Earlier this week, I follow up on an invitation for a ‘team interview’ with the cast and crew of Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu (roughly translates as ‘A Goat’s Plea For Mercy’) at Prasad Labs.
Prasad Labs at noon, or just about any other time, especially when there’s press show, is a strange mix of elements. There’s total sensorial upheaval: lovely, breezy trees, and a thick stench of smoke.
I don’t recognise Suresh Sangaiah at first sight. He stands a little away, engaged in a discussion with a bunch of men.
I google for a picture just to be sure.
The lead actors are not here. But, the man is indeed Suresh. He’s simply dressed, and decidedly reserved. The movie is about the village he grew up in, he says. He has meticulously built not just an entire village, but also its forty odd characters. Each with their own little quirk.
Oru Kidayin… is told from a goat’s perspective, if its trailer is anything to go by. I’m also quite charmed by the little ‘hundi‘ motif that shows up alongside production credits.
ask prod Suresh about working on the film.
He credits his town first. And, his mentor, Manikandan of Kaaka Muttai fame. “This concept is based on what happens in villages in Tamil Nadu,” he says. “What I’d witnessed as a child while growing up near Rajapalayam. There’s the tradition of tonsuring your head, piercing ears… There was also animal sacrifice at temples. I decided to recreate everything – why or how it happened – in the story.”
A serious film or a satire, I ask.
Neither, Suresh says. “It’s an entertaining story that happens in a village. A family nurtures a kid, plays with it, takes care of it. But once it becomes a healthy goat, it’s taken to the temple and sacrificed. The goat has no idea of what is to come.”
Writing the story wasn’t difficult at all; Suresh just had to look within for inspiration. “I got the idea before I started working on Kaaka Muttai. I had approached Manikandan sir about it. He wanted the bound script then. We were working on Kuttrame Thandanai, which fortunately, got me Vidharth, the lead actor.”
Also, director Manikandan was supposed to produce Suresh’s first film, but “we ran into a few problems, and he couldn’t become the producer.” Their friendship though, is something of note. We’d talk about cinema, watch movies, and discuss all day long, smiles Suresh. Manikandan was also instrumental is getting Eros International to distribute Oru Kidaiyin...
“He saw the film. Made them watch it. Recommended me. And within a few hours, they were on board.”
Vidharth, too, was chosen based on Manikandan’s suggestion. “I was looking for a fresh face, but he told me to try a known face for my film. Since I was looking for someone who looked 35 years of age, Vidharth was a perfect fit.”
The lead actress, though, was quite a task to find. “Many girls had auditioned for this role. But most of them were artificial in their acting and couldn’t speak Tamil. And, my lead actress was supposed to be a natural at the language; also she has no make-up, no threaded eyebrows…none of that,” he explains. A photo of Raveena Ravi that he’d seen somewhere prompted him to approach her. “She’s essentially a dubbing artiste and knows the language really well. She agreed to the conditions about no make-up or loose hair, and pretty much resemble a simple girl from the village. And since she understood the nuances of expressing through voice, she delivered the same in her acting, too.”
Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu was screened at the 17th edition of the New York Indian Film Festival, which happened earlier this year. “Many Tamilians who watched it came up to me and said that such incidents happened back in the towns they hailed from,” recalls Suresh, “And the fact that there are around 40 characters in the film… there’s someone you eventually relate to. You see a friend or even yourself in it.”
The movie does explore politics, “but it’s all portrayed in a light manner. I’m focusing more on the aspect of unity – a concept that is approached gingerly in reality. You barely see families living together. One is too reluctant to even get to know their neighbours.”
He likens it to his unity with Manikandan. “If I hadn’t worked with him, I don’t know if I would have been able to make this film…”
Currently, Suresh is working on another script, but will make a formal announcement about it soon after his film’s release.
Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu releases tomorrow.
The Suresh Sangaiah interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.