Popular yesteryear comedian Goundamani plays a humble farmer in director Arokiadoss’ upcoming film 49-O

The director of 49-O has staged a coup: he has cast the most popular yesteryear comedian in Tamil cinema, the ageing Goundamani, as a protagonist in what could be a social satire on the sad state of farmers in our country.

 How difficult was it to get him to say yes? “Everyone said he wouldn’t do movies anymore . But, he listened to the story for 15 minutes and said yes to the script immediately. Despite being born into an agricultural family, he has never played the role of a farmer in movies. That worked in my favour.”

Arokiadoss, a former associate of director Gautham Menon, maintains that Goundamani was his first and last option as far as 49-O was concerned.

“In my humble opinion, he is someone like the late M. R. Radha, who could casually make a snide remark about contemporary politics and get away with it. We have seen him do that time and again in his career.”

Arokiadoss, whose family is one among the millions to have given up farming, says that he wanted to make a film about the struggle of the farmers after he witnessed how once fertile lands became barren.

“The film comments on social, political and economic issues. It will talk about contemporary politics and how economic reforms affect farmers in our country,” says Arokiadoss.  But why did he name his film 49-O? “When I wrote the film, there was no NOTA. The idea was to say that for a voiceless farmer, democracy is not as empowering as we make it out to be.”

 Is he going to serve us the Goundamani that we have all known?

“He comes through as a common man — a villager. He has even danced for a couple of songs in the film. To answer this question, let me tell you that I haven’t tried to milk his popular dialogues. Having said that, Goundamani’s brand of comedy — those remarkably quick, witty retorts laced with sarcasm – will be intact.”