It was an event of quite some significance! A legend returning to cinema after quite a while! Bharathiraja is getting ready to direct a movie after a gap of 3 years. His last film was Bommalattam in 2008. His last association with cinema was through the casting coup of S Pictures, Rettaisuzhi which saw him pair with K. Balachander on screen. We thought he had shifted to the small screen for good when he launched Appanum Aathalum, but his decision to come back to the silver screen is a delight for all Tamil cinema lovers.
The launch of his new project Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum was held on Thursday at -Veerappa Ayyanar Temple in Alli Nagar, Theni, the birthplace of Bharathiraja. It is no surprise that he chose to hold the launch of his film where he has his roots. After all, he is the man who is credited with taking Tamil cinema out of the confines of studios and bringing it out into the open, showing villages and the earth in all its charm. For the sole reason of choosing such a rustic location, the event stands out from among the many launches that have happened before. And, what made it more special was that it was not an organized, cut and proper event, conducted in an auditorium or a hotel with the media seated ahead of everyone else. The setting instead was a typical village temple, surrounded by hills on all four sides; never before has a film been launched in such a true rural location. It was a typically cool and cloudy Theni day with rains punctuating the proceedings every now and then. But, that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the people who had gathered there for the event. And, how could it be, because on the dais were some of the biggest names of Tamil cinema. Bharathiraja was of course present and there were Mani Ratnam, K.Balachander and Vairamuthu; all on the same stage.
Coming to the details of Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum; it will star Ameer, Iniya (Vaagai Sooda Vaa) and Karthika Nair in the lead roles. Apart from them, there will be a new face hand picked by Bharathiraja from Theni, true to his tradition of casting. Speaking at the event, Bharathiraja said that when he announced his plans to launch his film at his birthplace, many people had expressed doubts over it. But, he went ahead because in all the 36 years that he had been in Chennai, not even once could he hold any major event here. He wanted to do something that would make the people of his village proud and this is what he came up with. He said that he felt immensely proud about being able to bring so many luminaries of the industry to his village; while people usually go to Chennai for the sake of cinema, he said that he had succeeded in bringing cinema to his village.
About the casting decisions, he said that many people had asked him why he had opted for Ameer when he had another gifted protégé in the form of Parthepan who could act well. Parthepan had been considered for the lead role, said Bharathiraja, but time constraints had made it impossible for him to feature in this film. And, having seen Ameer act in Yogi, he had no doubt that he would do justice to the role. And, it was confirmed when Ameer showed amazing commitment when given a task to perform. The task was simple for villager, but not so for a city bred man, to lift a 30 Kg. goat on his shoulders and run fast for quite a distance. The way Ameer did it clinched the role for him, said Bharathiraja. Iniya was chosen because of her amazingly expressive eyes which spoke volumes in Vaagai Sooda Vaa. He added that he was proud that having launched the film career of Radha, he was now going to direct her daughter Karthika. He expressed hope that he would be able to direct even the next generation from the family.
Ameer spoke and said that he was honoured to be part of this project. He said that Bharathiraja had called him many times for different projects including Appanum Aathalum, but being asked to act in a film directed by him was indeed a great feeling. He said that Bharathiraja had conceded that Paruthiveeran had outperformed all his works. But, Ameer’s opinion was that he had only travelled further on the road blazed by Bharathiraja himself.
Mani Ratnam said that everyone who has been a director in Tamil cinema has been influenced in some way or the other by Bharathiraja’s work; it is impossible to work in Tamil cinema and not be influenced by his movies, such is his stature.
The finest exchange of words however came when Vairamuthu spoke (expectedly). He said that after coming to Theni and seeing the enthusiasm of the people here he wanted to do something for the people. Saying that establishing an educational trust would be best, he announced that he was ready to make an initial deposit of Rs. 5 lakhs towards it. And, he added that whatever money he made out of writing the lyrics for Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum would also go towards the trust. But, Bharathiraja said that he did not plan on paying any money to Vairamuthu for his lines because money is an insult towards such an invaluable artiste. To this Vairamuthu replied that he did not mind being insulted if that meant more money going into the trust.
The event had many rural forms of dance and music being performed live. And, there was also a typical village feast for all present. Altogether, the event looked more like the annual village ‘Thiruvizha’ rather than a movie launch. Clearly, this was one of the most unconventional film events to happen in the recallable past. In times when producers are flying to Singapore and Malaysia to launch movies and music, it is great to see the legends return to their roots.
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