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‘Meendum Oru Mariyathai’ is a tribute to ‘Mudhal Mariyathai’: Bharathiraja

A still from ‘Meendum Oru Mariyathai’

A still from ‘Meendum Oru Mariyathai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The veteran filmmaker discusses his forthcoming directorial, which is an 'exploration between an older man and a young woman'

There seems to be some issue with the projection at Bharathi Raja International Institute of Cinema (BRIIC) when the projectionist plays the video songs of Meendum Oru Mariyathai, to select journalists. Amongst us sits a man who has been a witness to several transformations in cinema — from cinemascope to digital filmmaking. Bharathiraja is a silent spectator at the screening and makes a snarky remark: “Hmm... digital,” he says with a groan, as if to imply: “Is this what you call digital?”

A poetic touch

Bharathiraja says that he is willing to admit what most people wouldn’t when they cross a certain age. “You tend to discover new feelings when you hit your 50s or 60s,” he says, about wanting to explore subjects that are often brushed under the carpet in society. Meendum Oru Mariyathai is one such exploration between an older man and a young woman. But he corrects me when I ask if it is a ‘love story’ — “How you see and define love is all that matters,” he says.

The title, in fact, is a homage to his own Mudhal Mariyathai starring Sivaji Ganesan and Radha, wherein he dealt with a similar theme. Mudhal Mariyathai worked with a larger section of society because of the fine line between love and lust. “That movie was about the voyage of a man from house to home,” he says, “When the opposite sex registers your presence, that itself does something to you. It’s not outward sexual feelings. It’s divine.”

Bharathiraja in a scene from ‘Meendum Oru Mariyathai’

Bharathiraja in a scene from ‘Meendum Oru Mariyathai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Meendum Oru Mariyathai, in his own words, is about two characters who are longing for love. “Old Man [the character he plays] meets Venba [the girl] abroad. She’s attracted to him. But he asks a simple question: ‘I’m nearer sunset and you are closer to sunrise... why do you want to come here?’”

It was lyricist Madhan Karky’s idea to name the character Venba because, “she’s like a poem”. “They exchange feelings but you don’t know whether it is love, lust or affection,” adds Bharathiraja. Has he left their relationship open-ended without spelling out things for the audience? “I wrote a different ending before, but I had to change it. Even though people claim to be progressive, they won’t accept changes in society.”

Consumed by art

Nothing has changed in terms of his craft, despite having worked in the industry for over four decades. He has once again donned the director’s hat with OM (Old Man), now rechristened Meendum Oru Mariyathai, slated to release on February 21.

“It was a thrill back in those days when we would say cut. Nobody had any idea about the quality of the output and we waited at least 15 days for it to get processed,” says Bharathiraja, on the filmmaking process back in the ’80s, “It was equally thrilling to watch actors’ performance on screen — like when we go for a close-up or the sheer joy of watching movies in colour.”

But he clarifies that he is not against digital filmmaking, for it made his job easier. “Apart from the technical aspect, everything has remained the same. Nowadays, it’s easy to correct performances by looking at the monitor.”

Bharathiraja seems to poke fun at himself by calling himself “old man”, in the trailer for Meendum Oru Mariyathai. Why is it that most senior filmmakers — who started out in the ’80s — tend to slow down after having a successful run?

“Who? Me? I’ve already started writing my next movie,” he laughs, adding, “Even at this age, I wish to make a breezy, warm love story. At the end of the day, it’s love that triumphs.”

He does not regret choosing cinema above all. But there is a lingering sadness, almost making him guilty of his actions. “I am a failure in my family. I loved cinema more than my wife and children. To put it simply, I did injustice to my family by doing justice to art,” he concludes.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 12:52:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/in-the-mood-for-love/article30712012.ece

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