Cinema

A woman’s life

Director Sarjun K.M. loves travelling by train, especially Chennai’s MRTS. He finds ways to include a trip whenever he sets out. It is this MRTS that plays an important part in Lakshmi, Sarjun’s ode to a woman, her dignity, and the choices she makes.

Lakshmi lives a “machine-like” existence, working at home and in the printing press, cooking, cleaning, and being ‘available’ for her husband when he ‘desires’ her, before she decides to live for herself, for a single day.

The 18-minute film, starring Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli in the title role, also features Nandan and Leo Sivadass (husband). Nandan plays Kathir, a sculptor and painter, who is a contrast to the life Lakshmi knows. He’s genteel, with eyes that laugh, mouths Bharati’s lines on female emancipation, is sensitive and does not shy from cooking, and cooking well for a woman he’s met on the train. So, what will Lakshmi choose? A mundane existence or one where she’s celebrated?

Sarjun says the film marries two things he’s familiar with — trains and the women who travel on trains, and relationships. “Even when you see these women, you know they lead monotonous lives. They travel long distances for a meagre salary, lead a machine-like existence… I’ve always been fascinated by relationships, be it while watching movies or writing. What happens if a bond crosses a threshold? How are unspoken relationships formed? Lakshmi is my attempt to find an answer.”

The film takes a bold stand on the lack of sexual satisfaction for women, and the lack of “a space for couples” when living in cramped dwellings.

“I come from a lower middle-class family that’s now middle-class. The homes I lived in, where my relatives lived…were all box-like structures. I’ve always wondered how people manage to forge a sexual relationship in such spaces… It’s very difficult to ask someone this. I assumed that till you live that life, you will never find an answer.”

And so, the protagonist is a lower middle-class girl who faces all the issues someone like her will face. “But, there’s a rare dignity about her. She’s good in everything, but believes in male superiority. She does not know the meaning of free time. Her world is small. So, what happens when she gets a chance to go beyond those boundaries?” says Sarjun. The film has won a mixed response from people — some have loved it, others have felt guilty wondering if they force their women to live such lives.

“Some others felt that I might make a name for myself with the film, but was ‘polluting’ minds,”

Even when Sarjun, who’s worked with Mani Ratnam and A.R. Murugadoss, wrote the film, he was sure he wanted to cast Lakshmi Priyaa in the film.

“I loved her work in Maya. And then, I saw her in Aayirathiyoru Iravugalat The Hindu Theatre Fest. I had my Lakshmi. Nandan is an old acquaintance. I wanted to cast someone who was in direct contrast to her husband,” says Sarjun, who has since moved on to pre-production on his feature, a thriller that will star Prakash Raj in an important role.

For Lakshmi Priyaa, this was an opportunity to portray a person going through emotions no one speaks about openly. “Coming from where I do, it was a chance to play a character vastly different from what I am. I knew the film will be open to interpretation, but it was a great experience.”

The actress says Lakshmi was also a chance to act out a role that had shades of a K. Balachander character.

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* Lakshmi was produced with help from I.B. Karthikeyan, at a budget of Rs. 70,000, a bulk of which was spent on creating the sculptor’s studio.



* It’s doing the rounds of the festival circuit and Sarjun hopes there will be a way to screen it for the public too.



* The film was shot in three days on a Canon 5D at a friend’s place, a bus stand on RK Salai, and on trains.



* The film is a mix of black-and-white and colour, as decided with cinematographer Sudarshan Srinivasan; the former to showcase her mundane life and the latter to hint at possibilities.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 10:05:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/A-woman%E2%80%99s-life/article16437481.ece

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