Chat Actor Chellappa Thangavasagam on his passion for short films

As a child, actor Chellappa Thangavasagam aka Chella was good at mimicking film personalities —Rajinikanth, Karunanidhi, Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan… But, not many knew that for Chella it meant much more than just a hobby.

Today, the photographer has acted in 15 short films besides some feature films. Chella, 32, who hails from Podanur, is part of an emerging group of youngsters from the city who are part of cinema that delivers a social message.

The road to acting

The urge to act hit Chella during his assistant director days, back in 2000. He was working on some low-budget feature films then, but did not taste success in Chennai. That was the time a group of likeminded friends decided to come back and direct, script, produce and act in their own creations. “I made my acting debut as an adult with the short film Dhaadha (2004). Being in front of the camera gives me an adrenaline rush,” he says.

The wish to act lay dormant in Chella since childhood. His father, a businessman and photographer, encouraged him, but financial troubles meant that he couldn’t think of a bigger platform.

It was during his nine-year stay with an Anglo-Indian family in Podanur that he felt he should take acting seriously.

“I moved in with them when I was six as my father kept travelling and I had to complete my school education. They noticed my skills and constantly encouraged me,” he says.

After a chance to act in a Doordarshan programme when he was 13, Chella realised that to be competent in front of the camera he needed exposure behind it as well. “So, I started directing, producing and then acting in short films,” he recalls.

During his Chennai stint, he saw how short films with social messages became popular.

He acted in some of them, and was convinced he was on the right track.

The turning point came in 2008 with Thaagam, directed by bus conductor and environmentalist Yoganathan, which was screened at the fifth CMS Vatavaran Environment and Wildlife Film Festival in Delhi. “A short film should focus on prevailing social issues in 15 to 30 minutes. This allows you to convey a message without diluting it through song and dance,” he explains.

Chella also featured in two feature films — Nam Naadu which starred Sarath Kumar and Vijayakanth starrer Sabari in 2007. He has also worked as an assistant to Siruthai Siva in Paal .

He played a villager in the short film Rose Milk Patti , which brought out the harmful effects of industrial effluents on people and domestic animals in Tirupur. It won the best story and performance awards in Kalaignar TV’s Naalaya Iyakkunar this year.

He is in talks to star in two other feature films. He also intends to direct a short film. “I am working on a script on the various types of abuse women face and how it affects their equations with men,” he says.


Stills from short film Thaagam

( top), Rose Milk Patti and

Mr. Madasamy

A short film should focus on prevailing social issues in 15 to 30 minutes. This allows you to convey a message without diluting it through song and dance