Arunraja Kamaraj on why ‘Nenjuku Needhi’, the remake of ‘Article 15’, is a personal film

Udhayanidhi Stalin in ‘Nenjuku Needhi’

Udhayanidhi Stalin in ‘Nenjuku Needhi’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Arunraja Kamaraj missed the opportunity to watch the Hindi film Article 15 in theatres, when it came out in 2019 and received mostly positive reviews. Later, when it dropped on an OTT platform, Arunraja remembers watching it along with his wife, Sindhuja, and being emotionally moved by what the film stood for. But when he was approached for the Tamil remake, little did he foresee that Nenjuku Needhi would be a personal film. 

Arunraja lost his wife to COVID-19 in May last year, just a month after the filming of Nenjuku Needhi commenced. He says it is a film that caused so much pain, “She was the one who used to push me constantly and ask what next. But then you have to move on. I now have to realise the dreams we dreamt together about life,” he says.

Why did you agree to be part of Nenjuku Needhi?

I want to make films that are emotional. Kanaa [my debut] too had a strong emotional quotient. There are very few films that have the attributes of entertainment and emotion. Ultimately, it is the emotion that will have the lasting impact. This film came to me for that reason.

Were you at all hesitant about remakes?

No. At the end of the day, the job of the director is to direct; writing is an additional qualification. Not everybody can write and not everybody can direct. Either way, a film is not an individual’s effort. I saw Nenjuku Needhi as an opportunity to direct somebody else’s script. So, I was more concerned about how I was going to tell Anubhav Sinha’s [director of Article 15] story.

What do you think was the soul of Nenjuku Needhi?

I think the film’s intention is its soul. Every crime that happens in our society has a motive behind it. Article 15 talks about the intentions that are discriminatory in nature. All of us carry that thought in us…we need to confront, address and rectify it.

Arunraja Kamaraj (extreme left) and Udhayanidhi Stalin on the set

Arunraja Kamaraj (extreme left) and Udhayanidhi Stalin on the set | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Nenjuku Needhi is a title borrowed from the autobiography of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M Karunanidhi. 

Udhay sir liked the idea. It was an emotional moment for him. Since the film talks about social justice, it seemed apt.

Article 15 came under severe criticism for its upper caste lens. Did that ever become a subject of discussion when you came onboard?

Yes, we did talk about that. Personally, I have a different take on the film’s criticism. If you take Article 15, it is about this person for whom caste-based discrimination is new. It was not about his political awakening but rather his unawareness. Normally, when you hear stories of caste discrimination, you immediately tend to think that it’s happening somewhere far away and not around us. This is what happens to the protagonist as well.

Shouldn’t the film give voice to the voiceless by having a Dalit protagonist? Yes, it is a valid and important point. But if I were to make that film, then it would not be a remake of Article 15. Otherwise, I would have written my own film…why should I borrow Anubhav Sinha’s story? The task given to me was to remake Article 15. However, I have added a few new characters in Nenjuku Needhi

A poster of ‘Nenjuku Needhi’

A poster of ‘Nenjuku Needhi’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Addressing the criticism, Anubhav Sinha said that he wanted to hold the privileged accountable and hence the upper caste gaze…

That itself is against Article 15. When you say that you cannot trust an entire community because the protagonist is from an upper caste, that itself destroys the purpose of the film. That itself is an indirect discrimination. Personally, I do not subscribe to that argument and that is not how I approach it. I believe there are good and bad people in every community. You need to consider what the character does and not where he comes from. Those whose good deeds speak for themselves are casteless. Ultimately, it boils down to your intention and what you want to be.

Nenjuku Needhi releases in theatres tomorrow.

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Printable version | Jun 9, 2022 5:08:06 pm |