Telling tale of life

Telling tale of life

Director Bharatbala, well known for his series of music videos, 'Vande Mataram' and 'Jana Gana Mana', is all set release his Tamil film 'Mariyaan'...

Director Bharatbala, well known for his series of music videos, 'Vande Mataram' and 'Jana Gana Mana', is all set release his Tamil film 'Mariyaan' with English subtitles for wider audience With soulful score by AR Rahman, these videos are full of patriotic fervour and solid content with everlasting appeal. Their reach and acceptance have cut across age groups and language. Basically an adman, Bharatbala switched to making these inspiring videos and also made a critically acclaimed feature film 'Hari Om' in 2004. Now, he is ready with his Tamil feature film 'Mariyaan' (to be sub-titled in English) starring national-award winning actor Dhanush and Parvathi Menon releasing on June 21st. In this exclusive interview, Bharatbala talks of his advertising days, making music videos and provides a peek into 'Mariyaan'.
You have been making music videos on 'Vande Mataram', 'Jana Gana Mana', on the Army (the Siachen Glacier) � ones which strike a chord and are touching. How did you conceptualise and make them?
I come from a family which is very nationalistic. My father was part of the freedom struggle and was a close associate of Kamaraj. I started off doing television commercials, advertising films and I was quite successful. I quickly did big brands. At the peak of my advertising one day my father sat me down and asked me 'in advertising you create big ideas for products so that they can be sold, consumers can buy. He asked me why don't you create an idea for India? Why don't you create an emotion for India that the Indians can buy into your emotion and inspires young minds?' He showed me some marks in his legs and said whenever we used to sing 'Vande Mataram' even in prison it was a call of the time. 'Why don't you do something relevant for now?' So I wanted to create an idea called 'Vande Mataram' as a tribute to Dad.
You have been collaborating with AR Rahman on these videos. Is it because you have known him and share a rapport with him?
Rahman and I are schoolmates and friends from a very long time. I have done 150 odd commercials before he did 'Roja'. But when it came to doing ideas for India my whole goal is to use the best � whether it is Rahman, Bhimsen Joshi, Lata Mangeshkar, whosoever it may be. When you do an idea for India you don't compromise. People come to make movie songs with Rahman to make the movie popular. I want to make India popular, I want the Indian emotion to be popular. So I will use the best talent that is available.
Your second feature film 'Mariyaan' is triggered by a real incident which you read in the newspaper about three immigrant workers from India who were kidnapped in Sudan? What made you weave a story around this particular incident?
They all come from extreme backgrounds. They go there to work in extreme conditions because they want to have a better livelihood. Sudan is a war-torn country. These people do not speak the local language, nor do they know the terrain. In spite of all that when these guys were taken in captivity by the young militia (child soldiers) after 21 days without food or water and no footwear one person decided if we are going to stay here we are going to die, We have to run because there is somebody back home who needs me back. So he ran 600 kilometres over the next nine days without footwear, food and water. It is the sheer human will to survive that inspired me.
How did you conceptualise the script? Was it a realistic take on what happened in reality?
I researched all the three characters and at the same time I did not want to make a documentary. I wanted to make cinema. So I set the story as a fisherman at Kanyakumari. Fishermen are by and large very hard, tough, adventurous and courageous people. So one of them goes to Sudan because of circumstances here and he needs money. He is also pushed to earn more because he is also physically fit and that labour needs hard working people. He goes since he thinks it is for two years. Even though it is a fictional story based on true events the entire film is very realistic. You can believe the story which has happened.
How did you zero down on Dhanush and Parvathi Menon to play the lead roles?
Two and a half years ago I was in the jury of the national awards and for the first time I watched 'Aadukalam'. Prior to that, I had never seen a Dhanush film. He was not the actor but the character in that film. By that time I had written the script and I thought he was the natural choice and my first one too! I narrated the script to him and he liked it. So he came on board. As far as Parvathi's character is concerned she is called Parimalar. I wanted to find a Parimalar who is South Indian first, looks rooted. Many Tamil movies have Punjabi or north Indian actresses. The character is a strong one in the film and I wanted one who can perform very well. Then I started doing auditions. I came across her Tamil film 'Poo' which I liked very much. I felt she was young when she did the film. I did an audition with her and within 10 minutes I saw she is not Parvathi but she is Parimalar.
This story seems to have a pan-Indian appeal. It could have happened anywhere. Why did you set it in Tamil Nadu and not make it in Hindi which could reach across to larger section of society?
I somehow felt that Tamil cinema at the moment is very exciting. When you make a rooted cinema in Tamil it is much more engaging and the audience is very receptive. Whereas, if you take a rural film in Hindi, it is difficult. Look at how many films are set in rural India in Hindi mainstream films � hardly. I wanted a rustic look and a very hard one. Tamil was a matter of choice. I am a Tamil at heart.
How challenging was it for you to shoot this film in these two different landscapes?
Obviously nothing comes easy. If you look at my body of work I take the most extreme locations and the most difficult things and make it more exciting for me whether it was Siachen or whatever we do. For shooting the story in Sudan I had to shoot it in Namibia in the deserts there. Going into a deep desert with a crew of 85-100 people and see that it is not disturbed and shooting it with the storm and the difficulties of a desert terrain is absolutely not easy. The weather is so extreme. Interestingly Dhanush doesn't know swimming or diving. And in my story 'Mariyaan', the character, is a deep sea fisherman. He doesn't go on a boat with fishing net and picks up what he gets. He hunts. He goes deep into the ocean and with a spear in his hand hunts for what he wants. We took Dhanush to Andamans and trained him in deep sea diving and we had experts whereby we went 55- 60 feet into the bed of the ocean. We filmed the scenes there. The rest of the scenes were shot in Kanyakumari in Mandaikadu Pudur.
You have Rahman composing music again and it is wonderful and melodious to listen to. The music must be a blockbuster...
The songs have been released four weeks ago. All the four weeks 'Mariyaan' has been at number one. Rahman liked the story and particularly the human will to survive excited him. He was early in the story itself. For me, the song situations and the lyrics are all screenplay. I engage them in such a way that they have to move the story forward.
Are you planning to sub-title the film?
It will be sub-titled in English for a wider market. We are thinking of auctioning the dub for Telugu alone. Do you have plans to revive your Indo-Japanese venture The 19 Steps some time? Sure. The script is there. I will definitely look at it in the near future. Why don't you make more feature films? For me, it is about the story. If I like the story and it needs to be told I will definitely do it with the right partners (laughs). - Radhika Rajamani
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