Water crisis
It has been two weeks since some corporation schools in the city received any water from the government.
  • Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 12:20

Private schools across Chennai have been warned by the state government against cutting short classes or declaring holidays due to water scarcity. The state has insisted that private schools must determine alternate solutions to the existing water crisis independently and ensure continuous of supply of water for drinking and bathroom in schools. Education Minister P Sengottaiyan even pointed out that his department’s responsibility is only to ensure that government schools have adequate water.

But a ground check by TNM revealed that some schools in the city run by the corporation are largely suffering from lack of adequate water supply. And with government denial over the mounting problem in their educational institutions, staff are forced to dig into their own pockets.

“Every day I buy water cans for teachers with my own money,” a senior teacher tells TNM, at a corporation school in Triplicane. “Ours is a 12,000 litre sump and water from Metro pipes come once every 15 days but the supply has become highly irregular now. After a long wait we got the tanker here last week but they left after giving us very little water, probably 2,000 litres.”

There are 165 students in the school and they have been instructed to bring spoons and their own tiffin boxes to avoid washing hands and plates in the premises. The school’s borewells are running dry and with sporadic water supply, students and teachers are under immense stress. But without the government’s permission, they cannot cut down the duration of classes or send children home.

“Every day, during our prayer session, we remind students not to waste water,” the teacher says.

And this government school is not isolated in its struggle to continue providing hygienic drinking water to staff and students.

In North Chennai’s Korukkupettai, 35-year-old Anbazhagan, a watchman, rides into the Government Primary and High school with a water can on his bike on a Saturday.

“This is for the teachers,” he says. “For the students we still have water for one more day in our sump and after that I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he adds, worried. 

The school has one sump with a capacity of 6,000 litres and one saltwater borewell that hasn’t run dry yet. The sump supplies drinking water for a strength of less than 500 students studying in the school. 

“The salt water from the borewell is used for toilets but drinking water is a major problem here,” laments the watchman. While the school should get its drinking water supplied once every week, the last time they received water was on June 4.

When TNM contacted PK Ilamaran, president of the Tamil Nadu Teachers Association, to report the water shortage in schools visited, he denied the findings.

“There is no water problem at all,” he declares. “We are getting water two times a week. And we get 6,000 litres of water each time. Even I work in North Chennai,” he adds.

Ilamaran says that all 281 schools under the Chennai corporation and seven schools run by the state government receive sufficient water supply.

But his claims are far from the reality in a Government Primary and High School on CB Road, Washermanpet.

“It has been two weeks since water tanker last came and school has been functioning without drinking water since then,” says the school's watchman hurriedly, before shuffling away. “It has been difficult. We are managing for now but hopefully it comes next week,” he adds. The school has also cleaned its sump in anticipation.



Short film
The short film shows two young people meeting in an arranged marriage setup and having an unusual conversation in the most natural way.
  • Monday, June 24, 2019 - 18:37

It is 2019 and Tamil cinema is still very cautious about discussing gender identities on screen, let alone talk about queer love. Web series, indie and short films seem to be faring much better in exploring such subjects and the latest to open up a discussion on this topic is director Vimal Santiagu’s short film Oruvanukku Oruththi? released just in time for the Pride month.

The 17-minute short is set primarily inside a well-lit room, and records a conversation between two characters who talk about themselves, their life and love, brilliantly portrayed by Regin Rose and Tamilarasi Anandhavalli. In an earlier scene, we catch a glimpse of their lives - two adults uninterested in marriage, forced into meeting each other for the sake of their parents. 

Typical of an arranged marriage scenario, the two meet each other quite reluctantly at first but go on to discover a surprising connection between each other. They talk about fitting in, the fear of missing out, of choices and consequences and of the ones that got away and the entire dialogue between the two has not one dull moment in it.

When it comes to writing dialogues for films, it is crucial to keep in mind the flow, to not lose track with sloppy lines. In Oruvanukku Oruththi?, one can say that the most interesting point is when the characters reveal their sexual orientation to each other and the conversation only gets more interesting from there.

Mostly, when there’s a disclosure of sexuality, we’ve only seen the character who's listening react in disbelief or disappointment. For instance, in America Mappillai, a Tamil short web series, when the man comes out as gay to the woman he’s asked to go out with by his family, she laughs and asks if he’s joking. Similar reactions have been used to discuss self-disclosure of sexuality on screen.

