Pandiraj, in a recent Ananda Vikatan interview, has said that he wanted to see Nel Jayaraman one last time, but couldn’t as he had gone back home to take care of his village after the Gaja cyclone. “I could only participate in the last rites. Even then, it felt like all our conversations had happened recently.”
The director met Nel Jayaraman, a conservationist who revived over 160 varieties of paddy, at a function three years ago. Both Jayaraman and Pandiraj were being felicitated at the ceremony. Pandiraj recalled that Jayaraman had requested him to show more of our traditional agriculture practices onscreen. “He said that film reaches more people and that we must use it to convey good things to people. I told him that I belong to a farming family and that when the time is right, I would definitely make a film about agriculture.”
Pandiraj said that initially he had no idea about Nel Jayaraman. But at the event, as more and more people began to speak of his achievements, I was in awe. “In front of 5,000 people, our first interaction happened. I will never forget it.”
After Pandiraj made Kadaikutty Singam, he wondered if Nel Jayaraman had seen it. He also invited him to the 100th day celebrations of the film. During the event, Pandiraj was excited to hear that Jayaraman had seen the film and approved of it.
Jayaraman had often said that the green revolution had created patients like him. “In the name of modernity, we are all ingesting poison. Youngsters must take up farming and bring a change in the way we grow our food.”
Pandiraj added that it was a shock to Jayaraman that he had cancer. “In the end, even I have been eating poison,” he had told Pandiraj.
The need of the hour is to ensure that our traditional varieties of rice are preserved, declared Pandiraj. “Nammazhvar used to say that there were over 10,000 different varieties of rice. But all that is lost. The Tamil Nadu Government must revive all the varieties known to us and must start a program to preserve them.”
To this end, actors Suriya, Karthi, and Pandiraj have plans to develop an agricultural society soon. They will also take upon themselves the cost of running the ‘Nel Thiruvizha’ now on. “Nel Jayaraman ayya revived so many varieties of rice and yet, he had cancer. So what chance do we have? Nel Jayaraman and Nammazhvar have sown the seeds of change in us. It is up to us to do something about it,” the director said.