In a male infested world, it is difficult to make inroads but not impossible. Director Madhumitha who proved this with her maiden venture Vallamai Thaaraayo is back with her next, a laughathon with an interesting title Kola Kolaya Mundirikka with an ensemble cast. This talented director talks in an exclusive interview to Jyothsna Bhavanishankar and Iniyan.



BW:
What do you have for us this time?

Madhumitha: I have come here to meet all of you with my second film Kola Kolaya Mundirikka. Vallamai Thaaraayo is my first baby which received an award from the state government recently. It is a definite pride for all of us involved. I am very sure that you audience will support Kola Kolaya Mundirikka also just the way you did Vallamai Thaaraayo.

Can you tell us some of the awards that you have won in your career of film making?

Although it might sound clichéd, my entry into filmdom was an accident. I was born in Chennai but grew up in Indonesia as my father was working there. My entire schooling was at Indonesia. I wanted to take up fashion designing for my college studies as I was much interested in the subject and had organized many fashion shows in my school days. Hence I went to Singapore to do my fashion studies. There was a small problem in it. As much as I liked fashion designing, the subject did not like me enough. Yes… I had to do many sketches but I was very poor in drawing.

And then?

At the same time, I had to shoot video films for my other subjects. When I was focusing on films and video, I realized my forte lies there. It was more interesting for me than fashion designing especially in my second year of college. When I was studying in Singapore, my very first short film about womanhood (Untitled Red) won the ‘best of the world’ category in BBC. It was very encouraging and motivating and I was extremely happy. I made many such short films in my 3rd and 4th year which won awards from Singapore government. My professors encouraged me to do my masters in film making abroad and I went to Hollywood.

In Hollywood

In Hollywood, I worked in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 3’ as a trainee. I did a two years program specializing in direction. There, they believe that a director should know all aspects of film making. Hence I was trained in screen writing and acting too. As much as I hate coming in front of the camera, I had to take acting classes. They feel it is necessary for a director to know the difficulties of an actor who is in front of the camera. So acting was also part of the course. Likewise, sound and camera were also part of the curriculum. After having completed all these courses, I

" I worked in

‘Pirates of the

Caribbean 3’
"

was doing a film called ‘yours affectionately’. It was a 20 minute short film where a girl loses her parents in an accident and she is not able to accept any one else as her parents. I had dealt with the other side of adoption- how the adopted girl becomes rebellious unable to accept her foster parents. Till now, I have taken part in 25 different film festivals and my short film has been screened and won awards. Although, I got an offer to work in Universal Film studios, I came down to India because I wanted to be here. I worked with Gautham Menon in Pachaikili Muthucharam and post production of Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu and then Vallamai Thaaraayo happened.

Film world is a male bastion. As a woman director, how do you counter this?

Of course, we are constantly under the scanner. But there are advantages as well as disadvantages. While some of them are keen to find what we deliver, it is difficult to earn that kind of respect for yourself. Be it the crew or the audience, there is an initial resentment. Once they understand what you are capable of, then things change. In fact, my crew in Vallamai Thaaraayo was a hand picked one and they have understood my potential. Some of them

" It is difficult being

a woman director

but not impossible.
"

have even told that they were apprehensive about me initially. So there is always a challenge to go that extra mile to prove yourself. Once you establish your credibility, you earn the respect that is being given to a male director or a technician. That way, I was lucky to have a crew which respected me as a director and not as a woman director. Yes, it is difficult being a woman director but not impossible.


Do you have woman ADs in your team? If so, how are they different from the male ADs?

In Vallamai Thaaraayo, it was an all men AD team. But in KKM, I made sure and found 2 women ADs. It is difficult to find good women Assistant Directors. I am still trying to figure out the reason. From very little that I know, women VISCOM graduates prefer advertising to films owing to the misconception about film world. I think that could be a reason for the dearth of women

" It is difficult

to find good

woman Assistant Director
"

ADs in films. In KKM, I have a couple of women ADs who are as hard working as any other male AD. Of course there are some basic problems like if they are working late, than they should be dropped home. Safety and Security are important. That apart, the attitude, hard work and the willingness to put one’s heart in to the work matters more than the gender of an AD.

What advice would you like to give to ambitious women directors?

First of all I hate advices whether I am at the receiving end or giving it. I believe that one should do any work only if they are able to give their 100%. It is not right to do something for other’s sake. That has remained my policy. If I am confident about something, I will go ahead and do it unmindful of opposition. On the other hand, if I am not certain about something, then I will not do it even if others try to convince me. So all that I can say is –“If you are confident about something, go ahead and do it.”


Why did you choose a non-formulaic theme for your first film – Vallamai Thaaraayo?

