In love with village vistas

REALISTIC PORTRAYALS: Kasturi Raja. Photo: T. Saravanan  

Kasturi Raja’s films are all about strong story lines replete with emotions, gripping screenplay and lilting tunes of Ilayaraja. Be it his debut movie En Raasavin Manasile or Ettupatti Raasa, stories from the countryside have been his forte. “My scripts are based on my experiences. I never attempt things I am not comfortable with,” says Kasturi Raja.

Coming from a nondescript Mallingapuram village near Thevaram town, Kasturi Raja never imagined he would become a filmmaker one day. “I am an avid filmgoer and watch all kinds of films. But making films was never on my list. I never planned a career in films,” he says.

Kasturi Raja says he actually he came to Chennai to attend an interview for a job in the Railways. He did not get through and instead started writing stories. By quirk of fate he got an appointment with legendary filmmaker K.S. Gopalakrishnan and joined him as an assistant director. “I joined him just for the batta of Rs.2 given to me at the end of the day. I had to survive,” he says.

Initially Kasturi Raja also tried to quit cinema. But situations prevented him and gradually he developed an interest in filmmaking and learned the nuances of writing scripts for films. “It happened late in life or else I would have achieved much more than what I have.”

He got a chance to wield the megaphone with En Rasavin Manasile. “I went to narrate a story to Rajkiran, who was then looking for a script for Ramarajan, as he had got the dates of the popular actor. But script did not suit and I had to do a different script and Rajkiran acted in it.”

When success followed with Solaiyamma, Aatha Un Kovilile and Ettupatti Raasa, he decided to make films that would represent his society. Naatupurapattu and En Aasai Raasave became cultural documents of folk artistes and their life. “When I started the Naatupurapattu, I had nothing with me except the title and the maestro Ilayaraja. I stayed with folk artistes of Theni and documented their travails struggle to eke out a living. What they narrated became the film,” he says.

The ‘Otha Roova Tharen…’ song from the film remained on top of the list for a long time and the film itself ran to packed houses for a year. His En Aasai Raasave too belonged to the same genre with thespian Sivaji Ganesan in the lead role.

When everyone thought he had a flair for rural stories, he sprung a surprise with Thulluvatho Ilamai, a youthful film featuring his son Dhanush for the first time. “Like me, Dhanush was also not interested in films. I forced him to act. But now look where he is. We were sincere to our work and that helped us climb the success ladder,” he says.

Having etched his name in the higher echelons of Kollywood as a producers’ director, Kasturi Raja turned his attention towards social maladies. “ Kasu, Panam, Thuttu, Money” is a film on misdirected youth in slums and how they are exploited and forced into criminal activities. “I spent a lot of time in slums to understand the life of slum dwellers. Most of the children in their adolescence are exposed to drugs early in life. It was shocking to see how school and college students are involved in crimes. The film is an attempt to expose the factors that force them to become juvenile criminals. The film had all essential ingredients of commercial cinema.”

Proud father of Dhanush and Selvaraghavan, Kasturi Raja dislikes commenting on their films. “We never talk about cinema at home. At the most, I may enquire about the release dates of their films.”

Busy with the next project, Paandi Muni, Kasturi Raja says: “Don’t dismiss the film as a horror movie. It is a village subject and a female-oriented sentimental movie.”

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 3:20:27 PM |

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