In Oruvanukku Oruththi? there’s a clear digression from this setting. When Regin’s character tells Tamilarasi’s character that he’s bisexual, she’s encouraged to tell him that she’s gender fluid. No one’s laughing, no one’s disappointed. Because both are on the same page about not conforming to such norms.

Vimal, the show’s director, says the story was written based on real experiences shared to him by friends and family. “It has a mix of many people in it. These were experiences shared with me by my friends and relatives,” he says.

A mechanical engineer with an MBA in marketing and a freelance writer, Vimal wrote the story almost two years ago in 2017 but waited until he found the right cast. “If casting went wrong, chances of the entire film failing were high. I wasn’t satisfied with a few and a few others I wanted didn’t want to do the role. And so I waited,” says Vimal.

This was until he got introduced to Regin. “I really liked his performance in Ullangai Nellikani. This role too was similar, he was perfect for it,” he adds.

Ullangai Nellikani (The Gooseberry In Her Palm) by Arikarasudhan was loosely based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story The Woman Who Came at Six O’ Clock. It starred Regin as a librarian and Semmalar Annam as a mysterious woman.

Vimal, who now runs a digital agency along with his brother, is a self-taught director. “I have a keen interest in films and I’ve always wanted to direct my own script. I’ve been meaning to make a short film and that’s when I met Dinesh (cinematographer) and we decided to work on Oruvanukku Oruththi? first,” he explains. Dinesh K Babu has also worked on cinematography for the feature film 8 Thottakkal.

When Vimal wrote the script, he had the Telugu film Pelli Choopulu in mind. “I wanted to make a pleasant film like Pelli Choopulu. The story I had in mind was very simple,” he adds.

Vimal feels that the subject of sexuality is seldom discussed. “Adolescents tend to be confused when it comes to sexuality. But they need to be told that it is okay to be confused. We’ve discussed different types of love in it and this is one way to tell them that it’s very natural to feel differently. I’ve also deliberately discussed a bit about the anger that comes from unrequited love, even if it didn't go well with the flow. That too is a natural feeling and the point is to mature and move on,” he points out.

Dinesh, Vimal and Regin with team

Tamilarasi's character speaks of the anger she experienced when her girlfriend married a man. "I was so angry, I wanted to die. I wanted to kill her. But then I matured and moved on," she says.

Does he also feel that Oruvanukku Oruththi? will open up a discussion in society? “I know it hasn't reached many people but when we do discuss it, we will know where we stand as a society,” he adds. While Vimal has received lots of positive feedback for the short film so far, there are a few comments slamming the subject of the conversation between the couple.

However, Vimal is confident that the short film will largely not be misunderstood or called controversial for what it discusses. “I don’t think that would be the case. World cinema has exposed many to diverse portrayals. This is a very natural feeling and isn't shocking anymore,” he says. 

The short film ends on an open note with an appropriate song by Kaber Vasuki, "Nee Vetkam Kori". And we, as viewers, are left to question ‘Oruvanuku Oruthi?’ (One man, one woman?) too.


It is possible to write funny lines without body shaming jokes or making the audience cringe in their seats with crass comments and 'Thumbaa' proves this.
  • Friday, June 21, 2019 - 19:04

Fantasy films for children in Tamil cinema is an under-explored genre. My Dear Kuttichathaan and perhaps Little John can be considered but in the recent past, there haven’t been any.

In films involving wild animals interacting with humans, we've mostly seen the protagonists turning them into pets and removing them from their natural settings. We’ve seen some crazy pets from snakes and monkeys to elephants and somewhere there’s always a spiritual angle involved (Baby Shamili’s Thai Poosam, Durga etc).

In that sense, Thumbaa, which has been shot primarily in forests, is as close as we’ve come to Hollywood films like George of the Jungle or Mowgli. The characters in Thumbaa’s world, however, do not have any greys, they’re either good or bad.

The film has three leads - Umapathy, Hari, and Varsha played by Dheena of Kalakka Povadhu Yaaru fame, Darshan and Keerthi Pandian respectively.

The story too is quite simple. The characters, from different social backgrounds, spend a few days in the forest looking for a tiger on the prowl. Umapathy is a painter who has been invited by the forest department for a painting assignment and Hari, who juggles three jobs daily, is his friend who tags along for the money. The two befriend Varsha, a wildlife photographer and the three of them go on an unintended adventure searching for the tiger (Thumbaa).

Throw in a forest officer who later changes his colours, his assistant (played by Kalaka Povadhu Yaaru fame Bala) with his near perfect comic sense and a couple of not-so-villainy goons, and you have an unexpectedly entertaining story.

