'My son's fascination for a costly pizza led me to make Kaakka Muttai.'
Director M Manikandan talks about his National Award-winning Tamil film.
M Manikandan's Tamil film Kaakka Muttai (The Crow's Egg) bagged two awards at the 62nd National Film Awards -- Best Children's Film and the Best Child Artist award for its lead actors J Vignesh and J Ramesh.
Produced jointly by actor Dhanush and director Vetrimaaran (Aadukalam), the film has been making waves at several international film festivals.
The film delves into the lives and dreams of children living in urban slums, who have to fend for themselves.
Basking in the glory of the National Award, with appreciation pouring in from across the globe, a happy Manikandan tells Rediff.com contributor S Saraswathi what inspired his film and why its young actors deserve the award.
With all the international recognition your film has received, did you expect to win the National Award?
It is a wonderful moment. I am so happy.
When I finished writing the script, I felt it had potential.
The film was screened at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where it received a standing ovation.
We did have a lot of expectations from the film, but a lot of films have won international acclaim but failed to impress our juries.
I feel especially happy for the boys. They had put in a lot of hard work and I was confident that they would be recognised.
How did you get director Vetrimaaran and Dhanush to produce the film?
Vetrimaaran sir had seen my short film Wind at an international film festival and called me for a meeting. We discussed my work and I told him that I was ready with my next script.
When he heard the story, he immediately expressed his interest in producing the film.
He brought Dhanush into the project.
Tell us about the film.
The film is about two youngsters from a slum, who are desperate to taste pizza, but cannot afford it.
It is a well-paced, engaging film, quite unlike films you usually associate with awards.
What inspired the film?
The story stemmed from a very simple thought: My son is fond of pizza. I don't think he is actually fond of eating pizza -- it is rather all the hype surrounding it.
Advertising has created this strategy that makes the experience of eating a pizza an irresistible temptation.
Children are captivated with this cheesy wonder and the idea of visiting a pizza joint, which, for them, is the ultimate experience. My son's fascination for this costly dish led me to think about the children from the slums.
If they too had the same craving, what would they do?
What if they had no one to get them what they desire?
These thoughts led me to make this film.
It is an honest, realistic portrayal of the lives and dreams of destitute children in the slums.
What is the relevance of the title, Kaakka Muttai (crow’s egg)?
That should be revealed only in the theatre. I don't want to spoil the surprise.
What about the actors in the film?
J Vignesh and Ramesh, who play the lead characters, are children from the slums of Kasimedu in Chennai.
I personally visited the slums to select them.
We gave them training for about two months before we began the shoot.
The others are professional actors.
How long have you been in this industry?
I have been in this industry for 12 years now.
As I mentioned earlier, my first film was Wind, which was screened at three international festivals. It was during one of these festivals that Vetrimaaran sir noticed my work.
I directed another film titled Meendum Oru Punnagai. I have also been associated with a number of short films for the Naalaya Iyakunar television show.
I have already finished my next project, an action thriller titled Kutramum Dhandanaiyum. It features Vidharth from Mynaa.
When is Kaakka Muttai scheduled to release in theatres?
We have planned a May release, the dates are not yet confirmed.