Arun Kumar talks about his upcoming comedy Pannaiyarum Padminiyum, which is based on his hugely popular short film

After making a mark with the hugely popular short film Pannaiyarum Padminiyum, Arun Kumar, a communications engineer from Madras Institute of Technology, joins the growing list of successful short filmmakers who have gone on to direct full-length feature films. The enjoyable short film, which explored how a village head develops a sentimental attachment towards his car, has been developed into a full-length feature with Vijay Sethupathy in the lead. The film is set to hit the screens soon.

This idea, Arun says, occurred to him when he was reflecting on which aspects of Tamil Nadu’s rural life in the Nineties ought to be catalogued in cinema. “When I wanted to do a short film set in a village, I realised that almost every personality there — the village head, the tea shop owner, an army man returning home — had received enough attention from our filmmakers. But I felt stories pertaining to the material wealth of families in the village — a car, a telephone, a TV set or a radio — would make for an interesting tale,” says Arun Kumar. The concept was interesting for a short film, but did it have the potential to be made into a full-length feature? “Frankly, I did not think that this would be my first film. It was not meant to be a full-length feature,” says Arun. But, the producer, wanting to cash in on the popularity of the short, offered to produce the film if, and only if, Arun agreed to give his short a three-act structure.

While Arun eventually consented to work on it, he knew straightaway it was going to be tough. “It took me almost a year to figure out what kind of a film I was going to make,” he informs. He had a difficult task of developing sub-plots that complement the central idea of the short film: the emotional attachment of a Pannaiyar to his car.

“At first, I tried expanding the short film into a feature by simply adding more characters, but it became too long. I finally decided that it (the movie) would elaborate on whether or not the Pannaiyar (village head), who doesn’t drive his Premier Padmini, eventually gets his hands on the wheel.”

Just like how his short film was never intended to be a feature film, Arun never dreamt of becoming a filmmaker until he turned 22. In fact, he claims, he always wanted to be an engineer which he eventually managed to do. But, somewhere along the way, he got bored of his well-paying job. “Though I was doing what I liked, I felt a void. I was solving technical issues, but I wanted to know the bigger picture. In short, I didn’t like not knowing it.” How did movies help him overcome this anxiety? “As a filmmaker, I feel in charge of the entire process of creation. I love this job.”