The film revolves around six-year-old Mithra, an active child who has stopped talking after her father’s demise. Arun, a child speech therapist with a stammering problem of his own stemming from a traumatic childhood, offers to meet Mithra to help her talk again. The film is about Arun’s attempts to break Mithra’s silence, revealing how grown-ups can overlook certain types of attachments in children and their memories of adults in their growing years.
In conversation with Silverscreen India, Earthling, who has also edited the 80-minute film, says, “It is about how adults enter the world of children thinking they will heal the child, but really, healing is a two-way process. There is always a takeaway.”
Earthling says the story stems from her own experiences of volunteering in hospices and cancer hospitals in the US. “My experience interacting with kids, and observing how they understand abstract things much more than us, resulted in this film. However, the story itself only took three hours to write,” she adds.
The film features Harish Uthaman as Arun, while debutante Tareetha ET plays Mithra.
“I have been working on short films with Harish. While he is known for villain roles, I thought why not give him something completely new for a change. As for Tareetha, her mischievous eyes caught my attention when I saw her photo. I contacted her parents and made sure to spend at least two hours every day with her, before we went for the shoot,” says Earthling, adding that it took about two weeks to gain her trust.
The filmmaker says the title is the catch of the story, with Ashva (horse) and Mithra (friend), condensing to form the essence of the film.
Ashvamithra also stars Living Smile Vidya as the director of the NGO Arun works for, while Maheswari Arunagiri plays Mithra’s mother.
The ocean plays a pivotal role in the film too. “The ocean has been a big part of my life and I find comfort in it. So I wanted Arun’s character to have an intangible, powerful connection to the ocean, which is woven into the story,” says Earthling, adding that the film was shot in Puducherry and Cuddalore.
The music, composed by Srivijay Ragavan, is another important aspect of the film, according to the director. “I wanted specific themes for Mithra and Arun, and when they meet, I wanted a different theme. Hope is important in all my works and the composer has used the Charukesi raga, which expresses both grief and happiness. It takes you to that intermediate, haunting sweet spot.”
Earthling, who feels the growing OTT space is a boon for filmmakers like her, is happy that with Neestream, Ashvamithra now has a “nice home of its own.” She adds that they approached many platforms before the deal with Neestream happened.
The filmmaker is currently working on other Tamil and Malayalam feature film scripts.