In a first for Tamil film promotions, we witnessed the e-launch of a high profile anthology's trailer through live streaming, with most of the big names associated with the film (Putham Pudhu Kaalai) in attendance. In a virtual event, we got each filmmaker, and a few actors, answering questions about the unique filmmaking process that began and concluded under strict Covid19 restrictions, and a limited crew.
The five short films will deal with topics as varied as love, new beginnings, second chances and a glimmer of hope. The films star a wide range of actors, including Jayaram, Kalidas Jayaram, MS Bhaskar, Shruti Haasan, Andrea Jeremiah, Ritu Varma and Muthu Kumar.
It's also fascinating to note that all five stories are set during the pandemic period, with the trailer even starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement of the 21-day lockdown, and how the different characters react to it. While the setting of a couple of stories is easy to grasp, the rest reveal little of the plot.
For instance, Gautham's film (Avarum Naanum) seems to be set in a situation when a granddaughter (Ritu Varma) has to go live with her distant grandfather (MS Bhaskar) during the lockdown, perhaps for the first time. Suhasini Mani Ratnam's film (Coffee, Anyone?) too seems like a family reunion of sorts when three daughters get together to celebrate their mother's 75th birthday, again during the pandemic.
Rajiv Menon's film Reunion, starring Leela Samson, Andrea Jeremiah and Carnatic singer Sikkil Gurucharan, also piques one's curiosity because of the unique casting choices, apart from the possibility of the story being about a woman getting stuck in a house because her bike develops a puncture when lockdown is announced. The storylines of Sudha Kongara's and Karthik Subbaraj's films are a little harder to predict.
After the trailer launch, host Rohini also had a quick Q&A session with each director, asking about their experience of making their films. Suhasini, for instance, said the short was based on a script she had written a few ago about two daughters and a son. But, she rewrote the son's character to accommodate Shruti Haasan. "Even my father Charuhaasan was supposed to act in it, but couldn't because of an accident," she said. The film sees Suhasini's mother make her debut in films; the three daughters are played by real-life cousins Anu Hasan, Shruti Haasan and Suhasini.
Both Sudha Kongara and her lead actor of Ilamai Idho Idho Kalidas expressed excitement in associating with the team. Kongara explained her reason to venture into the romance genre for this film, and how she landed the script.
Gautham, who started his stint as an assistant to director Rajiv, said he was in equal parts nervous and grateful that his name would feature alongside his Guru's for this anthology. He also said they were happy to work with a master like PC Sreeram for the first time. "It's like life coming a full circle," he added.
Rajiv said the experience of working in this film, with shooting restrictions and limited crew, was like going back to "film school days". "In some scenes, we cast new actors, because they would have to double up as crew members too. At times, we were working with just one light man." He also said they had to be careful when working with senior artistes (like Leela Samson) in these risky times.
Karthik Subbaraj too shared this same feeling, as he got back to working with Bobby Simha, a regular collaborator from his short film days, for Miracle. "If I was working with Alphonse Putharen and Nalan Kumarasamy then, now it has become names like Rajiv Sir and Gautham Sir." Bobby also added that he was delighted to work in a comedy after long, hinting at the dark comedy tone of the film."
The film will release on October 16 in over 200 countries.
We had earlier reported that this will be a welcome sign from the OTT major as it focusses on creating original content for its platform instead of buying ready-made content from external parties. Instead of star power, it is also important that the platform bets on directors, not just stars, to draw in audiences.
The platform received a lukewarm response for its recent releases such as Penguin and Pon Magal Vandhal in Tamil, Sufiyum Sujatayum in Malayalam, V in Telugu and French Biryani in Kannada. However, October is a big month for the streaming platform as it will see the release of the big-budget Suriya and Aparna Balamurali-starrer Soorarai Pottru, directed by Sudha Kongara.
Netflix had also announced an anthology late last year, directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon, Vetri Maaran, Vignesh Shivan and Sudha Kongara, with two names being a part of both films. It has been titled Paava Kadhaigal and is due to release shortly.