The known and the unknown
A hat-trick of successes raises the hope for Rajasekaran's latest venture on Periyar
PHOTO :M. MOORTHY
ACCOMPLISHED Director Gnana Rajasekaran
The citation of the National Film Award for his film `Bharathi' read: "This Biographical film depicts the life and times of Subramaniya Bharathi in a very authentic manner, unfolding the History of our freedom struggle. The compositions of this great visionary poet stand out with great relevance today."
Truly, the director of the feature film, Gnana Rajasekaran, a senior Indian Administrative Service Officer belonging to the Kerala cadre and presently the Director of Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, Sriperumbudur, has made a simple and absorbing narration of the poet's eventful life through a series of well-knit episodes relating to his childhood, early marriage, his evolution into a poet, a journalist, his encounter with the British, and his poverty-ridden last days.
Bharati was Mr. Rajasekaran's third feature film. The first, Mogha Mul (1994), won him the national award for the best first film of a director. His second film was Mugham, made in 1999.
His short film Oru Kann, Oru Parvai (1998), based on the incident of a Dalit girl child in a Salem school beaten by her teacher and getting injured in the eye for drinking water in a tumbler meant for upper-caste pupils was selected for the Indian Panorama in 1999.
A voracious reader, cinema has been Rajasekaran's passion for long. He deems his current venture, Periyar, for which the State Government has provided Rs. 95 lakhs, a more challenging, yet exciting task. He considers the State Government's gesture a great recognition for Tamil History.
"Unlike in the case of Bharati, where the poet's literature was collated in the absence of written history, there are umpteen written texts about the life and times of E.V.R. Ramasamy Periyar, who lived for 94 years."
That explains why it took him four years to plan the script for the film after surfing through 250 volumes on the social reformer.
The issues raised by Periyar hold relevance to this day, notes Mr. Rajasekaran.
About 40 per cent of the feature film, with versatile actor, Satyaraj, in the lead role, was completed during the 23-day shoot at Karaikudi. It is for the next phase of shooting that Mr. Rajasekaran is on the lookout for suitable locales in Tiruchi and Thanjavur districts.
The shoot will trace sequences at the `Periyar Maligai' in Tiruchi, and the film unit will also record Periyar's visits to Athens, Moscow, London, Malaysia and Burma.
What raises high hopes for the success of the film is the emotional involvement of the production unit, right from the lightboys to cameramen, at every stage of making. "Their thunderous claps are spontaneous," he beams.
Technology will be confined to capturing the mood of the times with the right lighting and photography. What does the film hold for the people who are aware of Periyar's life as a reformer?
"Only the latter part of Periyar's life is generally known. There is still a misconception about the leader. For instance, Periyar's opposition to religion was not blind.
In fact, his fight was against the caste system, which, he felt, perpetuated social divisions. Not many would know that Periyar, even while upholding rationalism, executed his duties of a `dharmakartha' of a temple at Erode, to everybody's appreciation.
Contrary to the general perception, Periyar, having born in a rich family, spent money from his pocket during his tryst with social reforms till 1929."
At which stage of life did Periyar turn a rationalist? "Well. That's an important undercurrent of the film. Wait till December to know the known facts as well as unknown nuances," adds Mr. Rajasekaran.
The film is scheduled for completion by the yearend and ready for a Pongal release.
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