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A tryst with the city’s past

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Meticulous Proved his mettle
Meticulous Proved his mettle

Subramaniapuram of the 80s, one of the bustling residential localities of Madurai, has been recreated to perfection in this latest flick, write T. SARAVANAN and D. KARTHIKEYAN

Re-creating the past is not an easy job. Nostalgia is what you “feel” when two different temporal moments, past and present, come together, often burdened by emotions since the past is confined in time and space.

Reproducing nostalgic memories is always a tricky proposition. But art director Rembon B. can take pride for having done his work to near perfection in his maiden venture “Subramaniapuram”

The much talked about aspect of this latest blockbuster is its portrayal of Madurai of the 80s. The movie, with a tremendous scope for the art director, is an attempt at reliving yesteryears. The story is about events that occurred in 1980 in the lives of a group of youngsters.

Difficult proposition

“Doing a historical is relatively easier. For, everything is left to your creative faculty. The headgear of the King can be anything from a decorative turban to exquisitely designed ornamental piece. You can create your own field. But in this case it is far more challenging. You have to depict a period, which is not so long ago. Even a minor lapse can lead to a glaring mistake marring the spirit of the film,” narrates Mr. Rembon.

The art director collected memorabilia from various sources which include sign board artists, photographs from wall painters, stitch patterns from tailors and other items of everyday usage of which only 10 per cent was used.

The Bombay Dyeing calendar with images of actors, which decorated the households, tailor shops etc, wire chairs, black and white television, shark fin collared shirt and bell-bottom pants with prominent steel buckled-leather belts during the 80’s, were predominant throughout the film.

Painstaking effort

The film is undoubtedly a painstaking effort with a lot of minutiae, as nostalgia requires the availability of evidence of the past with a greater level of authenticity. This was amply seen in the team’s conscientious effort to the extent that the producer-director M. Sasikumar bought a town bus, Bedford police vehicle, lambretta scooter and Rajdoot bike well before going in for the shoot.

Right from the gold chain with a pendant featuring two swans, which is worn by the heroine of the movie, to the magazines displayed at a petty shop, Mr. Rembon’s quest for meticulous detail is obvious.

“I spent much time collecting details from people whom I know and from my friend’s acquaintances. I also went to libraries looking for information relating to that period. The archives section of the Connemara Library, Chennai, helped a lot, as we were able to look at magazines of that period. Be it advertisements or news features, I gathered all valuable information. At the end, we were in with a problem of plenty. Actually, what we have included in the movie is just a percentage of our collection while majority could not be used,” he says.

Temple festival

Especially, the essence of temple festival was captured from an old videocassette.

“Most of the scenes from the cassette loaded us with the life and custom of people living in and around Subramaniapuram locality,” he says.

The lanes and narrow by-lanes are recreated to match with the real.

“In fact, the film was not shot at the actual location. The film was shot at locations in Dindigul and Chinnalapatti as the actual Subramaniapuram had transformed a lot over the period. Most of the houses have become two-storeyed buildings and it was hard to find tiled roof houses. But we were able to find it in Dindigul and Chinnalapatti. The politician’s big house in the street, is actually a set,” Mr. Rembon beams.

The cinematographer and director played a big role in registering the detail. But the movie is also not without its shortcomings.

For instance, everybody could notice the glistening buses and vans because of the fresh paint. The glue behind the posters on the wall was also noticeable.

“Actually, our team worked overnight to dull the paint. We did try to scrap the freshness off the vehicles. But one can’t predict the angle fixed by the cinematographer. Some of the scenes were shot from the top angle, which we had missed. Hence, the gloss glared,” he says striking an apologetic tone.

Next venture

His experience as an art director for popular serials including “Chithi” stood him in good stead. He had also worked under busy art director Rajeevan who fed him the nuances of art direction. He already has couple of offers in his kitty. His next immediate release is “Jeyamkondan”.

Nostalgia no longer has to rely on individual memory or desire: it can be fed forever by quick access to an infinitely recyclable past. It seems to have become an obsession of mass media recently, especially, the advertisements and films with attempts to reproduce and recycle the feel of a bygone era.

From what was done in bits and pieces in films with an odd song or sequence recreated from the past, the film Subramaniapuram has moved a notch higher by recreating a past with perfection.

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