“I Want To Convey My Opinions But Not Force Thoughts Through My Films: M. Manikandan, Film Companion

In this episode of Deep Focus, M. Manikandan speaks to Baradwaj Rangan at the location where he shot Kadaisi Vivasayi. The director delves deep into the world of the film and talks about its making, principles and characterisation. 

Edited excerpts below:

The film talks more about God, spirituality and prayer. When you play the ‘karpanai endralum’ song by Vaali and show Vijay Sethupathi character, you introduce it. You also show peacocks and Lord Muruga. So why particularly Lord Muruga and peacocks?

When we talk about the farming process and style, the basic skill set for these has been introduced for our Tamil people through Lord Muruga. It was there before, but only with Lord Muruga was it organized and reformed. In many stories of history told by experts, we learn that Lord Muruga has had a greater influence on our practices. So people still widely worship him. That’s why we connected Lord Muruga with the film.

How does the character played by Vijay Sethupathi connect with the story? You show the storyline where he gets into a trance state when he hears about Lord Muruga. He has a parallel track in the film, while simultaneously being part of it as well. No one could have expected the end. So what all were you able to show with his character and why did you introduce such a character?

Let’s see him as the character. When we show a village in the film, we should show at least 70% of it. We have to show most kinds of people. In that way, there will be many people like Ramayya, the character played by Vijay Sethupathi. It is an interesting character that many people will be able to relate to. We can also hear many stories related to such characters.

There are two things about village-based cinema. One is feeling that you have watched a good village cinema. The other is the feeling that you have visited and travelled to the village. So when many people indicate that it feels like they have travelled to the village, it is because of the landscape and the time you have to feel it.

If you want to give that experience, you should have some unpredictable characters and scenes. If I give the film in the same village template with a protagonist and all things centred around him, then it will not be interesting for the audience. The intention was not to make something very different from that, but the film developed as such.

When we characterize villains, we could make strong villains and it will be easier for us. But when we tone down them a little and add many other elements, it gives a dense feature and depth to the film. People will be able to relate to all of these characters and the story.

The intention of the film is not to break many beliefs. It is to inspire people, who are doing farming and people who want to do farming, to continue farming. It is to give them that confident feel. So if I have to convey such a thing, I have to tell a story that is close to their living and lifestyle. Otherwise, it will be just a cinema. To help people take back these thoughts and feelings, we have to do certain things that are not typically done in mainstream media. There will be many people in the village who are exactly like the characters played by Vijay Sethupathi and Yogi Babu.  

In different places, you use jokes or commentary to convey some thoughts. For example, the dialogue ‘Vidhai illadha Thakkali’. Though you do not tell it as a message, you convey thoughts about pesticides and GMOs through a joke or something. Farming is a very big complicated process that goes beyond going to the field, it involves governance and all. So did you ever want to include the other side of the balance and other things?

Such topics have been discussed in many magazines and several people have made films about them. There have been many protests as well. So there is no need for us to make another movie like that. As I said before, there are many issues, people are protesting and governments are taking necessary measures. So my intention is to make a film where the audience will want to do farming after watching the film.

Who killed the three peacocks?

We haven’t mentioned it in the film and we did not want to include it. It is left to the audience’s interpretation. We see if such answers are to be revealed in the story or not, if not, then there is no need for it. If we try adding an angle to it, then it will mean that all real estate people are wrong. Only some are doing such things, so I thought that is not needed. Since there are both sides of people, I have kept the answer open to audience interpretation. Even the audience will forget such an incident later in the film.

You say that there was thunder and it burnt a tree in the beginning. When I think of it later, it felt like the old tree that got burnt was similar to the old man in the film. Because it is like a long-standing tradition being forgotten. So when you write a film, do you note down the thoughts you want to convey and then write a film with it or do you write a story and then include the thoughts in fitting areas?

No, we can’t do the latter. I think we can’t do it. More like, I haven’t done it in such a way. When you talk about spirituality in the film, it is there in the film because the story has it. This element is not there in other films, we don’t even show a photo of God.

Even if we want to keep our favourite things in the film here and there, we can not follow it a lot. Because some stories may not need it. Having said that, some common features will be visible in many films, something like the director’s perspective or touch. If you see all of my films, the absence of violence is a common quality. If I decide to show the anger of this same village people, then I have to show full violence and fights. So I do not have general thoughts that I have in all of my films. When I take a particular story, I will have some thoughts about it and I try to incorporate them.

Your films do not force a message. It does not force any thoughts upon us. If we talk about a message movie, all happenings in the film will converge at the message point. But your films are not like that, you just let things flow. How does that work?

That’s the intention. When we are telling our opinions, we should not repeat them again and again. If people want to accept and take it up, well and good. If there are a few people who do not want to accept it, they should not take our opinions in the wrong way.

My intention is not to hurt them. So when my films talk even about some faults, people should not get hurt or feel bad, they should feel like ‘It’s okay, they are just sharing their opinions’. My intention is to show how the situation is. I also do not believe in pointing towards one person or one department and forcing all faults upon them. If a department is dysfunctional, we all are responsible for it. 

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