Director Madonne Ashwin’s short film Dharmam wins a special mention at the National Awards

How can a beggar speak English, demands a young boy in the short film Dharmam . He is reluctant to speak in English at a fancy dress competition for which he is dressed as a beggar. Then, there is a righteous traffic police who is directed by his superior officer to accept a bribe. Both the unhappy boy and the honest cop encounter a real beggar at a traffic signal. That experience moves them and they decide to do what is right. The hard-hitting film leaves you facing some uncomfortable questions.

Dharmam has won a special mention by the jury of the 61{+s}{+t}National Awards 2013. “…for its searing critique of middle class hypocrisy and a corrupt society as seen through the eyes of an impressionable child…” is what the jury had to say about the film.

A. Madonne Ashwin, who directed the film, is elated with the recognition. “Some of my friends have been congratulating me as if I have won the award. It’s a highly competitive category and a special mention is in itself is a big honour. It’s a great morale booster for young film makers,” he says.

Madonne got a Censor certificate for the film before sending it to the Awards. Dharamam also emerged as the best film of the season at the popular TV series Naalaya Iyakunar (Season 3). He shot the film in Chennai over two days. “Cops taking bribe is common on the city roads. The idea came from there. The film attempts to look at the root cause of a bigger social issue from the perspective of a child,” he explains. The film went viral as soon as he posted it on YouTube and it received over 50,000 likes. But, his memorable moment was when director Balu Mahendra appreciated him. “He saw the film, liked it and then he showed us two of his own short films about police from his TV series collection Kadhai Neram ,” he recalls.

Madonne has made several short films in a variety of genres including drama, satire, romance, and action thrillers. One of his short films Inbox on romance got over five lakh views online in a matter of five days. Right now, Madonne is scripting and conceptualising the story for a feature film.

He says short film makers should just look around for ideas. “There are no rigid rules. Even an everyday incident can trigger an idea. Once you start working, you have to make a wholehearted effort to tell the story visually. Most importantly, it has to be an original work. They can always log on and get a wealth of information from the Internet. And, they should take that extra step to take their film to a larger audience.”

Madonne quit his well-paying job as a Java developer to pursue a career in films. And, he is happy with the decision. What draws him to cinema? “It’s almost magical where you create something that makes the audience clap or cry …it leaves behind an amazing feeling. Books, literature, films made by world masters inspire me to make films. I want to continue doing that,” he says. And, the celebrations have just begun.