Visu sir is like my godfather. When we sat for discussions for Vallamai Thaaraayo, he told me that I have three options in front of me to make my debut- one is a hardcore masala, the second one is a serious subject and the third is an action flick. He suggested that as a woman debut director, doing a masala film would definitely guarantee a success. However, call it an intuition or whatever, I liked the concept in Vallamai Thaaraayo. It is an emotional story which has not been told many times. Many people advised me against taking such a tough and serious subject in my debut. But I think that’s what drove me to take that subject at the end of the day because I was challenged. I wanted to show that I can deliver such a serious subject despite it being my first film. I believed in myself and the content and went ahead. We also had interesting characters and catchline in Vallamai Thaaraayo. A wife seeking divorce from her husband because he is too good!

About your current film Kola Kolaya Mundirikka and its unusual title?

Vallamai Thaaraayo and Kola Kolaya Mundirikka are diametrically opposite in their genres. While VT belongs to the serious genre of drama with emotions, feelings, ego and relationships, KKM fits in the light category. Talking about the title Kola Kolaya Mundirikka, it is a game we have all played in our childhood which is about chasing a thief. In the film, there is a group of people who go on a treasure hunt and it is all about who gets the treasure at the end. So that’s about the title.

The dialogues have been written by Crazy Mohan sir and that should give an inkling about the genre of the film. KKM is a laugh out loud comedy. It is a film where you can come, laugh, have fun and leave.

What is KKM’s USP?

The best part would be as a team, we laughed our heart out shooting every scene and I am sure the audience also would experience the same. Music is by Selva Ganesh, son of Ghatam maestro Vikku Vinayakaram. KKM is a beautiful package in the sense that it has got fun, entertainment, fantastic music, well choreographed songs; a package that would make you happy all along.

" KKM is a

beautiful package
"


About the cast

In my first film Vallamai Thaaraayo, I was looking out for a relatively fresh face for the heroine’s role because I wanted the audience to see the character Nanditha in the actor. However, in KKM, all the characters are fraudsters and I was keen to have artists who will play that well. I had auditioned around 100 men and 50 women. After a couple of rounds, we finalized on Karthik and Shikha. Karthik as all of you know is the ‘NRI Maapillai’. But he is trying hard to get out of that image. Shikha is from Bengaluru and has done a Kannada film.

" I have a perfect

cast in KKM
"

Then there is Jayaram sir. Initially I was a bit nervous as he is such an established actor and was concerned how he would react to working with a new director. But he was fantastic. He is the perfect example of a ‘director’s actor’ and was extremely cooperative. That way, I consider myself to be very fortunate as the entire crew was very supportive and it was like a ‘family get together’. There is also M S Bhasker, Vasu Vikram, Anand Raj, Radha Ravi and there is a new guy called PMK who has done a few films and K Balachander’s play Pournami. Every character is unique and in some way, they will make you laugh. I have a perfect cast in KKM.


Music in KKM?

Selvaganesh is fantastic. I have no other words to describe him. His music is very fresh and suits my subject perfectly. Selva is a good family friend. When he heard the story, he was very excited as it was exact opposite of his first film Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu. The

" Selva is a

good family

friend
"

background score in KKM is brilliant. As Selva is a percussionist himself, there would be a feel of percussion in background score. As far as the songs are concerned, we have done something different. Our title track has international musicians playing in it. Vikku Vinayakaram, an illustrious Ghatam Vidwan and a Grammy award winner has played in our film which is an extreme matter of pride and honor for all of us. Ranjit Barot, a music director from Bollywood is a fantastic drummer and he has also played in the title track along with Swedish guitarists Mattias Eklundh and Jonas Hellborg. Other songs are sung by Shankar Mahadevan, Karthik, Suchithra, Anuradha Sriram etc.

How was it working with crazy Mohan?

Story and dialogues in KKM are by Crazy Mohan. He is a legend with such an impressive repertoire but I have never felt his ego anywhere. He never treated me like a newcomer and respected me for what I am. He was open to suggestions and we had healthy discussions to

" There will not be

KKM if crazy Mohan

was not there
"

perfect every sequence. There will not be KKM if crazy Mohan was not there. During our story discussions we would continuously be laughing and enjoyed every moment in making this film. I am sure it would be a doubly enjoyable experience for the audience too.


Where was KKM shot?

Majority of the film was shot in India- in Pondicherry, Karaikudi and Chennai. One song was shot in Indonesia, a place close to my heart and a place which has not been filmed earlier.

In future, do you have plans to come in front of the camera?

I know this question was coming. As I had said earlier, I hate coming in front of the camera which includes even interviews. I am generally uncomfortable before the camera. Acting- a big No. I would never put the audience through that torture. I will only stay behind the camera.

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