Cinematographer PG Muthiah focuses on Jallikattu in his directorial debut Madura Veeran. The film’s newly-released teaser begins with a shot from the revolutionary protest on the sands of the Marina orchestrated mostly by youths in favour of the sport.
“The film is not about the protest, or the controversy surrounding the sport, but about the tradition. I could not have avoided the reference to the Marina protest in the script, simply because it was very significant. Usually, in a film based on sports, there will be sub-plots with love, friendship or betrayal. In this film, there is no deviation from the central theme.”
The film stars actor-politician Vijayakanth’s son, Shanmuga Pandian, in the lead role.
Muthiah claims this film showcases tradition as it is practiced. “Usually, during a Jallikattu sequence on-screen, one bull will be chased by people in a ground. But, the reality is very different. My research helped me structure the script better. There are many tactics involved in Jallikattu, and I’ve included them in the film.”
Muthiah speaks of how people who own the bulls treat them like part of the family. And, how, in the days of yore, Jallikattu helped crush egos and helped people build strength and stamina. “It is such an important part of our Tamil culture. That is why the Marina protest gathered steam.”
Muthiah says that following the protest, he tweaked the script and removed all explanations about the sport, because most people had become familiar with and grown to understand the terms used in Jallikattu. “During the protest, I used to visit the Marina every day. The atmosphere was electrifying and I would return home with goosebumps. I’ll go as far as to say that the protest instilled in me the confidence to proceed with the film. It made my job easier, and I was able to directly launch into the main theme.
Muthiah has canned some live shots of Jallikattu in this film. “We shot with six cameras. I won’t reveal more,” he says.
Apparently, many leading heroes had turned down the script as they had reservations about the storyline. But, Muthiah says that Vijayakanth and his family were overwhelmed by the story as they hail from Madurai and know the significance of Jallikattu.
“Many discouraged me when I decided to cast Shanmuga Pandian in the lead. But, he was apt for the script and was excited about exploring his Madurai roots. He delivered dialogues in the Madurai slang with ease. In fact, after the protests, those who had refused the film approached me again, but I’d decided that Madura Veeran belongs to Shanmuga Pandian. He’s done an exceptional job in this film.”