Radha Mohan’s Gouravam, which hits the screens soon, looks at the grave issue of honour killing. Malathi Rangarajan asks the director what prompted him to take up such a subject

Every film of his has been different, every subject, appealing. Naturally, expectation about Radha Mohan’s soon-to-be-released Gouravam is high. The title kindles curiosity as it brings to mind Sivaji Ganesan’s landmark film of the 1970s. “I’ve taken up a grave social issue, honour killing. Something our youngsters ought to be aware of,” he begins.

Where did he pick the theme from? “Newspapers,” he says. “We assume that social ills are far removed from our lives because we live in the cities. They are not, and it’s time we become sensitive to them. I’ve exhorted youngsters to look at the atrocities happening in our backyard. Discrimination dogs our society even today,” he pauses. “Of course, Gouravam doesn’t sermonise.” His films never have. Be it the life of an aurally challenged woman in Mozhi or father-daughter sentiment in Abhiyum Naanum, he has handled issues without being preachy. “That’s probably the reason for their long shelf life,” laughs the director. “Frankly, I never expected the films to enjoy such prolonged popularity.”

Neat family entertainers

Carving a niche for oneself in an industry that seems to be teeming with talent is quite a task. Radha Mohan has achieved it with élan. Simple storylines, poignant messages and interesting narration laced with levity have been Mohan’s forte. But this time, it’s a social issue. So, will the humour quotient go missing? “Why should it? The subject may be serious, but the fun element will have a part to play in Gouravam.”

Is he consciously eschewing commercial gimmickry that’s supposed to make films tick? “You mean, like item numbers? I’m not against them. If my story demands such scenes, I’ll go in for them.” Yet till date he’s been associated only with neat family entertainers.

In the recent past, he seems to be toeing the bi-lingual line (Tamil and Telugu). If Payanam had Nagarjuna, Gouravam will mark a dream debut for Allu Sirish. Generally, Mohan doesn’t seem to scout for mass hero material. “Gouravam as a subject will work in any language, including Hindi — hence the idea of making it in at least two languages. The problem I’ve taken up involves a youngster who goes from the city to the village to fight the system. Sirish was a suitable choice. He wanted to become an actor and hailing from the Allu family that has deep roots in Telugu films, he knows cinema. And he’s fluent in Tamil too.”

Before he embarked on Mozhi, Mohan met several special needs educators and attended workshops. “Gouravam also warranted extensive study on a malady that has permeated down to the last person in our villages. No linguistic or geographical divide here. Anyone familiar with the village milieu can relate to it. All talk about the world as a global village is fine, but it’s a fact that a set of people is systematically being denied basic rights.”

The lead lady is Yami Gautam. “Popular heroines were keen to do Gouravam, but they didn’t have the dates. Being a bi-lingual, it was like working on two films simultaneously. I had watched Vicky Donor, and liked Yami’s performance. So we went with her. She’s done a good job. Heroines are hard to come by, you know?”

Mohan continues, “Even when I write a story the actors who would fit into it, enter my mind. This time I have Nasser playing an important part.” Kumaravel, a Mohan camp constant, is in the film, and so is Sricharan — the two were part of his Payanam also. And expectably, Prakash Raj is playing a significant role. “Even if he’s the producer, he never agrees to play a character unless he’s happy with it. That was why he did Mozhi.” And why are almost all his films under Prakash Raj’s banner? “Simple, I need creative freedom. As producer, Prakash gives it to me in plenty.”

The gap between Mohan’s releases seems quite yawning. “That’s because I do a lot of homework before I firm up my plot. I don’t go for shoot till I’m completely ready. The lacuna notwithstanding, I’m continuously working,” he laughs.

Radha Mohan is certain that the theme of Gouravam hasn’t been handled in cinema before. “Surely, this is not a love saga in a village. It is reality that hasn’t been touched upon. That’s why the film opens with the line, ‘This story could have happened in your town or at your friend’s home. Youngsters should watch Gouravam. It’s an eye-opener that’s high on EQ.’”

Keywords: GouravamRadha Mohan