Hindu boy, Muslim girl, same old storyline? No, says Anees, talking of breaking many myths in his new film. Udhav Naig chats with him

On May 16, when election results will be announced, director Anees’ Thirumanam Ennum Nikkah, a love story that tries to say why differences between Hindus and Muslims need not always be a flashpoint but can be embraced, will be released.

Having grown up in a society where religion was never politicised as it is today, Anees wanted his first film to address a young generation that seems to have begun to wear its religious identity on the sleeve.

“It was never like this when I was growing up. For instance, Hindus would pay respects to the most respected Muslim leader of the village during temple festivals, and he would be a part of the group that would pull the temple chariot. But somehow, we have come to a stage today when differences are perceived as a problem,” he says.

Thirumanam Ennum Nikkah was to be a film that would break the myths surrounding different social and religious groups. “Often, communities have been reduced to something they are not in reality. Which is why I wanted to make a film about a Tamil Iyengar boy falling in love with a Muslim girl,” he says. The special vantage point that he possessed helped him represent the Muslim community not as a homogenous entity, but as diverse and vibrant. “There is a lot of diversity even among the Muslims living in Tamil Nadu. For instance, Tamil-speaking Muslims and Urdu-speaking Muslims have different rituals and customs. The sad part is that even Muslim youngsters today aren’t aware of these differences.”

Are there any risks in making such a film? “The key is to ensure there is balance. While the film features the Muharram, Ramzan and Nikkah festivities in great detail, it also features Avani Avattam and Navarathiri Golu celebrations. In fact, I have even showcased a lesser known festival, the Murshid, which I believe is the Islamic equivalent of the Golu and celebrated privately in homes.” In fact, this is one of the reasons the film has been delayed so much. “I had to wait for these festivals,” he says.

Has he been critical of any community in the film? “Critical? This is not that film,” he smiles.