Film festivals are a blessing: Director Ram on ‘Peranbu’

Director Ram opens up on dealing with a complicated father-daughter relationship in Peranbu, starring Mammootty

The portraits inside Ram’s office give us a fair idea of the kind of cinema he wishes to make. A gigantic photograph of Balu Mahendra is placed right next to Stanley Kubrick. In the adjacent room, charming portraits of a young David Lean and Roman Polanski greet us. “They have been my major influencers. In a way, these directors shaped my cinematic sensibilities,” says the filmmaker, who is gearing up for the release of Peranbu, his fourth film.

There’s a reason why the film is titled Peranbu (Great Love). “We often come across people who quarrel on trivial matters. The film will make you realise you have to be grateful for life, without emotionally manipulating the audience,” he says. The trailer suggests that it’s a heartwarming tale about a father-daughter relationship. But, how different is Peranbu from the director’s previous Thanga Meengal, which dealt with a similar theme? “The latter was a straightforward story. This is about a father’s struggle to cope with society. He has a daughter who’s a spastic child. Through his daughter, he realises how gifted he is.”

Smitten by Mammootty’s performances in films like Sukrutham and Amaram, Ram was very particular about working with the actor. In fact, he even tried his luck when he met Mammootty back in 2015. “I only shared the one-liner with him, but he was excited about playing this character... so much so, he kept asking my producer (PL Thenappan) when we would begin shooting.”

In his repertoire in Tamil, Mammootty is still remembered for playing the iconic Deva in Thalapathi. However, Ram is equally puzzled as to why Mammootty did lesser Tamil films, despite having had a successful stint here. “For this subject, I wanted a mature actor — one who can easily handle the intricacies of the character and at the same time, convey complicated emotions.”

There’s a much-appreciated scene in the trailer, one in which Mammootty takes it upon himself and hits his head out of resentment. In that split-second scene, the actor displays his rage and range, and this is what we’ve been missing in him — both in Tamil and Malayalam. Echoing the same, Ram says, “Had I acted in that scene, my pitch would have been different. Mammootty knows what and how to deliver. Beneath that tranquil face, there are 10 different layers. He’s a rare actor who processes the film as whole instead of scene-by-scene.”

Films about disability come with their own baggage. When Mani Ratnam made Anjali, the film was criticised for one particular aspect — that the girl who played the autistic child looked adorable, while that might not be the case in real life. How does Peranbu handle this issue? “It’s difficult to cast people with disabilities. I don’t want to humiliate them just for the sake of business. For the film, Sadhana interacted with special children to understand their issues. She was given training by the faculties from NIEPMD to portray this character.”

All of Ram’s films — Kattradhu Thamizh, Thanga Meengal and Taramani — focus on the hero’s struggle to adapt to the system. He says, “I like to document the lives of underdogs. My films are a culmination of real-life incidents. In life, you wouldn’t even notice people like Amudhan and Paapa. But cinema amplifies the impact on screen.” The characters that come in Ram’s films are volatile in nature. Do his characters exhibit some of the filmmaker’s traits? “It all depends on the style, modulation and the way in which you present something. For example, Jiiva’s mannerisms in Kattradhu Thamizh are quite similar to mine. Since Vasanth Ravi was relatively new when he did Taramani, he had to incorporate some of my traits.”

Peranbu was selected for Rotterdam, Shanghai and International Film Festival of India. Ram is one of the few filmmakers who has been representing Tamil cinema in the festival circuit. How significant is that for filmmakers? “There’s a perception that Indian cinema is Bollywood. Very few are aware of Tamil cinema’s existence internationally. For us, film festivals are a blessing. It gives us a platform to interact with filmmakers, critics and audiences all over the world. That said, I don’t think Tamil cinema is any less than international standard,” he says.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2020 8:56:45 PM |

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