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'Cuckoo is an experimental film'

March 30, 2014 16:00 IST

'Cuckoo is an experimental film'

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S Saraswathi/ Rediff.com in Chennai

'I had not planned my career as a director, it just happened. I love writing and started out as a writer.'

Raju Murugan discusses his film Cuckoo.

Within days of its release, Fox Star Studios and Next Big Films’ latest Tamil venture Cuckoo, starring Attakathi Dinesh and Malayalam actress Malavika Nair, has become the talk of the town. 

The film has been directed by newcomer Raju Murugan, who worked as a journalist with the popular weekly Ananda Vikatan for nearly seven years before joining as an assistant to director Lingusamy.

Cuckoo is inspired by the love story of a real-life visually-impaired couple, whom the director met during his days as a journalist.

In this interview with S Saraswathi/ Rediff.com, Murugan shares his experiences of working with the visually challenged and learning the true meaning of love.

Did you expect your film to be such a huge hit?

As a director, and especially a newcomer, you put your heart and soul into the project and ensure that your dream script unfolds exactly as you visualised it.

At that time, you are not worrying about whether the film will become a hit or not.

But once the film was completed, I did hope that besides being critically acclaimed, Cuckoo will also be a commercial success. 

Only when the film is a profitable venture will more such attempts be made.  

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Image: Malavika Nair and Attakathi Dinesh in Cuckoo

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'I had complete faith in my script and so did my producers'

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You had a powerful backer for your film.

I had complete faith in my script and so did my producers. But nobody can predict how the audience will react, especially since Cuckoo was more of an experimental film.

We were portraying a love story of two visually-challenged individuals. How much of this will reach the audience, we were not very sure.

But the response has been overwhelming. People are showering us with so much love; it is both a wonderful and humbling experience.

Cuckoo, is an example of a film that can claim to be good cinema as well as a commercial success. Hard work and sincere efforts will never go in vain.

How did you get this opportunity to work with Fox Star Studios and Next Big Films?

The thought of this film was with me for seven years. 

Cuckoo is a true story of Tamizh, a visually-impaired youngster, who I met during my stint as a journalist with Ananda Vikatan.

I worked on the script for almost two years.

Two people I am acquainted with helped me approach Fox Star Studios and Next Big Films.

When the producers heard the story, they were very impressed and almost immediately, we started work.


Image: Attakathi Dinesh and Malavika Nair in Cuckoo

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'My work was not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be'

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How much of the film is real and how much is fiction?

Almost the entire film is true. Tamizh narrated the story to me; he told me of his love for another visually-challenged person. I was deeply moved by his story.

In this materialistic world, where love and affection is almost always marred by some superficial expectation, be it beauty, colour or social status, here is a story that transcends everything worldly and materialistic. 

Since then, I have always wondered about such a love. In Cuckoo, my attempt has been to bring out the essence of such a love, a love that has no expectation; it is simply love.

But converting the story into a screenplay did require me to add certain elements, but these have been mere embellishments, I have retained the soul of the story.

Was it a happy ending for the real-life couple too?

Yes, Tamizh is happily married to his love today.

You have worked with real-life blind actors. Was shooting for the film a huge challenge?

From the time I started on the project, the journey has been a deeply enriching experience.

I have met so many people from the blind community and have learnt so much from them. They are tough, resilient and cheerful and insisted that I portray them as happy, fun-loving and confident individuals instead of pathetic and always suffering.

To tell you the truth, they are natural actors who perform almost effortlessly. So my work was not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be.


Image: Attakathi Dinesh and Malavika Nair in Cuckoo

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'Both Dinesh and Malavika have lived the role of Thamizh and Sudhanthirakodi'

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Tell us about the characters of Elango and Sangeetha.

Elango's real name is Elango as well, while the character of Sangeetha is played by Nandhini, a student.

Nandhini is a bright, intelligent girl, studying at an Ashram in Bangalore, while Elango has completed his M.Phil.

Their performances surpassed all expectations; people loved their characters in the film.

What made you pick Dinesh and Malavika as your lead actors?

Initially, I wanted to use a new face, but I gave up that idea.

I admired Dinesh's performance in Attakathi and he too was very keen to do the film, when I narrated the script.

Malavika worked in the Malayalam version of Vazhakku Enn 18/9. I liked her performance and wanted her in the film. 

Both Dinesh and Malavika have lived the role of Thamizh and Sudhanthirakodi. A lot of hard work has gone into the performance.

They spent almost three months interacting with a group of blind individuals, studying their mannerisms and understanding their life.

It has been a tremendous effort and they both deserve all the appreciation that is coming their way.

How long did it take to complete the project?

From start to finish, the film took about two years, but we completed the shooting part in just about 70 days.


Image: Attakathi Dinesh and Malavika Nair in Cuckoo

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'We shot in some really crowded locations, with many characters who are blind in real life too'

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You have shot in some extremely crowded locations. Was it difficult?

I have to thank my cinematographer, P K Varma, for his invaluable efforts. The film required that kind of footage to make it as realistic as possible. 

We shot in some really crowded locations, with many characters who are blind in real life too. P K Varma's camera has captured it all very naturally.

And working with music composer Santhosh Narayanan?

Santhosh Narayanan's work has played a big part in the success of the film.

Cuckoo's music had to be a unique blend of the old and the new, and Santhosh understood it perfectly.

My hero in the film sings only Ilayaraja's songs, so everything had to sync together, otherwise the music would not have worked so well. 

Santhosh had a huge responsibility and he has delivered big time.


Image: Attakathi Dinesh and Malavika Nair in Cuckoo

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'I had not planned my career as a director'

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From a journalist to a director, how does it feel?

Nothing much has changed actually; writing and directing are both creative. The medium may be different, but to me, both bring the same satisfaction and joy.

I had not planned my career as a director, it just happened. I love writing and started out as a writer.

Then I entered cinema as an assistant to director Lingusamy, and the next obvious step seemed to be directing. 

Now that the film is a hit, are you being flooded with offers? Do you have journals filled with many such stories?

I am happy to say that my next project is also with Fox Star Studios and Next Big Films, but we have not worked out the details as yet.

After Cuckoo, expectations are high, so I have the responsibility of giving something even better with my next film.

I do have a lot of stories, but I want to choose with care.

Whatever the project, one thing I am sure about is that I will never compromise on what I believe in.  


Image: Attakathi Dinesh and Malavika Nair in Cuckoo

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