It's not even a year since the brutal murder of Infosys employee Swathi on June 24 at Chennai's Nungambakkam railway station, and already, there are plans afoot to release a film based on the sensational case that shook Tamil Nadu in 2016.
Titled Swathi Kolai Vazhakku, the trailer of the film was released recently and uses real names of people involved in the case - from the victim, Swathi, to Ramkumar, her alleged stalker and murderer.
Directed by Ramesh Selvan, the trailer promises to take the viewer through the entire arc of the complicated and controversial case that set off heated discussions on gender violence, caste, and misogyny in society. There were also numerous conspiracy theories doing the rounds, especially after the prime suspect, Ramkumar, died in prison.
The trailer, in fact, goes into a popular conspiracy theory that Ramkumar's throat was slit by police officials when he was captured and that he'd not done it himself as the force had claimed.
Swathi's family, as can only be expected, is upset about the upcoming film. According to police sources, her father K Santhanagopalakrishnan has written to the Director General of Police appealing that the production and release of the film be stopped.
TNM has accessed a copy of the complaint procured from a police source, which reads, "The untimely death of my daughter at her prime age completely shut the doors to us to lead a peaceful life as an ordinary citizen and we couldn't digest the incident till date which forced us to lead a life in a rotten boat."
Stating that the news of the trailer had once again upset the family when they were limping back to normalcy, the complaint by Swathi's father says that nobody had approached him to take the family's consent. "We are unable to gauge the intention of producing such a movie, as the facts can be twisted particularly about my daughter. Since the case is sub-judice, production of such a film is not fair and illegal," the complaint reads.
Speaking to TNM, advocate Sudha Ramalingam says that it's not legal to make a film on real events and real people without obtaining their consent.
"This is not a film on say Raja Raja Chozhan who is a historical figure. Nobody from those times is around for you to speak to them and obtain consent. When you are making a film on current events, people whose extended families are still there, you have to take their permission to represent them as such," she says.
In an interview to Times of India, director Ramesh Selvan said, "All my films have dealt with social issues and have created awareness. This one, too, will spark some awareness among the audience. We have retained the subject to what exactly happened and have reported on the case. There will be neither songs nor any sequence that deviates from the incident."
Asked if he'd obtained consent from Swathi's and Ramkumar's families, Ramesh Selvan said, "No. We went by the news reports and shot the film in the locations where the crime was committed, like the railway station, the mansion in which Ramkumar had stayed, and so on. Once the film is ready, we will screen it for both Swathi and Ramkumar's parents, probably by the end of June, and only then release it."
Arya and Mano from the theatre group Koothu-p-pattarai are essaying the roles of Swathi and Ramkumar respectively.
There have been films based on real life crime previously, including the sensational Aarushi-Hemraj double murder case. However, most makers have chosen to use fictional names to avoid legal hassles, including Talvar which was sympathetic to Aarushi's parents in its narrative.
The Swathi murder case is especially sensitive because Ramkumar, a Dalit, allegedly committed suicide when in prison by biting a live electric wire. His death sparked off protests from community leaders who claimed that he'd been killed by the cops who didn't want the "actual truth" to be revealed.