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Practical approach to film making

Farmer-turned-film maker Thankar Bachan prefers a good storyline rather than the presence of well-known stars in his films that have a realistic touch.

THE NOTED cinematographer-turned-director, Thankar Bachan is fretting and fuming as his new film "Solla Marantha Kathai" could not make it to the theatres on Diwali day. In fact the film could be released only three days later, due to a `go-slow' at the film laboratory. But Thankar blames vested interests out to stifle the growth of quality cinema, behind this delay in the release. Thankar says that his film "Azhagi" that was released during Pongal this year was not only a super hit but also created a new awareness among Tamil audience. This according to the director has upset some of the superstars and big producers who were keen that Tamil cinema remains in the dark age of formula films. Thankar the `farmer-turned-director' who graduated from the Adyar Film Institute has been in the forefront of creating the new age Tamil films where story is the real hero of a film.

Thankar has a mission to make clean family oriented films that will "tell you the story of the real people of Tamil Nadu and not saccharine coated superstar fantasies"! Excerpts of an interview with the trendsetting director:

Why are you looking so gloomy and distraught?

My "Azhagi" was released last Pongal along with a couple of superstar movies and still it turned out to be the number one grosser. This had upset the calculations of some of the big producers and superstars. These people have gone all out to sabotage the release of my Diwali film "Solla Marantha Kathai". Maybe they got scared that my film with no big stars would out-beat their Diwali biggies.

How can your movie be a threat to the big budget, star spangled formula-films?

"Azhagi" started the trend of small movies with off-beat storylines which brought back the family audience back to the theatres. The audience of today has slowly understood that these superstar movies that have lot of glamour but no story are taking them for a big ride. "Baba" was a flop in spite of all the hype and hoopla. It is a welcome sign that Tamil movie audience are growing up.

In your "Solla Marantha Kathai" you have made a scathing attack on the superstars and the cult of hero worship. Please comment.

Let me tell you that this superstar and the star system have created havoc in our society. I will only blame the audience who are completely in awe of these stars. Where else other than Tamil films can you see a 50-plus hero jump and fly, defying Newtons Theory of Gravity and romancing and dancing with girls less than half their age? It is male chauvinism at its worst. In Hollywood a Robert De Niro or in Bollywood even Amitabh Bachchan play their age. I feel very sad when I see young unemployed men whiling away their time by creating fan clubs and wasting their parent's money on these stars. I have seen young men in villages spending Rs. 50 on his favourite hero and at the same time haggling with a farmer who is trying to sell a `palapazham' (jack fruit) to him!

Both your films are set in the rural milieu and tell stories with typical village subjects. Are you fascinated by such themes?

Yes, I am a farmer first and then a writer and finally a filmmaker who wants to speak for the oppressed people who toil in our fields. My roots are in the villages as I come from Pathirakottai near Panrutti from an agricultural family. I feel if India has to improve it can be only through farming. But now, globalisation is taking its toll. Today more people drink Coke and Pepsi than our traditional `mor', `ilaneer' and `sarbath'. I want to do something to stop this rot and so through my films I want people to be aware of the pitfalls of globalisation.

Your hero's like Shanmugham in "Azhagi" and Sivathanu in "Solla" are honest and straightforward who are not assertive and lack heroism?

Tell me how many people are heroes in real life? I believe in realistic films and my heroes are ordinary humans with real life and blood, whom you meet in your daily life. I had cast Cheran in "Solla", as he suited the character of Sivathanu.

What is the most important aspect of your filmmaking?

I believe in the old school of story telling like Akira Kurosawa, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Gautam Ghosh. My camera will never be obtrusive, it is meant to tell a story, and as such I am making far too many compromises for the film to reach the target audience. My style is closer to the Malayalam cinemas of 70's and early 80's. Before the shooting starts I give a hardbound script of the film to the artists and even to the light man so that he can understand my specifications.

Why are you so allergic to the stars?

No, I am not against any stars. It is only the star system that I am against. Nandita Das who worked with me in "Azhagi" says that I am in awe of the characters in my films. I will be working shortly with Mamootty who is one of the finest actors in the country, who like me wants to promote good cinema.


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