It’s sure to make viewers crow with joy

A still from Kaaka Muttai.   | Photo Credit: grjgm

In a tiny office up a narrow flight of stairs of a building in Kodambakkam, director M. Manikandan is working on his next film. There are less than ten days for his first film, Kaaka Muttai, to be released; but he has no doubts that people will like it. After all, the movie did the rounds in international film festival circuits and won awards for the Best Children’s Film and Best Child Artists at the 62nd National Film Awards.

Kaaka Muttai follows two boys from the slums of Chennai on their quest to eat pizza. Manikandan is not a fan of pizza himself - it’s not that tasty, he feels. But his son Ezhilan had a phase when he longed to eat pizza every time he saw it being advertised on TV. “He would see gigantic vinyl hoardings with pictures of pizza on Mount Road and would instantly want it,” he recalls. “When I took him to eat it, though, I had to spend around Rs.1,200. Our house rent was Rs.5,000 back then.”

That got Manikandan thinking. What if a kid from an extremely low-income background wanted something as expensive? How would he satisfy his urge to eat the elusive pizza that calls out to him from his TV screen? Thus was born the crux of Kaaka Muttai.

Manikandan visited a slum near Kasimedu to learn firsthand about life there. It was a whole new world to him. “I realised how different I had portrayed it in my script,” he says. He rewrote it, based on what he observed. “I named the film Kaaka Muttai when a kid called ‘Gundu’ Mani told me that he and his friends drank crow’s eggs they took from nests on trees,” says Manikandan. He felt that to portray the raw beauty and naiveté of a kid from the slums, it was best that the actor was from there. That’s when he chose Ramesh and Vignesh for acting tests. “They were playing in the puzhudhi when I first saw them,” he smiles.

What followed was two months of training. “But I had to convince their parents first,” he says. “For the next two years, I spent more time with them than with my son,” he adds. “They would come home, play with my son…he gradually entered their lives. After all, he is the source of the story.”

Manikandan has also done the cinematography for the movie. “I started out as an assistant cinematographer in the industry ten years ago,” he says. It was during these years that he learned the nitty-gritty of cinema. “But I got to do everything except for cinematography,” he grins. He co-wrote scripts and screenplays and did several odd jobs such as making ID cards for school and college kids and wedding photography till he saved enough for a course in digital photography at Rajiv Menon’s Mindscreen Film Institute.

He has also made short films — in fact, it’s his short film Wind that won him a ticket to Kollywood. “Vetrimaaran called me when he saw the film, saying he wanted to work with me,” says Manikandan.

Raised in a family of police officers in Usilampatti, Manikandan based Wind on his father’s experience as a constable. “He once had to stand guard over two headless corpses one whole day, alone in the middle of a deserted landscape,” he says. “He didn’t talk to anyone for several days after the experience.”

Real life, feels Manikandan, has a mystery that cannot be entirely reflected in cinema. “There is no logic in real life; whereas in cinema, there has to be a story that makes sense to the viewer,” he says. To make an interesting movie, all one has to do is “sprinkle bits of real life” into it. Kaaka Muttai is one such attempt. The characters live in a world where there’s danger and unpredictability.

Manikandan’s next is a crime-based film featuring actor Vidharth, for which Ilaiyaraaja has composed the background score. Kaaka Muttai, presented by Fox Star Studios and produced by Dhanush and Vetrimaaran, hits screens on June 5.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 9:37:58 PM |

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