It is possible to write funny lines without body shaming jokes or making the audience cringe in their seats with crass comments and Thumbaa proves this. Most importantly, it is KPY Dheena as Umapathy who keeps the film engaging with his spontaneity. Hari’s constant fear of wild animals, however, can get tiring after a point.

Thumbaa also focuses on the human-animal conflict, condensed and presented like how one might explain it to a child. The film, however, falters in giving the intelligence of today’s children too little credit, and feels airbrushed in places.

Towards the end, Thumbaa might seem like a stretch but this is probably because the makers wanted to present children with some animal action. Except for the white goat, every other animal and bird that appears in the film has been created using CGI. While this looks crude in most parts, it does seem like a lot of effort has gone into making it.

The film neatly falls into the fantasy genre and remains just that - a caricature of a simple world where all is well. Thumbaa will appeal to all children, no doubt. And if you want to forget the complexities of adult life for a brief while, you might enjoy this too.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

Chennai Water Crisis
As per official records, this hospital has over 837 beds with 200% admission rates and the hospital requires enough water in its wards for at least 3348 people every day.
  • Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 11:48

The heat in Chennai has been merciless. With the tank and lake beds in and around the city parching and cracking, the city is reeling under a severe water shortage. And the situation, the reflection of this manmade catastrophe, has put in jeopardy hundreds of women and children undergoing treatment at the Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Children at Halls Road in Chennai’s Egmore.

The strong smell of urine as you near the public toilets next to the entrance, in this facility locally known as the Egmore Children’s Hospital, is unmissable. This toilet for public use has not a drop of water, with feces on the toilets and a mini sump that is empty and dry.

When we ask the guard outside if there’s a water problem he asks us to try to use toilets on the other end of the hospital.

Down that path there’s a water point, again empty. If the lack of water in the hospital isn't already evident, one has to look no further than at the people who walk in and out every minute. Without any different almost everybody at the hospital are carrying at least one water bottle/can in hand. Days are a constant back and forth between stalls that sell water for a price and their wards. The toilets are a nightmare.

52-year-old Amudha is seated on the pavement with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson a few feet away from the cancer patients ward, under the shade of a tree. Amudha tells us that she has been in the hospital for over a month and today, being her chemo day, her family decided to visit her. But in a minute she stands up with an empty water can in her hand, the one that has the green IV cannula, and smiles to be excused since she needs to fill some water before she runs out.

Refilling the 5 litre can cost about Rs 10 and for this she’ll have to walk quite a distance within the hospital campus. There are also tea stalls just outside its gates that sell water bottles. “In the mornings from 7.00 am they provide water inside wards for about two hours. During this time patients clean themselves and also store sufficient water to get by for the rest of the day.”

And if they had to use the toilets? “We’ll have to carry water in buckets,” she says pointing to a smaller, deep blue plastic bucket on the platform.

Jaya who is taking care of her daughter and her one week old grandson is unbundling freshly laundered, semi-dry baby clothes and towels and lining them up on a bright red tube that runs around the platform. “I had to go to my samandhi’s house (daughter’s in-laws) to wash the baby’s clothes. My house in Chrompet also has water problem,” she tells us as she places a flat stone to keep the clothes from flying.

Is there no water at all? “They provide water inside the wards if you ask for it but sometimes you don’t get. Can’t keep bundling baby’s clothes right? We’ll be needing more and you cannot use soiled ones,” she adds.

Murugan* who runs a tea and snack stall inside the hospital campus is careful to not let his supply of water run dry. “I got a load of 50 water cans this morning. It's only afternoon and I have only 7 cans left. If I don’t stay careful I will have to tell no to the others who come asking for water. I have kept aside a small portion for my tea.”

He throws a look around and lowers his voice, “We are not supposed to talk about all this. But the situation was not as bad just two months ago. Now the water tankers have also reduced.”

This hospital that has been around for 175 years, having been started in the summer of 1844, has probably heard the first cries of millions of babies to this date. One cannot stress enough upon how important cleanliness is to a hospital that welcomes a child into this world.

Yet, this government establishment’s environs seems be the last place one would want to expose a child to. The clogged toilets and taps with no water make cleanliness seem like the last basic requirement.

As per official records, this hospital has over 837 beds with 200% admission rates and that would mean that the hospital requires enough water in its wards for at least 3348 people (mother and child) every day. The hospital consumes 1.6 lakh litres of water daily, all of it sourced from tankers. When it rains the supply from outside might reduce marginally.

Are we not prioritising over children?

