a temple. An old man takes out the few coconuts from his bag, spreads them on a wooden box, seats himself behind it and looks out longingly for a potential customer. When no devotee seems inclined to buy the offering on display, he gets desperate. He runs behind each of them calling out, “Just Rs.10 a coconut ma, please buy one.” His pleas go unheeded. Sitting a little farther away from him and striking a nonchalant pose is a beggar, who seems to be a man in his 50s. Coins are intermittently being dropped into his begging bowl by passersby. “Why do you look so worried,” he asks the old man. And when he pours out his woes the quick-witted beggar solves his problem in no time. He knows the marketing technique but just doesn't wish to exert himself while the older man is inclined to work hard but doesn't know the way to sell his ware …

The interesting 13-minute short that analyses the psyche of two men is “Idukkan” (if you are familiar with Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar's famous couplet, you'd know that the word means ‘suffering'). “Did you notice the old man walking away with a little pride after having sold the coconuts? He even drops a two-rupee coin into the other man's bowl, as if to say, though your strategy helped, you are after all a beggar,” says Hariharan Viswanathan, the maker of “Idukkan.”

Hariharan's “Idukkan” has been selected for a world premiere at the Short Film Corner section of the Cannes Film Festival that will be on from May 16 – 27. Ever since Kalaignar TV spearheaded the ‘Nalaiya Iyakkunar' movement that provides a platform for aspiring filmmakers to produce short films, and a short such as “Kadhalil Sodappuvadu Eppadi” was developed into a full-length feature and became a hit, the Tamil short film scenario has leapfrogged into prominence, from being a commodity that hardly gained notice of the lay viewer. Now, Hariharan's debut effort making it all the way to Cannes should give further hope to fledglings among filmmakers.

Shot in the arm

“It is a morale booster, especially because among the selected entries from India, “Idukkan” is the only Tamil short. I'm thrilled. I'd been to Cannes last time to experience the festival first-hand and catch up with makers and films from all around the world. They wonder why we don't send more productions from here,” says Hariharan. “Short films of 1 to 15-minute duration are preferred. Not all stipulate an entry fee. So sending films to fests isn't a costly process — just the courier charges.” Hariharan makes it seem all so easy. “Many of us here see marketing as a hurdle. Several associations abroad can help a filmmaker on this score. More than 4000 film fests are held throughout the year, most of them in the U.S.”

The Cannes recognition has paved the way for “Idukkan”'s entry to the competition section of (LIsFE) Leiden International short Film Experience, to be held in the Netherlands. He's looking forward to travelling to these countries for the fest this year.

Hariharan's aims are high. He envisages making Indian-English films in the near future. “And of course, animation,” he smiles. Harry Toonz, his animation and media entertainment studio (www.harrytoonz.com), concentrates on the genre. But his next project on the cards is a feature film. “I've got a script in the horror genre ready. Horror films have a good market all over. I plan to shoot it in London.” And will he continue with making short films? “Surely, at least one a year. ‘Idukkan' should serve as my portfolio. Cinema is my career and I've got my goal clear,” laughs Hariharan, a civil engineer turned filmmaker. “Eventually, I wish to find my way to Hollywood!”