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A Tamil movie where Obama is the 'hero'!

Last updated on: November 15, 2010 18:24 IST

A Tamil movie where Obama is the 'hero'!

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai

Janaki Viswanathan shot to fame with her National Award winning film Kutty in 2001. She followed it up with Kanavu Meipada Vendum. Her upcoming Tamil film has gathered a lot of attention mainly because of the title -- Om Obama.

She tells Shobha Warrier why she chose the title and what the film is all about.

Om Obama is an unusual title for a Tamil film. How did the idea come to you?

Initially the story was set in a village and the Obama angle to the film came later on. The story is about the happenings in a village. The Obama angle was added to give it a larger backdrop. One of the things that happen in the story is about a factory being set up in the village and how it suffers because of the recession in the US.

I read on the Net about how the Indian garment export industry in Tirupur suffered because of the economic recession in the US. That article quoted a few people from Tirupur. At that time, the Presidential elections in the US were taking place and one man said, 'if Obama becomes the President, there would be a turn around.' Most of the shops have 'Om laabham' (profit) written inside. The article even quoted a person saying that instead of Om Laabham, we should have Om Obama now! I found the quote quite interesting.

From where did you get the inspiration for the original idea? Did you visit any of the villages in the state?

No, the original idea was completely fictional. The recession angle was genuine as everybody was talking about the economic recession at that time.


Image: A poster of Om Obama, and Janaki Viswanathan

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'I wouldn't like to reveal the name of the village right now'

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Which village did you decide to base the story on?

I wouldn't like to reveal the name of the village right now. All I can say is it is a village somewhere in Tamil Nadu. An old temple was an integral part of the story, so we looked for a village that had such an old temple.

Yes, there is a factory in the village which caters to the export market. So, a recession in the global economy affects the economy of the village and the people working in the factory.

Are you talking about the impact globalisation has at the micro level on a small village in a state in India?

Yes. It is a fact that economic recession in America had a strong impact in some of the small villages like Tirupur in Tamil Nadu. The impact percolates down to villages and families. Yes, you can call it the impact at the micro level. There was a time when villages were self-sufficient depending on the agriculture of the region. That's not the case now. Globalisation has reached such a level that a cough or a sneeze somewhere in the world creates panic reaction in an economy that is far away. 


Image: A scene from Om Obama

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'By the time we finished shooting the film, the entire village knew about Obama!'

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What stand have you taken on globalisation in the film?

I have not taken any stand. I have not stated that one is right or that the other is wrong; I am just showing what is the current state of affairs. My film is only a slice of life. The situation and issue is too complex to come up with a right or wrong message.

Is it a very serious film?

No, it's a humorous take on a dark issue.

You said you looked for a village that has an old temple. Was a temple built for Obama?

No, no. The temple and Obama have a connection but the villagers didn't build a temple for him.

You shot the film with huge posters of Obama in a village in Tamil Nadu. Were the villagers familiar with the man?

Yes, they were. He was not a complete stranger to them. By the time we finished shooting the film, the entire village knew about Obama!

After shooting the film, it was very interesting for me to see Obama interact with the villagers of Kanpura when he was here.


Image: A scene from Om Obama

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'Obama is there somewhere or the other in every reel of the film'

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In your film, though he is not physically there, is he omnipresent?

Yes, you could say that. He is there somewhere or the other in every reel of the film.

You made the film in Tamil. As the subject is very universal, do you plan to take it all over the world?

Yes, we would definitely add sub-titles to the film and show it at various film festivals. I want this to be accessible to the international audience.

Do you feel a story like this can happen anywhere in the world?

Definitely. There may be many, many small places like Tirupur all around the world. This is true of any developing nation. I want to say that globalisation is not the only subject I touch upon in the film. There is a comment on religion, faith etc.


Image: A scene from Om Obama

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'The only star we have in the film is Obama'

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When do you plan to release the film?

We plan to release it by the end of the year.

Do you feel the film would have had a stronger impact if you had released it when Obama was in India?

I feel Obama's visit has generated a lot of hype which no one expected. So, I feel it might help us if we release it after his visit. I hope the hype surrounding his visit will rub off on our film too!

You have no stars in the film...

The only star we have in the film is Obama, an international star!

These days stars market their films aggressively

Our star came a little early, marketed the film and went back!


Image: A scene from Om Obama

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