Just a few kilometres away, the Government Rajiv Gandhi Hospital on Periyar EVR Salai fares much better when compared to the Children’s and Women Hospital. When we visited the toilets and water points in this hospital we found that enough and sufficient water was available within its premises. In fact, inside one patient waiting room, a water fountain was still functional.

Dr R Jayanthi, its Dean, offers that fortunately, they still have adequate ground water supply. “We still draw water from our bore wells. We source water from tankers through the year but this summer the need has spiked a little and that’s understandable given our water situation,” she explains.

For an establishment covering the Government General Hospital, Madras Medical College, Men’s and Women’s UG and PG hostels, Nursing hostel, and the paramedics hostel, Dr Jayanthi says their tanker supply from 10-15 per day has gone up to 30 tankers per day. The hospital alone consumes one lakh litre per day on an average.

While this hospital has managed to stay afloat, Dr Jayanthi also explains that they’ve got a few measures in place to manage increasing needs. “We suggest patient carers to carry their own water and we’ve also closed a few unnecessary water points. So far we don’t have any problems,” she says. When we ask if the hospital rations its water Dr Jayanthi rejects saying, “A hospital can never ration its water.”

Edwin Joe Director of Medical Education tells TNM that the Corporation gives preference to hospitals when it comes to water supply. But how is there a severe lack of it one when compared to the other? “Rajiv Gandhi is one of the prime, number one hospitals in TN. So they will definitely supply water. Water is supplied for a cost. It is not free. There’s concession when Government hospitals request for it. There are smaller private hospitals who buy water at exorbitant costs. When Egmore hospital does not have water they will have to buy,” he explains. This could possibly mean that the hospital’s funds play a major role this water starved season.

Asserting that all hospitals in Chennai are facing water problems Dr Ravindranath, general secretary of Doctors Association for Social Equality, says, “Chennai hospitals alone need one crore litre water every day. But that is not fulfilled. Government does not have a foresight nor a good perspective on the future. As a result Chennai hospitals struggle. Patient attenders are asked to carry their own water. But this is a situation we should prevent in future.”

On the dangers of exposing a new born baby to such unhygienic conditions he says, “Infectious disease spread quickly when it comes to children and the Government should rectify its mistakes in the future.”

Dr Jayachandran Director/Superintendent of Egmore Children’s Hospital, however, denies that there’s a water problem in the hospital, insisting that supply from water tankers are meeting requirements. “We get 10 to 12 16,000 litre water tankers per day and so far the supply has been consistent. Water is being supplied to all wards without any problem.”

When we pointed out that TNM’s reporter visited the facility to find clogged toilets and no water in taps the Director’s answers were a clear deviation from ground reality. “People usually tend to flush toilets with baby’s diapers and this is the reason for the clogging. We have 8 sumps and 13 overhead tanks and daily we are pumping water. Very rarely what you said might happen. Almost all water points are being supplied with water,” he said.

25-year-old Thenmozhi was heading back to her hostel from work when she was assaulted on the platform allegedly by 27-year-old Surendar.
  • Saturday, June 15, 2019 - 18:28

In less than 10 days, it will be three years since 24-year-old techie Swathi was brutally hacked to death in broad daylight. But very little seems to have changed since then. While Swathi’s murder by her alleged stalker Ramkumar in Nungambakkam station appalled the public in the state, just one station away at Chetpet, another gruesome attack took place on June 14 this year.

On what looked like a routine Friday late evening at the Chetpet MRTS station, a young woman's screams shocked everyone present. 25-year-old Thenmozhi was heading back to her hostel from work when she was assaulted on the platform, slashed on the face and hand with a knife allegedly by 27-year-old Surendar.

As Thenmozhi lay in a pool of blood, Surender tried to take his own life by jumping in front of a passing train. However, he missed the tracks and instead injured himself seriously on the head before falling inside the train’s compartment. 

The MRTS railway station in Chetpet, where the crowd ebbs and flows, is not as populated as the other two stations between which it lies - Egmore and Nungambakkam. Most commuters who board down/up in Chetpet, with the exception of the area residents, are those heading to Pachaiyappa’s College in the West or Kilpauk Medical College in the East.

When 40-year-old Jaya, who was on cleaning duty that evening, heard a woman’s screams, she dropped her broom and immediately rushed towards the source of the sound. People from Boopathy Nagar (a stone’s throw away from the station), those already in the station and a few more who were exiting the train that had just reached platform No.1 rushed to help Thenmozhi. An ambulance was immediately called and while it reached the station in half an hour, an unconscious Surender was taken in the same train to the Government Rajaji Hospital.

