Congratulatory messages have been pouring in for Madonne Ashwin, director of Tamil political satire Mandela . “Everyone is talking about the film, which shows that it has made an impact,” says Madonne. Mandela premièred on TV earlier this month and is currently streaming on Netflix. Though Madonne was initially disappointed about his debut film not having a theatrical release, the reception it is receiving has more than made up for it. “People who watched it on OTT have kept discussing it on social media. The reception and love has been organic.”
Mandela , a political satire set in a village divided by two prominent caste groups led by two brothers, holds a mirror to what plays out in Tamil Nadu during the time of elections. A hair-dresser, played by Yogi Babu, becomes a game-changer in the scheme of things in the film. “Though the premise is political, we were very particular that the storytelling should be light-hearted and yet make you ponder. I just had to look around at all the political events happening around me to spot situations for the film,” laughs Madonne, whose clever writing has won praise.
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Madonne, who has made seven short films till date, fleshed out one of his popular shorts titled Ward Enn 325 into Mandela .“ I wrote 20 drafts before locking the script and screenplay. When I narrated the story to Yogi Babu, he liked it as he was also looking for a change too. Mandela matched his vision.”
Madonne says though filming a small-budget film comes with a lot of challenges,there are enough opportunities for learning. “ We had to to wrap up the film in 40 days. So, we had the storyboard of every single scene in place to ensure that the shoot went like clockwork. We shot at a village called Puliayankulam in Tirunelveli (where Pariyerum Perumal was also filmed).”
The director is all praise for Yogi Babu’s performance. Talking about the film ending, Madonne says he wanted to show three things — the hair-dresser gaining self-respect, the entire village coming together for him and the voting process. “To bring all these aspects together organically was the most difficult part.”
Though filmmakers like Gautam Menon and Balaji Sakthivel and actors like Sivakarthikeyan congratulated him, there’s one call he treasures the most: from acclaimed Tamil director Bharathiraja. “He was so moved by the film that he spoke to me for 15 minutes and in detail. I will value that call.”