Cinema

All for a pizza

A still from 'Kaaka Muttai'.

A still from 'Kaaka Muttai'.  

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Vetrimaaran, the creative producer of Kaaka Muttai, tells that he pulled out all the stops to get the film made.

K aaka Muttai, as you probably know by now, is the story about two slum children whose all-consuming desire is to taste a pizza. Beyond the quirky innocence of it all, it’s difficult to miss the undercurrent — there are people so poor in our country that even a pizza is beyond their reach. The film has won accolades across the globe — most notably a standing ovation at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival, where it premiered. The British publication Daily Mail published a news item asking if Kaaka Muttai was the new Slumdog Millionaire. Vetrimaaran corrects me when I call him the co-producer — he’s the “creative producer.” He is quick to point out that while Slumdog is the observation of a foreigner (director Danny Boyle), “ Kaaka Muttai is the expression of an insider. It is a film about globalisation and its effects. In my opinion, it’s the best film I’ve seen on the topic.”

Vetrimaaran has been instrumental in getting this film made. It was he who approached director Manikandan for a script after being impressed with a short film the latter had made. It was he who tried to pitch the script to a few producers, who weren’t quite sold on it. And eventually, it was he who found the film its producer, Dhanush, who read just a few pages of the script and agreed to fund the film. It was also he who approached Fox Star Studios with the film, a strategy that has paid rich dividends as the distribution company “got the film to film festivals across the globe.” And he did all this because he believed in the film and wanted it to be made. “I knew this film would work in the international market. The more ethnic a film, the more international its appeal.” He also believes that every good story, like Kaaka Muttai, must have a “universal truth in its ethnicity”.

As creative producer, Vetrimaaran helped determine the look and feel of the film. For instance, there are two versions — a shorter one (92 minutes) for the international market, and a longer one (120 minutes) for the Indian market. When differences cropped up with the director, good old logic triumphed. “Credit to Manikandan for never feeling threatened.” Vetrimaaran was also careful never to intervene. “That’s not my job. Mine is simply to guide the director. After the 15 minutes I spent on the sets the first day, I didn’t return. Manikandan is a complete filmmaker and knows his job well.”

Even if it hadn’t won the laurels it did internationally, he is confident that Kaaka Muttai would’ve broken even. “Taking the film internationally was our responsibility. In addition, we were exploring a market where we could generate more revenue in the future.” After its premiere in Toronto, the film made Rs. 60 lakh through sale of its rights in the territories of Japan, Australia and New Zealand. He gives credit to Fox again. “Anybody with a good smart phone can shoot and edit a film. Distributing it is the hard part. It’s great to have the support of a big company like Fox.”

He isn’t worried that all the hype generated around this film could adversely affect its reception. “If anything, it’s good. Earlier, it was about a film running for 100 days in 10 theatres. Now, it’s about a film running for 10 days in 100 theatres. So, the hype is a very good thing.” Vetrimaaran won’t comment on whether the film is a criticism of India’s rich-poor divide.

“That’s the thing with the film. It doesn’t say anything. Each viewer can take what they want.”

Did you know?

Simbu plays himself in an important cameo in Kaaka Muttai. “He inaugurates a pizza outlet and eats one for the promotions. The slum children, his fans, see this, and get fascinated,” says Vetrimaaran and adds that whatever differences Simbu and Dhanush, the producer of the film, may have had in the past, are now behind them. “The media says a lot about such things, but I know they’re good friends.”

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Printable version | Nov 13, 2018 10:46:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/all-for-a-pizza/article7264199.ece

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