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'Peranmai is not gender specific'

Last updated on: October 14, 2009 19:04 IST

'Peranmai is not gender specific'

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai

S P Jhananathan won the National Award for his debut Tamil film Iyarkai in the best Tamil feature film category in 2003.

The film, based on Dostovesky's White Nights (incidentally, much later, Sanjay Leela Bansali made Saawariya based on the same novel) beat many films including Bala's Pithamagan to win the award. Jhananathan then made E with Jeeva and Nayantara. It was a moderate success.

Now, he is back with Peranmai to be released this Diwali. The film stars 'Jayam' Ravi in the lead.

Jhananathan spoke to rediff.com's Shobha Warrier about why he still follows Marxian ideology and how it is incorporated in all his films, more so in his latest film.

Your first film Iyarkai had the sea as its backdrop. Your new film is made inside a forest. Are you very attached to nature?

I grew up on the sea shore. That could be the reason why I am attached to the sea. It was but natural for me to make a film that has the sea as a character, and not just a backdrop.

As the sea was a part of my life, and as I lived in a city that is devoid of much greenery, I think subconsciously I yearned to be in a place with lots of greenery. It is like the saying -- the grass is greener on the other side. It was not a conscious decision to shoot a film in a jungle but now, on looking back, it is what I really dreamt of doing.


Image: A scene from Peranmai

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'I learnt Russian to read Russian literature'

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Was it the backdrop of jungle that came to your mind first, or the idea?

No, it was the idea. Like I was inspired by Dostoevsky's White Knights, this is also an inspiration from a Russian novel. The novel itself was based on a real incident. The main line of the novel was the sacrifice made by women. I changed it to suit the Tamil audience.

Are you very influenced by Russian literature?

Yes. I read very selectively. I am also influenced by Marxian ideology. Maybe it is because I was influenced by Marxian ideology that I was drawn to the Soviet Cultural Centre and naturally, reading their literature became a passion for me. I even learnt Russian to read Russian literature in the original. I found that their books had real characters and there was human struggle in it.


Image: A scene from Peranmai

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'Women are not a commodity in my films, they are individuals'

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You said you were influenced by Marxian ideology. How much of this ideology is seen in your films? Of course, it was quite evident in your last film E.

My ideology is there in all my films, not only in E. It is there in Iyarkai also. Even in a love story made by a Marxist, you will see a different point of view. The way a Marxist sees love is different from what others see. You have seen two men and a woman as a love triangle in many films, and you have also seen the men deciding on who would get the girl.

The girl is a mute spectator when they take the decision. In Iyarkai also, there is a love triangle but it is not the men who decide who will get the girl. The girl chooses the man she wants to live with. As a Marxist, I believe in the independence of women, and that will be seen in my films. Women are not a commodity in my films; they are individuals.

What is the issue that you tackle in Peranmai?

The story is about a tribal person. He studied because there was reservation for him and he becomes a forest guard. Five girls from the city come to the forest as part of a NCC camp. This forest guard takes them for treks inside the forest as part of their training. Most of these girls look down upon this man as he belongs to the lower stratum of society. They find him quite comical but once inside the forest, they have to depend on him.

When they are inside the forest, people from some other country manage to sneak inside the forest like like how they did in Mumbai. I haven't used the word terrorist in the film; I call them mercenaries. They work for a large international group for money. What we do is, we bracket all as terrorists but the fact is, there are more mercenaries than real terrorists.

The forest guard and the five girls see them trying to destroy the area, and they try to save it in a gripping climax. I involve the girls also in the action as they have take an oath in the NCC to guard the country.


Image: A scene from Peranmai

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'Patriotism is fast waning in India'

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Was it because of terrorism that you decided to incorporate such issues in the film?

I will put it in a different way. India is one of the biggest markets today, and the capitalists in the world are interested in the market. With this market in sight, anybody will sneak in.

I mention this in the film too, that the East India Company came to India to do business but they conquered India. They didn't come with guns yet they managed to colonise India. We will see similar colonisation now, and the attraction for the conquerors is the huge Indian market.

My intention is to tell Indians that another colonisation is taking place in a subtle manner right now. I want people to be aware of this. That is what I show in this film.

Are you angry about the fact that colonisation is taking place under the name of globalisation?

Yes. Colonisation is happening in the name of globalisation. If the workers of India, Japan and America benefit and work together, it is different. There is no movement of people, only a few people come and colonise and exploit the poor. That is what we see today.

What I want to tell the youth of India through my film and the characters is that there has to be unity among them. Through the protagonist and the girls from urban India, I make them aware that caste is what separates people. I also feel that patriotism is fast waning in India, I want the young to feel so. But I must tell you that I have shown all this very subtly.


Image: A scene from Peranmai

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'I will not make a film with the sole purpose of entertaining people'

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Why did you decide to have a commercial hero like Jayam Ravi in the film?

I want my film and the message to reach the audience, and what better way than to use a commercial hero?

Is it difficult to transform a commercial hero to your mould?

Yes. You will not achieve anything unless you work hard. It is an advantage for me that he is a popular hero. But you will not see him as a commercial actor in this film. In Peranmai, he is Duruvan and not Jayam Ravi.

What is more important to you, the message or entertainment?

As a film-maker, the message is more important to me than entertainment. If you tell the message in an interesting way, it can entertain people. But I must tell you I will not make a film with the sole purpose of entertaining people. Peranmai is an action film, I would say. Once inside the forest, you will not see any songs under a waterfall or duet or sex. You see only pure action.

What is Peranmai?

What you show outside is Aanmai and what is inside you is Peranmai. It means, the one who conquers his mind, what is within you, and his body; a person who is in control of oneself. And it is not gender specific.


Image: A scene from Peranmai

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