The upcoming Tamil film Kuthiraivaal, starring Kalaiyarasan and Anjali Patil, and produced by Pa Ranjith, has been selected to be premiered at the Berlin Critics Week this year. The film is directed by debutant duo Manoj Leonel Jahson and Shyam Sunder, and is the first Tamil film to be selected for this international fixture. The film, which had previously been selected at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, will be having its theatrical premiere at the International Film Festival of Kerala, following which, it will have its international premiere in Berlin.
“We had planned to take our film on the festival circuit first before the theatrical release here because we were confident it would work critically,” says Manoj, who has been working with Shyam together since their film school days.
But the pandemic did pose a challenge while taking this route, adds the filmmaker. “Given the COVID-19 situation, many festivals had gone online, but we did not want to screen this film digitally. This is a mainstream Tamil film, and we were concerned about piracy,” he says.
He describes the film as a genre-bender that talks about the politics of being human. “There is magic realism, and while our literature has seen many such attempts, as far as mainstream cinema in India goes, we have had only few films exploring this. The film sees the psychological issues of a character through the lens of surrealism,” he states.
The plot revolves around a bank employee, an alcoholic, who wakes up one day and realises that he has grown a horse’s tail. What that is, how did it appear and is it visible only to him is what the film explores. “There is a similar premise in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. G Rajesh has written the story, screenplay and dialogues of this film,” he adds.
Given the profoundness of the concept, Manoj admits it was difficult to pitch this film to producers. “It took us close to two years to get the film on floors. We showed Ranjith sir our diploma film, which has a similar tone. After seeing it, he came forward to produce this script. He liked it at an artistic level and must have felt he needed to support it. The film wouldn’t have happened without him. Meanwhile, a friend of mine, Vignesh Sundaresan, also came forward to co-produce the film with Ranjith sir’s production house,” he says.
On choosing Kalaiyarasan, he says, “We wanted a skilled actor who could give us time, as the role required a workshop. Kalai sir was one of our first choices along with Anjali Patil and when Ranjith sir came onboard, it became easier for us to rope him in. He was very committed to this role. The tail has been created through a combination of prosthetics and visual effects. “An entire team worked on that feature alone… to operate the prosthetic tail and fine-tune it later with CG. We have also used 3D modelling in some instances,” he adds.