Bramma wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s just the kind of person he is. No, he isn’t naïve, thank you very much; but compassionate, having embraced the society – its people and all – with open arms.
He’s brutally honest, too. And, clear-headed.
Bramma also knows what he wants – precisely enough – where he’s going, and how to get there. “To plan is to be in control,” he shrugs.
Bramma takes ample pleasure in the fact that his childhood dream has finally come true. “I would be lying if I told you I didn’t dream of becoming a director. I wrote many stories when I was in school and I remember how I used to design posters and tickets for those stories. But I always thought it would remain a dream. Vandha pathukalam nu vittutaen.” He worked for the Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society for a while, but his heart wasn’t in it. “The government setup wasn’t really working out for me; so one fine day, I quit. Just like that. I knew I had responsibilities, I knew I had to take care of my family, but I just quit. Immediately after that, I met Christy (Siluvappan). He tried to engage me. He asked me to work on a script for my feature film. I gave him three options, out of which Kuttram Kadithal was the least controversial among the lot. I doubt if I’ll be able to make the other two even after ten years.”
Having been a playwright for 12 years, penning Kuttram Kadithal was easy indeed, for Bramma. “I’ve worked at NGOs, in a corporate, and even for the Government, but I was never ready to let go of directing plays. I’ve written and directed close to 600 street plays and I direct at least one stage show a year. There’s nothing like the excitement of putting up a play. I’ve learnt so much from it. I wrote Kuttram Kadithal in 15 days, and that was possible only because of my playwriting experience.”
The characters in Kuttram… are all painted in varying shades of grey. There are no good and bad people in the movie, Bramma says. “You will see people from all walks of life – so obviously, it has a spectrum of lifestyles. You will see economically downtrodden characters, middle class characters and upper middle class characters. Over the years we’ve compartmentalized people, we’ve judged them and we stereotype them. But in Kuttram Kadithal, we have tried to break those stereotypes, we have tried to show you that there is a certain amount of honesty with which all of us express ourselves even when the going gets tough.”
Though all the characters in the film are a reflection of Bramma – he says so himself – the director does have a favourite. “I did empathise with these characters while writing dialogues, but my favourite in the film is Udhay. I want people to see the film through his eyes; I want them to take him home.”
Some events that occurred during the shooting had a profound effect on Bramma. The movie needed the presence of a lot of children. “When we were filming in the outskirts of Chennai, we got permission from a school nearby and signed up their students to perform in the film. We picked these children up from their homes every day and dropped them back in the evening. Every evening, at 6 pm, my assistants would drop these little children at home, and would come back only by 10 PM. That was how far from school their homes were. They had no bus facility and they didn’t even have proper electricity. I am talking about a village just 50 kms away from Chennai. These kids go through so many difficulties even before they step into school. Just imagine how much they travel everyday just to study. I will never forget this. It was heart-breaking, really.”
Bramma also takes immense pride in his technical team “We have a sound team. More than understanding technology, they also understand filmmaking, I think that is very important. They never tried to stamp their mark on this film; they didn’t want even a particular aspect to stand out more than the others. They wanted what was best for the film. They put the script before themselves, and that quality is very hard to find these days.”
All aspects in the film should be entirely contextual, Bramma insists “I don’t believe in having separate tracks and situations for comedy or songs. It should be organic. In Kuttram Kadithal, music is used to take the film forward when the characters hardly speak.”
Winning the National Award reinforced a lot of his principles. “It was a very surreal moment. To be frank, I was embarrassed when I received the National Award. I know so many people who give films their blood and soul. As a creator, I realized I have to be more committed and responsible now. It’s a nice feeling, but very surreal. Imagine getting a call from Superstar Rajinikanth, would anyone even dare to dream this?”
Bramma also feels the need to maintain some distance from cinema. “I strongly believe that films influence people – at least, as far as India is concerned. Some filmmakers retain scenes that glorify smoking and drinking – I think that’s wrong. Having said that, I know we can’t really avoid cigarette smoking scenes; but how we build it contextually is very important.”
Apart from being responsible, a creator should always build a mutually beneficial relationship with his director, says Bramma “These days, it’s not enough if directors have a strong creative side, they have to develop administrative skills as well. Filmmaking has become easy, but releasing your film is a herculean task. If we want to make more films, we should plan the commerce as well. A director has to know how to market and merchandize his films. He should be able to look at the same thing with two different minds.”
Bramma plans to stay in the industry as long as he has stories to tell. “I have a lot to tell, but I will quit the moment I run out of stories. I don’t believe in making films for the sake of it. I don’t believe in making art house films either. I am a street play writer at heart, and my stories are for the common man.”
His area of interest is youth development. “I want to make films that are socially sensitive. I don’t really think all movies should carry a message, but I believe they can make audiences think. It can raise a question in their minds. I don’t believe in preaching. I want to entertain people, but at the same time, I want them to think about certain political and social issues.”
Bramma has big plans for his forthcoming films. “My second or third film will be about a 58-year- old man. I wrote this story a year and a half ago, and it is based on a real incident. It’s an interesting story and the man it is based on is no more. The gentleman looked exactly like Bharathiraja sir, and it’s been a dream ever since to get him to act in the film. When I told sir about this, he just smiled and nodded. If everything falls in place, this film will happen soon enough.”
Kuttram Kaditham is scheduled to release by the end of June or in July.
The Bramma interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.