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‘Aelay’ Normalises Dysfunctional Families: Director Halitha Shameem of Sillu Karupatti Fame Talks About her Next Film Ahead of its Release

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Source: (Left) Poster from the film Aelay, (Right) At JFW award function, SelvaHunter, Licensed under CC BY SA 4.0

Halitha Shameem of Sillu Karupatti fame, released the trailer of her upcoming Tamil film Aelay, on Tuesday. “The story revolves around the rocky relationship between an ice cream vendor and his son” Shameem said, speaking exclusively with Silverscreen India.

Shameem, who has both written and directed the film, said she first began working on the story  in 2009. “It was the first story I wrote when I wanted to get into filmmaking,” Shameem said.

“The story is about a son who attends the funeral of his father whom he dislikes,” she explained and added, “In the trailer, the father asks the son if he will cry at his funeral and the son says, “How can I cry at your funeral?” The story is about what happens at the funeral-does the son cry?”

Shameem added that films tend to portray relationships in a fancy manner and only show the good sides. “Love may be glorified in films. But in reality there are a lot of problems when it comes to relationships. There are a lot of people who will compare their love lives to those shown in films and feel bad for it. When movies like Kumbalangi Nights are made, we are told that it is okay to have a family like that. Such films normalise the issues,” she said.

Aelay features actor Samuthirakanni as Muthukutty – a playful popsicle vendor, and Manikandan of Kaala fame as his son.

Speaking about the rest of the cast of her film, Shameem said that most of the supporting characters were played by the residents of Manjanaickenpatti village, where the film was shot.

“We stayed with them, learned more about their skills and strengths and let them be their natural selves in the film. We taught them the dialogues and showed them how to act. The villagers were very supportive,” she said and added, “Many of them are above the age of 80 but they even took part in the night shoots. An entire village has acted in this film.”

According to Shameem, it was easy to convince the villagers to act in her film as her hometown is close to Manjanaickenpatti and she “knew the local dialect very well”.

“The villagers have no source of entertainment. They will finish farming and be idle. So I kept them engaged for two months – one month for preparing and one month for shooting. This was a huge entertainment for them,” she said.

Calling Manjanaickenpatti a beautiful village, Shameem explained that she chose to shoot there because of how “pretty and neat” it looked. She said, “I really liked the organisation of the houses in the village as they followed a colour code similar to Jaipur- the houses in the village were painted with a royal blue colour.”

Speaking about the film’s release in theatres, Shameem said “It is not a small-budget film. So many people have been involved in (making) the film. There are a lot of characters and locations. To draw people to theatres, distributors need feel-good films. Aelay fits that bill,” she said.

Expressing her sorrow over the death of Sree Ram, the Krav Maga instructor and actor known for his role in her film Sillu Karuppatti, Shameem said, “Even when the trailer (of Aelay) released, I was expecting a post or a message from him. I have to constantly remind myself that he is no more.”

After the release of Aelay, Shameem will work on her other upcoming film Minmini. She recently walked out of, Navarasa, Netflix’s nine-film Tamil anthology that she was originally a part of, due to the “pressure of working on several films” simultaneously.

Aelay will release in theatres on February 12.

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