Jaya, along with the help of a few others, carried the bleeding young woman to the ambulance and Jaya stayed with her throughout the journey. “I couldn’t leave her alone. She couldn’t speak but was crying in pain. There was a lot of blood. So I stayed with her in the hospital the entire night. In the morning, about 6.00 am, as soon as her father reached, I left the hospital,” says Jaya.

Jaya, who has been a cleaning staff in the Railways for 12 years, also resides nearby the Chetpet station. The platform, on which the incident took place, faces a thicket separated by a rusted iron fence and beyond this are a parking area and a small temple. The locals near the station tell TNM that it gets quiet sometimes but that 8.00 pm is a peak hour. As for Surender, Jaya says that he had hit himself with the same knife on his head before jumping on the train.

After some thought, Jaya adds, “I remember when Swathi was murdered just one stop away from here. I did not want that to happen once again.”

Egmore Sub Inspector S Amudha, who was investigating the case on Saturday morning, points to the dried blood on the platform, right beneath an RPF display, and says, “This is where it took place. This station does not have a Station Master. There’s a ticket vendor whose cubicle is on the overhead bridge but he does not come down here. The station had one RPF constable who was on surveillance when the incident happened.”

RPF constable Manoj Kumar, who was on duty that evening, was standing on the other corner facing platform 2. “When I heard the screaming, I immediately ran and saw the man jumping into the train,” says Manoj Kumar. He does not remember seeing either of them earlier nor did he notice any unusual behaviour in the station up until that point.

DGP C Sylendra Babu who is currently investigating the case told the media that the two, Thenmozhi and Surendar, hail from Erode. “The woman was employed at a government office and the man had come to Chennai just one day before, informing his family that he was attending a wedding. The two were acquainted and were in fact talking to each other at first before the man slashed her with the knife.”

Thenmozhi, who passed TNPSC Group 4 exam, was appointed as a Registrar of the Cooperative Societies and moved to Chennai just three months ago. Surender was an insurance agent working in Erode. While the two had known each other for three years, Thenmozhi began avoiding Surender when her father disagreed to his proposal, asking for Thenmozhi’s hand in marriage. Thenmozhi is from a Dalit family while Surendar belongs to the Naidu caste.

“She has two younger sisters and her father had made his decision clear to Thenmozhi. She too severed contact with Surender but he was relentless. He tracked her down in Chennai and confronted her on Friday evening before finally assaulting and injuring her grievously,” says a senior officer.

An FIR has been filed under section 307 of the IPC (Attempt to murder) with the SC/ST Atrocities Act. Thenmozhi, who is currently undergoing treatment in Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital, is recovering from a fractured jaw and arm. The hospital’s dean says that it might be 10 days before she is discharged from the hospital. “We’ve advised her against speaking, to heal better,” says Dr P Vasantha Mani, the Dean.

When TNM reached out to Thenmozhi’s father, Veeramani, a daily wage labourer, he said, “I was the one who said no to him. He did not trouble me but he has gone ahead and done this to my daughter."

Three years since the Swathi murder, the Tamil Nadu government is yet to install CCTV cameras in the stations. While there’s a proposal for the same in 136 stations, progress seems to have halted at the bureaucracy level. Would the presence of such cameras alone prevent such crimes from happening again? “We might be able to deter instances of chain snatching and stone pelting that’s common to these areas if that were the case, but instances such as these are unpredictable. However, there is a need for CCTV surveillance and we hope it is installed soon,” adds SI Amudha.

As of Saturday afternoon, Surender still remains unconscious while undergoing treatment at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital in Chennai, even as life has chugged back to normal at the Chetpet station.

Officials said that Dr Kavitha Chandrasekar, who was running Parvathy hospital in Vaniyambadi, performed abortions on women in their second trimester without court orders.
  • Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 09:06
Image for representation

Based on a tip off from a Vellore district agency, a team of Health Department officials sealed Parvathy Hospital run by Dr Kavitha Chandrasekar on Malang Road in Vaniyambadi for performing illegal sex-selective abortions.

Speaking to TNM, Director of Medical and Rural Health Sciences Kamalakannan, says, “We got information that she was performing sex-selective abortions on pregnant women even in their second trimester without orders from the court. At least two such cases confirmed during the searches were sex-selective abortions.”

