After focussing on big-city life in his first three films – Kattradhu Thamizh (2007), Thanga Meenkal (2012) and recent romantic drama Taramani (2017) – Ram has directed his attention towards nature in his latest movie, Peranbu (Compassion).
The Tamil-language film traces the relationship between Amuthavan (played by Malayalam screen icon Mammootty) and his daughter Paapa (Sadhana), who lives with cerebral palsy. Also starring Anjali, Samuthirakani and trans model Anjali Ameer in her debut role, Peranbu was premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam last year and will be released in theatres on February 1.
The film examines the laws of nature in the context of disability, the filmmaker told Scroll.in. “I wanted to make a simple film about nature and how nature is interpreted. I then tried to find my particular truth in it,” Ram said. “Nature has made everyone different and everyone has a disability in one way or the other. The world is not made of beautiful things.”
The film’s idea emerged from chance encounter on a train journey in 2005. “I met this guy, who introduced me to the world of spastic paralysis,” Ram said. “This man’s daughter too was suffering from the disability and it disturbed me. While the film is not based on his life story, it inspired me to make a film on a spastic child and parenting issues. I then started working closely with the spastic societies.”
The filmmaker went on to focus on his other projects but simultaneously wrote a short story on this idea, which he pitched to Mammootty. He decided he would develop the story into a script only if Mammootty came on board.
Mammootty was the only actor who could convince the audience of Peranbu’s offbeat theme, Ram said. “He never tries to overact and instead tries his best not to act,” he explained. “This story has a lot of drama and I needed an artist who could control that drama and make it believable and real. Because most people do not witness such experiences every day.”
Through the character of Mammootty’s Amuthavan, the film also follows the transformation of a self-centered man, Ram said. “Amuthavan is a selfish guy and he is a coward,” Ram said. “But through the experiences shared with his daughter, he gradually becomes a man of compassion. What I observed in Mammukka [Mammootty] is that he has a lot of filters on his face to convey different emotions. He changes those filters without underlining it. That is the beauty of Mammukka.”
The film also stars the child actor Sadhana, who featured in the director’s National Film Award-winning film Thanga Meenkal. To prepare for her role, Sadhana closely observed and stayed with two children living with cerebral palsy for a few days, Ram said.
“When I was shooting Thanga Meenkal in 2012, I just knew that I had to cast Sadhana because she was a very hard working kid,” the filmmaker said. “I signed her in 2013 even before Mammukka.”
The filmmaker views his first three films as a trilogy on globalisation. “I like to make movies on subjects that we usually tend to neglect,” he said. “Kattradhu Thamizh was about the economic imbalance that globalisation creates. Thanga Meenkal was about the effect of globalisation in primary education and Taramani explores male-female relationships in the time of globalisation. But for Peranbu I developed my own philosophy and perspective on nature.”