The old man and the radio

Director Hari Viswanath on how Radiopetti is an ode to his grandfather

November 26, 2015 03:05 pm | Updated 03:05 pm IST - chennai:

Director Hari Viswanath

Director Hari Viswanath

Hari Viswanath vividly remembers his grandfather’s morning routine. “He would get up and immediately turn on the Murphy wall radio. It would keep singing as he read the paper, prayed, had breakfast… And then, once a particular tune was played, he would get up and leave for work. As a child, even my life revolved around the radio. One signature tune signalled it was time to eat, another that it was time to run to school,” he adds.

It was that memory that Hari, 36, tapped into, once he decided to make his first feature film, following a chance conversation with a friend. “I meant it as an ode to my thatha . He’s 89 now, and I’m his eldest grandson. I wanted to celebrate him when he’s still around. The film is partially my own story, and partially fictional,” he says of Radiopetti , that recently won the Audience Award in the New Currents competition section at Busan International Film Fest.

He wrote the film about three years ago, after he attended the IFFI. This year, his 83-minute film is the only Tamil film showing in the Panorama section. “It’s surreal. I never dreamt I’ll be back in Goa, that too with my film,” says Hari.

The director had another reason to make the film. “Our generation is among the last to have seen and savoured certain things. If we don’t record them for posterity, they will be lost,” he says, adding, “I wanted to speak about everyday lives and memorable moments through Radiopetti . That is important at a time when we bother so much about others’ lives on social media, and ignore our own family.”

When he decided to make the film, Hari looked no further than stage actor Lakshmanan, 75, who played the lead in his short film Idukkan . “I wanted a thatha with soft skin, someone who’s as delighted and dejected as a baby. I roped in Shobana Mohan to play the wife and TVV Ramanujam to essay the third part in the movie.”

All Hari had to do was rein them in to keep the emotions subtle, and the flow constant. “Sometimes, I went up to 22 takes, and they would wonder what more I wanted… I wanted less!”

It was this “less” that probably saw the movie win hearts in Busan. “So many Koreans wept after watching the film, because it reminded them of their parents and grandparents. I was touched that the movie connected in a different cultural milieu too.” After a screening at IFFI, Goa, yesterday, the film will probably travel to more festivals in India before releasing.

Helping Hari make the film, shot under a crore, were three of his friends. “I’m grateful for their support,” says the director, a civil engineer-turned-graphic designer-turned-director. “My HarryToonz Studio started off doing advertisements, and today, Radiopetti is being released under the same banner!”

Up next for Hari is another realistic, feel-good film. He’s not sure if it will be in Tamil or Hindi though, because there have been offers in Bollywood too. But that’s not it – there’s even the opportunity to make a Korean film. “When the Busan fest concluded, a senior person in the committee told me that I must get out of my comfort zone and make a film there. I hesitated, and he said: ‘You are now an International Award-winning director. Remember that’.” Sweet words for someone who faced rejection for a whole year before he bankrolled his project himself.

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