While director Balaji Sakthivel’s latest film, Vazhakku En 18/ 9, is nearing the two-month mark, cinema viewers and enthusiasts across the state continue to peel away new layers of meaning packed into the film.
The director engaged in some candid discussion of his characters, the story and its visual metaphors here in Tiruchirapalli for an open interaction organised by Kalam, a literary organisation.
“The story revolves around two narratives, made distinct not only by the narrators but also by the size of the film used to portray each,” said English professor, Williams John Bosco, who pointed out that, “while the rich girl, Aarthi spoke through a 70mm film, the poor Veluchamy narrated through a 35mm film.” His minute observations and inferences set the tone for the critical discussion of the film that often questioned the director’s choices.
Taking over after Prof. Williams, poet Nandalala declared it “a film that shook the conscience of the common man who seemed insulated from the atrocities taking place in front of him.”
Sharing his own interpretation of the particular figures, 18/1, in the film’s title, Mr.Nandalala said, when you divide 18 by the number nine, it gave you two, which could be a marker for the two cases of acid attacks shown in the film. “One attack was the crime and the other attack is the judgement,” he finished to enthusiastic applause.
In the eyes of Thulasi Dasan, who organised the discussion, the film showed how most problems began at home. “If a child is brought up with good parenting, he or she grows into a person who is good irrespective of the situation, while irresponsible parenting can lead to multiple problems,” he said.
Finally taking the stage, director Balaji Sakthivel not only answered a range of questions from audience but also shared interesting behind-the-scenes stories . “Though most of the metaphors in the film were intentional, there have been several instances when the audience have inferred meanings far greater than anything I might have intended,” said the director.
Often breaking into contagious bouts of laughter, the director instantly struck a chord with the audience, encouraging them to ‘discard courtesy and haul heavyweight questions at him’.
Some of the questions posed include his views on a review that suggested the climax compromised the film; the use of a digital still camera; his views on why his first film, Samurai, didn’t do too well at the box office and if he thought the trend of portraying sex workers as compassionate people (in recent cinema) was getting them social endorsement.