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How Atharvaa’s ‘Kuruthi Aattam’ recreated the ‘Madurai effect’ in Chennai

(From left to right) Radikaa Sarathkumar, Atharvaa Murali and Priya Bhavani Shankar on the set of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’

(From left to right) Radikaa Sarathkumar, Atharvaa Murali and Priya Bhavani Shankar on the set of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

On the sets of the upcoming film directed by Sri Ganesh, which also stars Priya Bhavani Shankar and Radikaa Sarathkumar, we interact with artistes and behind-the-screen personalities who bring the scene to life

Films are alternate realms. It is the distinct feel generated by shooting locations should you ever walk into one of them.

Sample this: It is not uncommon to stumble into temple festivals (read: koil thiruvizha) in Chennai. But how often would you come across one where attendees look like they have been transplanted from the temple city of Madurai?

Men sporting handle bar and gunslinger moustaches, women draped in yellow saris and carrying steel pots with holy ash and/or sandal paste smeared onto them; neem leaves threaded to these vessels hanging from its necks, a Ferris wheel, Merry-go-round and shops selling anything from utensils, inflated and plastic toys, flowers, bangles and colour powder set up nearby to resemble a fair reminiscent of such festivals... the extent of such preparation points to director Sri Ganesh’s desire to turn fiction into reality.

Action extravaganza

For Ganesh, Kuruthi Aattam — starring Atharvaa Murali, Priya Bhavani Shankar and Radikaa Sarathkumar — is his sophomore film.

(left) Director Sri Ganesh explaining the shot to a junior artiste

(left) Director Sri Ganesh explaining the shot to a junior artiste   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

“It is a gangster film with Madurai as its backdrop. The action element may be the external layer but beyond it you would find this is a deeply emotional subject,” he says. The gangster part is quite evident in the banners erected around the “set”, which is actually a public ground abutting the Aavin Parlour in Virugambakkam.

It declares a warm welcome offered to “akka” — Radikaa, her image taking up more than 75% of the banner space — by fictional characters. “Gandhimathi akka is her name in the film,” says actor Kanna Ravi, who plays her son in the film.

A firebed created by the crew on the set of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’

A firebed created by the crew on the set of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

Kanna’s last film Kaithi, where he played the undercover cop Ajaz Ahmed, also had actor Vatsan Chakravarthy, playing one of the four trapped college students inside a police station. Vatsan is the primary antagonist in Kuruthi Aattam.

The film crew has set up a fire bed (to enact a thee mithi vizha) using black and red-coloured thermocol illuminated by extra lights from a pit below to generate the desired effect, but there is more here than what meets the eye.

(from left) Radikaa Sarathkumar, Atharvaa Murali and Priya Bhavani Shankar on the set of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’

(from left) Radikaa Sarathkumar, Atharvaa Murali and Priya Bhavani Shankar on the set of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

“This is a crucial scene in the film. We will find out what brought the hero here, and what happens to him,” says Ganesh, but Vatsan obliges us with a spoiler. “I make an attempt on Kanna’s life, but he escapes,” he smiles.

As we speak, we are joined by another young actor Prakash Raghavan and a familiar face, M Chandrakumar, whose debut novel Vetri Maaran turned into a film that became India’s official entry for the Oscars in 2016, Visaaranai.

Chandrakumar, 58, plays a jail bird, an aged don, while Prakash is part of the gangsters club, who meets him in prison.

(from left to right) Prakash Raghavan, M Chandrakumar, Kanna Ravi and Vatsan Chakravarthy

(from left to right) Prakash Raghavan, M Chandrakumar, Kanna Ravi and Vatsan Chakravarthy   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

The film is likely to feature as many as seven action sequences, we are told. Inspiring the young actors to attempt some of the stunt sequences on their own is Chandrakumar, who Vatsan is in awe of.

“I call him ayya. In one sequence, he scaled a 14 feet high wall and jumped to the ground. It was a jaw dropping moment for the three of us,” says Vatsan. Chandrakumar adds: “I’ve been trained in martial arts and I have been a gym master for 35 years. So it is alright with me.”

Secret superstars

With the crew taking a brief break to film a different sequence, Atharvaa heads back to his caravan while Priya drags a chair and whips out her mobile phone and continues what seems like a conversation that was interrupted because of the shoot. The entrepreneur in Radikaa, meanwhile, engages a few visitors in what looks like a business meet on the move.

We utilise this time to go around the shooting set to interact with a few of the people who make such alternate realms a possibility.

Saravanapandi Kannan (second from left) with the workers in his company

Saravanapandi Kannan (second from left) with the workers in his company   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

One such person is S Saravanapandi Kannan from Jayanthipuram in Madurai. He and his crew of 15 people have been engaged on a one-day contract worth ₹70,000.

His job? “The carnival items, parai musicians and other items that make this a temple festival are all courtesy my company,” he says. This has been his job for the last 14 years, ever since director Ameer engaged him for a similar task in Paruthiveeran (2007).

Saravanapandi’s company has been renting carnival equipment to film crews for over a decade

Saravanapandi’s company has been renting carnival equipment to film crews for over a decade   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

“Until then, I would set up my stalls in different temple festivals in south Tamil Nadu. Since then, I have been taking up contracts in films that have a rural setting. Mostly, such films will have a festival backdrop sequence,” he says, adding, “I’ve supplied for recent films like Vijay’s Master, Vishal’s Sandakozhi 2, a Sibiraj film shot in Pudukottai recently among others.”

Reshma (R) with her friends at the shooting spot of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’

Reshma (R) with her friends at the shooting spot of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

The break was also a godsend for a few children from Kannagi Nagar, who have been brought to set by their “supervisor”, a woman in her 40s, as atmosphere artistes. The children, all aged between 11 and 13, are middle school students, and have been brought to shoot for a wage of ₹200.

“We have to be at the spot till 2 am.” Won’t they miss school the next day? “No, I’ll make it,” says Reshma, studying in Class IX. “But I will bunk class,” says Lux.

Atharvaa Murali and Priya Bhavani Shankar interact with children on the set of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’

Atharvaa Murali and Priya Bhavani Shankar interact with children on the set of ‘Kuruthi Aattam’   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

That is not his real name. Lux is originally Rex Antony but is called so because it rhymes with his name. But Sudalai Kani has a different reason for changing his name. “I don’t like my name. These boys tease me. So I call myself Vel now,” says the confident 12-year-old.

The children have been shooting for films consistently in the last 18 months. “We have met many actors. I collect autographs from them,” says Rex, and recalls his interaction with Vijay Sethupathi. “I went up to shake his hand. He looked at me and asked which class I was studying in, and he asked me to focus on my studies,” Rex adds, before quietly slipping out of our conversation to go shake Atharvaa’s hands, as the hero returns to set following the break.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 2:05:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/how-atharvaas-kuruthi-aattam-recreated-the-madurai-effect-in-chennai/article30921394.ece

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