Report by Niveda Manohar, Photographs by Sriram Narasimhan
Joker, the much praised political and social satire that raised quite a few eyebrows, had its success meet on Tuesday. Just like the film, this meet was filled with witty speeches by the guests that left the audience both sniggering and questioning themselves.
The success meet of Joker began with a minute’s silence to honor late lyricist Na Muthukumar. Director Raju Murugan and producer S R Prabhu welcomed the guests on stage by presenting them with the traditional Ponnadai. Sivakumar, who also happens to be Prabhu’s uncle, took the Ponnadai himself and presented it to Prabhu and Raju Murugan, since he felt they were more deserving of the respect. CPI leader Nallakannu was also present among the guests. Yugabarathi, the film’s lyricist, said that if Joker spoke about how a politician should be, it was Nallakannu who was the embodiment of all those qualities.
Writer Mu Ramasamy, who plays an important role in the film, was all praise for the producers. “Raju Murugan coming up with this script, Sean Roldan agreeing to compose the music, the actors and technicians coming on board, was a natural thing, but the fact that the producers were ready to fund this project is a big thing. Prabhu even knew that the film may run into some trouble with the CBFC, but he was undeterred, saying, “we have come up with a great film, and that’s what matters”,” he said.
Mu Ramasamy, who rehearsed his scenes with Guru Somasundaram during pre-production phase, was very sincere about his job. Somasundaram said, “We hired an apartment for our rehearsals. Raju Murugan used to go location hunting and wouldn’t be back until late in the night, or sometimes he wouldn’t return. But Mu Ramasamy sir would start rehearsing anyway. Such was his dedication. These rehearsals made it so much easier on us actors to go on with the shooting without any hassles.”
Somasundaram said that not even the locals in the shooting spot were convinced that he was the hero of the film. “Once, a local man sat next to me and asked who the director was. He then pointed to Ramya and asked if she was the heroine. I then wondered if he would ask who I am. He then said, hero varalaya sir? (has the hero not arrived?). But I took that as a compliment. That’s how I fit into the character of a common man” he said.
Director Lingusamy, who is Raju Murugan’s mentor, said that he was proud to have worked with him, and that he learnt more from Murugan despite being his guru. Editor Mohan said that Joker felt more of a Paadam (lesson) than a Padam (film) to him. He said that the producers must arrange to show the film to TN Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nallakannu was quick to respond to this and said that it would be a dangerous move, hinting at the satirical dialogues aimed at politicians in the film.
Actor Sivakumar said that a large part of the audience in the venue was city bred and so would not know the ordeal of not having toilets. “I grew up in a village where until I was 15, I did not even know what a toilet was. We just had to do our business amidst bushes and fields. It was worse for women, who had to defecate in the open, and that too only before sunrise or after sunset. I feel ashamed to think that this is still the case in our country. There are still people who vote for a ‘quarter’ but they do not even think of this situation. Where is our nation heading?” he asked.
CPI leader Nallakannu, gave the longest speech of the evening, saying how impressed he was with the film. The 90-year-old politician said that he watched it with a few other politicians. “It brought tears in my eyes, and also [to the eyes of] the people sitting next to me, including K Veeramani.” This statement made people like Sivakumar look very surprised. “This issue of lack of sanitation facilities was addressed by Nehru in his 1946 book, Discovery of India. He said that India is the country where people eat in secrecy with their doors closed, but defecate in the open for all to see,” Veeramani said.
Director, Raju Murugan said that the core of the film was about youngsters’ reaction to the farce of politics – when what they believe in turns out to be false. He said that the producer’s priority was to ensure that he had utmost creative freedom. “Even when I asked him about the collection from the first few days of the film, he asked me not to worry about it; thanked me for making a good film, and asked me to start working on my next script,” he said.
Photos from the event: