Tamil cinema

‘Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom’ director on his mysterious new movie: ‘It’s not a comedy’

The director is back with ‘Oru Pakka Kathai’.

Five years after his acclaimed debut Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kanom (A few pages are missing in between), Tamil filmmaker Balaji Tharaneetharan is back with his second film Oru Pakka Kathai (One page story). Tharaneetharan, a graduate of Chennai’s MGR Government Film and Television Training Institute, is tight-lipped about the plot, and will only reveal that it is not a comedy like his first film. “It is a family drama,” he told Scroll.in. “The film will make you question certain beliefs.”

The dialogue-free teaser hints at a family drama centred around a child. Hospitals, a horde of holy men and temple priests, and a child dressed as god recur in the teasere. “If I say anything more, I’d be telling you the plot of the film,” Tharaneetharan said. “It is like me telling you that the protagonist of Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom suffers a memory loss. That’s the entire plot.”

Oru Pakka Kathai marks the debut of Kalidas Jayaram, the son of popular Malayalam actor Jayaram and Megha Akash. Delayed for months – firstly because of the producers and then the Central Board for Film Certification – the film is yet to find a release date. “The regional office here said they cannot pass the film because the word intercourse is uttered in a scene,” Tharaneetharan said. “They had said they would have to send the film to Bombay and get an approval. Now, with the change in regime at the board, I’m not sure what is happening.”

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Tharaneetharan has moved on to his next film, Seethakathi, starring Vijay Sethupathi along with Remya Nambeesan. “I was supposed to work on Seethakathi first,” Tharaneetharan said. “But the production company I was in talks with asked me if I had any other story that I could work on instead. So, I narrated the story of Oru Pakka Kathai to them, which they liked immediately.”

Does he have a collection of such stories banked somewhere? “It is not like that, he said. “Generally, it is an idea that strikes me that is later developed into a full-fledged script. The idea for Oru Pakka Kathai was at the back of my mind. It took me four months to write the complete script. I like to narrate the story that is developing in my mind and while I do that, I record it. Then, I listen to that recording and write out the script.”

He specifically wanted actors who could pass-off as 19- or 20-year olds. “Kalidas Jayaram and Megha Akash were just out of college when I was looking for actors,” he said. “Their age and appearance worked well for my story.”

Balaji Tharaneetharan.
Balaji Tharaneetharan.

The one film that Tharaneetharan does open up about is his debut feature, which he did not imagine would be as successful as it turned out to be. In Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, Prem Kumar (Vijay Sethupathi) suffers from temporary memory loss a day before his wedding. “I knew the plot was different and would capture the audience’s attention,” Tharaneetharan said. “But I did not imagine it will go on to be called a cult film. Its success has definitely made it easier now for me to pitch my films to producers.”

Inspired by the real-life experience of the movie’s cinematographer, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom was ideal for the small budget debut that Tharaneetharan was aiming for. “At that time, Vijay Sethupathi was still a budding star,” the filmmaker said. “I had met him on the sets of Varnam, a film I wrote dialogue for. He had a small but significant role in the film. When I announced auditions for Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, he came and tried out for the scene in which Prem loses his memory and begins saying a set of dialogue which he repeats throughout the film. I chose him immediately.”

Making films that are considered off-beat remains a challenge. “Finding a veteran producer for a film like this is rare,” Tharaneetharan said. “Generally, a newcomer producer is more eager to accept these stories.”

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Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (2012).
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