Movies

‘Server Sundaram’ will bring out all facets of Santhanam: Anand Balki

Santhanam in a scene from ‘Server Sundaram’

Santhanam in a scene from ‘Server Sundaram’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Anand Balki on how all events revolve around food in his début film starring Santhanam, releasing this week after a delay of two-and-a-half years

“I have learnt many lessons in life,” says Anand Balki, whose début film starring Santhanam, Server Sundaram, is finally releasing on January 31, after a delay of over two-and-a-half years. “I learnt that it is best to keep calm, be patient and not get emotional. This may be my first film, but I have been an entrepreneur for 15 years and therefore, handled the situation well,” he says, adding, “Idhu enakku padam illai, paadam.”

What was the reason for this unforeseen delay? Anand explains: “Once the film was completed, the producers (Kenanya Films and Miraacle Movies) handed it over to a distributor they trusted, who in turn handed it over to a sub-distributor. This sub-distributor mismanaged the entire thing and even played a lot of dirty games. I stood by the producers and sorted out all issues one after the other, closed off the debts of the sub-distributor, and with the intervention of Producers Council, we are now ready to release the film.”

Santhanam, on his part, lent a helping hand by foregoing a substantial part of his remuneration for the film. “He helped us get out of this difficult situation,” he says. A hotel management graduate, Anand gained considerable experience as a chef and later moved on to sales at a five-star hotel in Chennai. Later, he established an event management company. The movie buff that he is, he has also donned minor roles in a couple of films. When Anand came up with the premise of a story that he thought will be relevant today, he began writing the script. Not surprisingly, the chef-turned-filmmaker chose food as the central theme for his narration. “This is the first Indian film to be made entirely on food, and all events and emotions thematically align with food,” says Anand.

Filmmaker Anand Balki

Filmmaker Anand Balki   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Once he penned it, he shared the script with his close friend, fashion photographer G Venket Ram. “After reading it, he asked me who I had in mind for the lead role, and I was keen on Santhanam,” says Anand about the film that revolves around an engineering drop-out whose father compels him to take up hotel management, and how he goes on to become a master chef.

Anand met Santhanam on the sets of Nanbenda, and narrated his script. He reconnected with the actor after eight months. “Enga poitinga Anand?,’ he asked me, “I was waiting to hear from you. I’m on board.” The filmmaker calls Santhanam a ‘one-take artiste’, and adds that the way he observes and improvises scenes is brilliant. He says that there is even a tearjerker scene involving the comedian-actor. “Server Sundaram will bring out all facets of the acting talent of Santhanam, and he beautifully balances comedy and seriousness,” says the director.

The Nagesh link
  • Ace comedian Nagesh’s grandson Bijesh Nagesh, cast as a catering college student, plays the second lead in the film. In 1964, Nagesh played the lead role in a classic with the same title. “When I did a screen test, I had goosebumps,” says director Anand, who feels that Bijesh has a striking resemblance in his expression and body language to Nagesh.

Anand roped in his friends from the food industry as consultants as there was a lot of work involved, especially the spot cooking sequences shot in Goa and Dubai. The film also showcases 35 dishes, with Chef Venkatesh Bhatt being the chief consultant and Chef Raja Rajan Paul contributing inputs. “A film on food comes with a lot of challenges. Shooting live cooking where an array of dishes are displayed is not an easy task. When we were shooting the spot cooking sequence in Goa, there was a sudden downpour but we continued to shoot. Similarly, in the climax sequence shot in Dubai, the temperature was 46 degrees Celsius and we had to shoot in this temperature for three days, and it involved 25 junior artistes from various nationalities.”

Food is medicine
  • Two songs from the film, composed by Santhosh Narayanan, have been garnering a lot of attention. ‘Unave Marundhu’, a song that talks about the medicinal value of the ancient Tamil way of eating, food preference and order of eating a meal, has been written by Vivek and rendered by Carnatic singers Ranjani and Gayatri. ‘Gama Gama’, rendered by folk musician Anthony Daasan and penned by Vivek, lists popular food items from every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu.

Server Sundaram will be the launchpad for 20 newcomers, and for some senior artistes (Rajan and Balaji), it is a comeback film. The female lead, Vaibhavi Shandilya, a Kathak dancer and Marathi theatre artiste, makes her début in Tamil. Veteran comedian Nagesh’s eldest grandson Bijesh makes his acting début in the film. Incidentally, the director was keen on using the title from Nagesh’s cult classic Server Sundaram (1964) directed by Krishnan-Panju. The rights for the title were with AVM and it was after completely reading the script, that they agreed to part with it. “It is destiny that the film is releasing on Nagesh’s death anniversary, and I consider it a blessing,” says Anand, who has already signed two films.

Apart from being a drama, the film will also have a strong message for society. “You are what you eat. We are misled by corporates and are missing out on our traditional nutritious food. Today, families don’t even sit together to share a meal, and are increasingly ignoring fitness and well being,” he says, “My film also talks about traditional food items of the State. I also insist on using the term samayal kalaignan, instead of samayalkaaran.”

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 4:30:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/server-sundaram-will-bring-out-all-facets-of-santhanam-anand-balki/article30663584.ece

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