Three-film old director Pa. Ranjith is the talk of Tamil tinsel town. He received critical acclaim for his previous films Attakathi and Madras, but with Kabali, he was expected to break out as a commercial director.
He did not. In fact, there is much criticism that his film, in terms of the plot, action and Rajini trademarks, did not live up to the hype. The movie has made Rs. 215 crores in collections in the first 4 days, but it did leave much to be desired for a lot of moviegoers.
Nonetheless, the sociopolitical commentary in his movie has startled everyone. Read more about it here.
And just when you think you know Pa. Ranjith, he surprised us with this wonderful, candid interview with M Gunakeskaran of News18 Tamil Nadu. Answering Gunasekaranâ€™s thoughtful questions on films, caste and Tamil society, Ranjith comes across as a clear-headed political mind, who is self-aware, humble and straightforward.
You can watch the full interview here.
For those of you who do not know Tamil, here are some important points he makes in the interview. (this is not a translation)
1. Usually in Tamil cinema, Kabali would refer to goons or comedians. I realized that there are stereotypes attached to the identity of people from weaker communities. I wanted to change the stereotypes, hence named the lead role in the movie Kabali.
2. Every scene and subtext was with the approval of Rajinikanth. From the name to the politics, Rajini and Thanu approved it, and were happy about it. Rajini had seen Madras, so he knew my work. He was very comfortable with it.
3. I donâ€™t want to be a campaigner for my politics, I want people to understand these issues in a subtle way. Stories and films play an important role in changing mindsets.
4. I want a discussion, I donâ€™t want to preach. I want people to speak to each other. The oppressed and oppressor to speak to each other.
5. I donâ€™t think about whether it is a commercial film or an art film. It is a film, thatâ€™s it.
6. There is no equality in our country and society. Each and every one of us can get riled up on the basis of caste and religion. We are all too charged up with our ideologies.
7. Unfortunately, Indians take their caste along with them to any country they go. Even in Malaysia, Tamilâ€™s have caste-based federations.
8. It is not a Dalit movie, because have we called Chinna Gounder a Gounder movie? Was Thevarmagan a Thevar movie? Then why is this a Dalit movie? This movie is about all oppressed communities.
9. It doesnâ€™t just matter what we are saying, it matters how we say it and what perception we give. That is why it matters what oppressed communities wear.
10. I will not respond to personal attacks. If they criticize me for my movie, I am fine with it. But if they attack me personally on the basis of my caste, I won't respond to it. But it also means I have done my job.
11. Art is politics.
12. It is not enough if just the oppressed are empowered, the oppressors also have to change. There has to be a discussion between them. If Dalits keep saying that caste system has to go away, it will not go away. We need an Ambedkar from the upper caste. We need the next Ambedkar from the influential communities, only then will we see equality.
13. I will continue what I do with passion, and it has to continue till the Rohith Vemulas of India die. He was a scholar, he died no? Why? Even last week, Dalits in Gujarat were attacked by Gau Rakshaks. This does not stop. And till it does, we have to do it. I will do it, that is me.
(Below is a file image of Pa Ranjith (far left) with Rohith Vemula (far right) - Image credit: Sunkanna Velpula)