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Aaranya Kaandam: A day in a gangster's life

Last updated on: June 9, 2011 14:39 IST

Aaranya Kaandam: A day in a gangster's life

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai

Tamil film Aaranya Kaandam will reach theatres this Friday (June 10) but the film produced by S.P.B. Charan and directed by debutant Thiagarajan Kumararaja, has been in the news for quite some time. First, it was for getting the Grand Jury award at the South Asian Film Festival in New York, and later, for the 52 cuts demanded by the Censor Board. Charan, the producer, then took the film to the Central Tribunal in Delhi.

Finally, the film starring Jackie Shroff, Ravi Krishna, Sampath, etc is ready to reach the theatres. In this interview, Thiagarajan Kumararaja talks about how he made the film.

After all the problems with the Censor Board, finally the movie is releasing. How do you feel now?

I have been waiting for this day for a long time. As for how I feel, it is nothing special. Maybe you can say it is like how people feel when they wait for the election results.

 


Image: A still from Aaranya Kaandam

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'I wanted to make a racy film'

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When you had problems with the censor board, both you and Charan said that it's an adult film and you want only adults to watch it...

Yes. When I wrote the script, I was sure that it was for an audience that is mature, and not for children. That is primarily because of the content. Being a gangster film, you hear colourful language and a lot of profanities. There is also violence in it.

What is the inspiration for the story?

There was no inspiration as such. I just wanted to make a racy film. I thought I would write a climax, as the climax is the raciest part of a film. I thought most films are very slow and I will make a very fast film. Once I wrote the climax, I found that one climax is not enough for a feature film. So, I wrote multiple story lines with three climaxes.

But what happened was that instead of writing a racy film, it turned out to be a leisurely paced film, taking its own time to unfold.

Unlike other films, there are no hero and no villain introduction scenes, there are no love scenes, no sentimental scenes.

Image: Jackie Shroff in Aaranya Kaandam

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'I'm inspired by Godfather'

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Why a gangster film? Are you fascinated by the lives of gangsters?

I would put it this way: I am totally inspired by Godfather, one of the greatest films made. Also, I am fascinated by the thought of how someone becomes a gangster and continues to be one.
Aaranya Kaandam is not the biography or history of a gangster but a page out of the life of a gangster. It is like a day in his life.

Why the title Aaranya Kaandam? It is the name of a kaandam (chapter) in the Ramayana.

Aaranya means forest and Kaandam means a chapter. This chapter in the film has the story of the animals like they are in a forest. As the story evolves, their animal behaviour changes and they become more human.

Image: A still from Aranya Kaandam

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'It was demanding to give individuality to all the characters'

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Can you throw some light on the gangsters in the film?

As there are three climaxes in the film, there is more than one protagonist. In fact, there are six of them. Out of the six, only two can be called gangsters; the rest just happen to be there or their paths have crossed.

Do their lives run parallel, or are they intertwined?

They do cross paths but their lives are not intertwined much. But their lives have an effect on the others' lives either directly or indirectly.

With so many characters crossing each other's path, how difficult was it to write a screenplay giving each his own individuality?

It was not difficult but it was demanding to give individuality to each character. Even the character that appears only for two minutes has to be genuine and believable.

The story happens in one day; from morning till evening.


Image: A still from Aaranya Kaandam

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'The theme of the film is universal'

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You said the story happens in one day. How did you present them so that the audience will know their background and past?

I will give you an example. Imagine you are travelling on a bus or train. You meet many people while you travel. You come to know a lot about some people while you have no idea about some others. Some people talk to you while others do not.

Last year, Aaranya Kandam won the Grand Jury award at the South Asian Film Festival in New York. Is the story of the film more universal than regional?

Yes, the theme is very universal. I will go to the extent of saying it is a masala film but the difference is how the characters react or not react in a particular situation. The film tells the story of normal people in extraordinary situations at times. It might be the extraordinary situations they were in that worked with the international audience and jury.

How did the audience react to the film?

I had sent the film on a beta tape. The audience loved the film and the subtitling. I mention subtitles because we didn't do the subtitling in the conventional way; we didn't do the verbatim translation of every sentence. The sentences conveyed the mood and the international audience seemed to love it.

How did S.P.B. Charan become the producer of Aaranya Kaandam?

I finished writing the script in 2006. He had just finished Chennai 28. Some of my friends told him that I wanted to narrate a story to him. He asked me to come over. He was very excited when he heard the story and wanted to produce it. He said this is the kind of cinema I want to make. I was also happy to have such a young producer who would not ask to have a song here or some other scene there. There was no demand from his side. He wanted to change the title Aaranya Kaandam because he felt people might not understand the meaning, but I wanted the title. I told him people would understand the meaning in no time. I felt the title had depth and was in tune with the theme of the film.

Image: A still from Aaranya Kaandam

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'Aaranya Kaandam will be a paisa vasool film'

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How did Jackie Shroff become part of your film?

I wrote the script with an old man in mind. And I had approached quite a few Tamil actors but some of them didn't have dates, some wanted me to change the script. Then I thought why not an actor from Hindi so that they would not have any inhibitions.

Director Bejoy Nambiar, a friend of mine, introduced me to Jackie Shroff. When I narrated the story to him at a very basic level, he said, I will do it; how many days do you want? It was as simple as that.

How did you come to films?

If I have to name someone who is responsible for me coming to films, it is Ilayaraja's music. From a young age, I've been a huge fan of his music. Because of that, I studied Visual Communication. I like films and I have been watching films from a young age. So, making films happened to be a natural progression. Yes, I've made just one film and I do not know whether I will continue making films.  I may or may not make another film...

How do you describe Aaranya Kaandam? Is it a commercial film or an experimental film?

I would say it is an entertaining film. It will be a paisa vasool film.


Image: Thiagarajan Kumararaja directing Aaranya Kaandam

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