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Honour well deserved

"Iyarkai," has won the National Award for Best Regional Film in Tamil. MALATHI RANGARAJAN talks to the director, S. P. Jhananathan, and hero Shaam.

Shaam and 'Kutty' Radhika in"Iyarkai" ... a different film that has won recognition.

EVEN AS the film began to roll you realised that "Iyarkai" was going to be a different treat ... and it was. S. P. Jhananathan, the director, made quite an impression with this debut film of his. (He had apprenticed under KR and had also worked for a short film with Lenin.) That "Iyarkai" has bagged the National Award for the Best Regional Film in Tamil is undoubtedly an honour well deserved.

The film had more than its share of problems when its release got delayed a couple of times. "Despite the hiccups it was an average success," says Jhananathan.

Thrilled as he is with the national award, he sees it more as a steppingstone that will make his next move in the industry easier. "I had worked on the story of "Iyarkai" for quite a while and decided that nothing but the sea would be a suitable backdrop ... " says Jhananathan.

But all the producers whom he approached felt that as Tamil audiences are used to clearly demarcated village or city subjects, trying out any other ambience would be a risky proposition. "My argument was, for centuries the culture and commerce of Tamils have been associated with ships, sailing and the high seas. It is only that we have not attempted to give viewers a seaside story. V. R. Kumar, my producer, understood my point and gave the nod. Kumar is a person who knows cinema thoroughly ... he is the nephew of Kamala, Sivaji Ganesan's wife," Jhana tells you.

Most of the scenes were shot at the Tuticorin harbour. "The authorities were very helpful," recalls Jhana.

Exquisite cinematography was a definite selling point of "Iyarkai." "Undoubtedly. Ekambaram is a DFT product. He was not only quick in his work ... you could be sure of the quality too. We shot for about 63 days and the result was highly satisfying." Jhana heaps accolades on the technician.

On why he chose Shaam for the role, Jhana says: "I was at the editing table with Lenin when the work on Shaam's first film, "12B," was going on. His looks, height and physique and natural performance made me decide at once that he would be the hero of my film. In fact, I had booked him for "Iyarkai," even before "12B" was released ... Arun Kumar and `Kutty' Radhika also did a good job."

He remembers with joy the first congratulatory call from the industry. "It came from director Vikraman. As soon as he heard the news on TV, he called me up. But when poet and film lyricist, Na. Kamarasan came home and garlanded me I was touched. ... it was an unforgettable moment."

Jhananathan is now busy with the script of his next film. "This time too it will be a new approach," he assures.

The hero's reaction

Shaam had been shooting all day for "Girivalam" and you think he would be tired. But mention "Iyarkai" and he is more than willing to talk about it. " I am very happy ... even when Jhananathan narrated the story to me I was very impressed. The picturesque way in which he told me the story was gripping. I immediately realised that the subject would be far from ordinary ... and now it's been proved ... hopefully we'll all be teaming up for his next venture too ... "

Shaam's elation knows no bounds. Extremely proud to have been associated with a project such as this Shaam feels that commercially too it would have met with much greater success had it been released on the date announced.

Does the young man feel frustrated when things don't work out as planned? "There's no frustration as such, though there's some disappointment. But I use my failure as an inspiration for me to work harder because I believe in God's will," says this staunch believer in the Supreme.

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