Movies

An ode to the fans

Director Ramu Chellappa and actor Natty on the sets of Enkitta Modhathe Photo: Special Arrangement

Director Ramu Chellappa and actor Natty on the sets of Enkitta Modhathe Photo: Special Arrangement  

Director Ramu Chellappa tells K. JESHI that his first film Enkitta Modhathe is a celebration of fans and the once sought-after cutout artists

Enkitta Modhathe is a throwback to the 1980s, a time when larger-than-life cutouts of films stars towered over the cityscapes, says director Ramu Chellappa. The film celebrates the heyday of the cutout artists (who have gone out of business with the entry of flex boards), fan culture, and the frenzy of rasigar mandrams (fan clubs). “Rasigar mandrams would dot the streets and engage in activities like blood donation, distribution of notebooks to needy students, and also give away tricycles for the physically challenged. A fan’s love for his favourite star was unmatched,” he says.

Cinematographer and actor Natty (Natraj Subramanian) plays the main lead as a cutout artist who is an ardent Rajinikanth fan. Actor Rajaj, of Moodar Koodam fame, plays a die-hard Kamal Hassan who paints his cutouts. Sanchita Shetty and Parvathi Nair are the female leads.

Director Ramu, who has assisted Pandiaraj in films like Pasanga, Vamsam, Kaedi Billa Killadi Ranga, and Selvaraghavan, in Mayakkam Enna, says that it’s a realistic take on life on the streets of Tirunelveli.

“I have invested over 10 years in the industry learning the ropes and this is my first film. I hope the audience likes it.”

Ramu travelled the southern belt of Tamil Nadu to places in Nagercoil and Madurai while writing the film. “I interviewed several cutout artists who have now taken to odd jobs like auto drivers, shop keeping… I have included several real-life incidents too in the film. During the 1980s, these artists were always busy. They recreated the images straight from their heart and breathed life into it. The gigantic cutouts were often erected to a height of over 60 feet and hovered over the theatres for several days, as most films ran for 100 days. Be it rain or shine, the colours didn’t fade away. Now, every weekend, we have a new hero and vinyl boards come in handy as you have to replace them often,” laughs Ramu.

While researching for the film, Ramu also learnt the intricacies of the art. “The artists have to assist a well-known artist for several years before laying their hands on the brush and paints. After this, they returned to their towns and started making cutouts. I have seen them at work in Tirunelveli. They are the inspiration,” he explains

Ramu says that realistic cinema connects with the audience. “My film takes you to the happenings on the streets of Tirunelveli, something like Subramaniapuram,” he promises.

Natty, who has won acclaim for his cinematography in Hindi films like Love Aaj Kal, Jab We Met, Parineeta, and for his acting in Saduranga Vettai, says, “Actors like Ajith and Vijay appreciated my acting and told me to continue. I choose films that are driven by a concept, as it gives scope for performance. Enkitta… has a new backdrop and is about an era before Twitter and social media. The cutouts promoted films. The film also talks about the ugly turn of events when political agendas are attached to cutouts and how it began affecting relationships.”

Natty says it was challenging to learn the art while filming.

“An artist called Sada trained me for two weeks. They use a particular size of brush to draw the eyes or hair so that they can control the amount of paint used. It’s a tough job.”

He is confident that Enkitta Modhathe will be a trendsetter in period drama. He recalls a particular incident while filming at Tirunelveli bus stand where people thronged the cutout of MGR and started praying in front of it.

Rajaj recalls the competitive spirit between Rajini and Kamal fans seen in his hometown Salem during the release of Thalapathy and Guna. “Kamal sir’s performance in Guna made a big impact on me. Today we have several first-look teasers online. Those days, the poster plastered on the walls was the first announcement of the film’s arrival. The larger-than-life cutouts appeared and the fans would go crazy. Enkitta Modhathe captures it all,”he says.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 12:00:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/An-ode-to-the-fans/article16687514.ece

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