It is the role of a lifetime. I was inspired by Maniammai's courage, intelligence and diligence. - Kushboo.
DREAM ROLES: Sathyaraj and Kushboo as EVR and Maniammai in `Periyar.'
His first film `Mogamul' gave him the due recognition. Then came `Bharati,' another film that made waves. Now it is `Periyar.' Director Gnana Rajasekaran talks about his previous works and also his present film `Periyar.' Excerpts from the interview.
What made you think about Periyar as a subject for your film?
When `Bharati' was released, various cultural and literary associations all over Tamil Nadu and Pudhucherry felicitated me. In all the places there was one unanimous request Kindly do a film on `Periyar.' I was rather surprised. Then I wondered why not. I decided to concentrate on the life history of the leader and decided to collect material. I took leave of absence from the office for a year and spoke to various people who were connected with the leader. After three years I was able to write the script for `Periyar.'
Did you find a producer?
It was not easy. The people who showed interest expressed regret later. I realised I was going to encounter problems making this film. It was at this juncture that Liberty Creations came to my rescue and they are the producers.
Your first film `Mogamul' was a love story written by a popular author. Then came `Bharathi' and a few short films. With `Periyar' you are moving from love stories to biography.
There is no hard and fast rule that a filmmaker must only make love stories or he must not take a different path in his next film. I want to choose something entirely different for my next venture. But in all my films you can find true to life incidents. If `Bharati' is a spark `Periyar' is a volcano. The incidents that happened in the life of Periyar are greater than what you would find in that of film heroes.
And the cast?
For the title role I did not think beyond Sathyaraj. And I wanted Kushboo for the role of Maniammai. The audience will agree with me when they see the film.
Vidyasagar has done a remarkable job, keeping the flavour of the period intact. He has taken care not to use instruments that might sound alien. For instance keyboard. Vairamuthu's lyrics have enhanced the effect.
`Mogamul' and `Bharathi' were considered art films. What about `Periyar?'
I do not distinguish films that way. My only aim is to give good films to the people. `Periyar' falls in this category.
How is `Periyar' different from `Bharati?'
With `Bharati,' I took some liberties with his history.
He lived only for 39 years and was a poet. `Periyar' lived a full life of 94 years. A popular leader, he is connected with the social as well as historical aspects of Tamil Nadu. He has recorded his thoughts and some of the important happenings in his life. So one cannot take liberties with his life.
About the State Government's gesture of giving Rs. 95 lakhs for the film.
By giving the money, the State government and the Chief Minister boosted the effort and it has raised the expectations of the people.
For the first time you have cast famous stars in your film. How was the experience?
Sathyaraj has lived the role of Periyar. He has only been thinking about the film all these six months. He did a lot of homework and got all the details about his life.
It is a dream role for the actor. Kushboo worked hard to bring Maniammai alive. When both of them stood before the camera with make-up, Thangathal, a lady who was brought up by Maniammai was moved to tears.
Both Ayya and amma have come back to life, she said. I felt I had won the battle.
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