A docudrama on Gemini Ganesan
M. Venkatesan didn't know about The New York Times, until someone asked him to do a documentary for them, on Tamil Nadu's jallikattu. He produced and directed a four-and-a-half hour documentary titled, “Madurai Jallikattu – Bull Fighting in India” (2007). The video featured the travel section of the paper's website. If he had known about the stature of the paper he would have billed them more, he says. A product of the L.V. Prasad Film and Television Academy, Venkatesan has now directed a film on the life of Gemini Ganesan. Produced by Gemini's daughter Dr. Kamala Selvaraj's Alamelu Creations, the documentary “Kaadhal Mannan- The King of Romance” spans the life of the legend, from his humble beginnings in Pudukottai of the 1920s to the glitz of Gemini Studios in the 1940s.
The movie, which has been shot on Super 35mm film format, will be released in Tamil, Telugu and English, says the director. The music is by Kalaimamani V. Thayanban. Three actors play Gemini of ages six, 13 and his early 20s. The actors, Nitish, Vignesh and Srinivas respectively, are all debutants.
Venkatesan's earlier documentaries, “Kshama” (2007) on Gandhi's childhood and “Chennai Footpath” (2006) on the city's pavement dwellers, won accolades in India and abroad. The film runs like a feature to the point where Gemini becomes a star. It then follows in the documentary format.
The director has interviewed many people associated with Gemini, including Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Kamal Haasan, Sivakumar, Srinivasa ‘Cho' Ramaswamy, Sathyaraj, Prabhu, Sivaji Ganesan, Charuhasan, Sowcar Janaki, Anjali Devi, Saroja Devi and K.R. Vijaya. “Nagesh passed away just two days before I could interview him,” adds Venkatesan.
It is a war against time to document our film heritage, the history of an industry which stands on the shoulders of giants who dominated the social and political life South India.PHEROZE L. VINCENT