Kamalakannan further adds that information from bigger hospitals, where Dr Kavitha referred patients with complications, helped expose her. “She had referred a few of them to bigger medical institutions for abortions and in one case we found that the foetus was female. Had she performed the surgery on the mother, it would have been fatal. She does not have proper approval from District Family Welfare Authority, Vellore to conduct abortion or family welfare services,” he says.

The officials who inspected the premises found case sheets for abortions being done in second and third trimester without court permission. However, the hospital had no proper records of patients.

It has also come to light that Dr Kavitha performed an abortion on a pregnant minor woman as well. When TNM got in touch with Dr Kavitha, she denied knowledge of any inquiry or of performing sex-selective abortions on pregnant women.

“She will be sent notice and based on her reply we will initiate action upon her. Currently we have sealed the scanning equipment in the hospital,” adds Kamalakannan.

Dr Kavitha moved from Bengaluru to Vaniambadi to continue her mother’s practice following her demise a few years ago. Her husband is a sonologist who works along with her.

A tussle over the film's title has resulted in a High Court suit. Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy granted interim injunction on the film’s release asking for the producers to respond by June 21.
  • Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 08:41

Kolayuthir Kaalam starring Nayanthara as the lead has been long delayed, having started production in mid 2016. Amidst a controversial audio launch that took place in Chennai a couple of months ago, during which Radha Ravi slut shamed Nayanthara resulting in a backlash, the film was finally set to release this Friday on June 14.

Now, it looks like the film’s release might be delayed further with a Madras High Court ruling that has come in on Tuesday. Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy granted interim injunction on the film’s release asking for the producers to respond by June 21.

A petition was filed by director K Balaji Kumar earlier this month in which he claims to hold rights to the film’s title, Kolayuthir Kaalam. Balaji Kumar made his debut as director in 2013 with Vidiyum Munn starring Pooja as the lead.

Kolayuthir Kaalam happens to be the title of writer Sujatha’s novel that came out in 1981. Balaji claims to have bought the rights to this novel along with its title in the name of his mother Thangam Krishnamurthy on April 1, 2014 from the author’s wife Sujatha Rangarajan for a sum of Rs 10 lakh.

After the passing of his mother in 2018, Balaji claims to hold the rights now. He further highlights that 'Kolayuthir' is a Tamil word coined by Sujatha himself to be used in his book's title.  “Since I purchased the novel, I hold the rights to the novel and its title,” he writes in his petition. He also states that his repeated legal notices to bring his copyright claim to the attention of the producers went unanswered.

Kolayuthir Kaalam has been produced by V Mathiyalagan of Etcetera Entertainment in association with Starpolaris Pictures LLP. The film has been directed by Chakri Toleti of Unnaipol Oruvan fame. Its Hindi version also by Chakri, Khamoshi, stars Tamannaah.

In his petition, Balaji seeks an interim injunction that restricts the filmmakers from releasing the movie under the disputed title. He states in the petition that allowing them to do so would crush his dreams of turning the novel into a film.

However, speaking to TNM, producer Mathiyalagan was confident about the film’s release. “We have already registered the film’s title ‘Kolayuthir Kaalam’ with the Tamil Film Producers’ Council. More over, the film is not based on writer Sujatha’s novel. We are trying to file a case tomorrow to vacate the stay. The film will released as per plan,” he says.

The film is loosely based on the Japanese novel 'The Devotion of Suspect X'.
  • Friday, June 07, 2019 - 18:15

Almost a month before the film released, the makers of Kolaigaran did extensive promotions for it on Twitter. 20 different posters were released, paying tribute to some of the most successful Tamil thrillers we’ve seen so far - from Kamal’s Sigappu Rojakkal to the most recent Thadam were recalled in these posters with the tag line: "If you enjoyed XYZ film, then you’ll surely love Kolaigaran".

If the title wasn’t clear enough, the message from these posters rings loud and clear - Kolaigaran is a murder mystery, gear up for a mind-boggling thriller. But, does the film live up to this hype?

Kolaigaran, directed by Andrew Louis who gave us Leelai in 2012, begins with the black and white frame of an apartment complex and the sound of a woman screaming. Come to think of it, the sound of a woman screaming is always the high point in any thriller.

Soon, this woman is murdered and in the next scene, Arjun who plays Karthikeyan, an inspector, receives a call with a short message - “Prabhakaran has surrendered.” We are taken to the police station where Vijay Antony who plays Prabhakaran is seated. He’s asked why he did the murder. As he looks up the scene cuts to a… wait-for-it… a song!

Vijay Antony is distressed. He is singing ’Kollathey Kollathey Kollathey’ in the middle of the desert while the woman who died in the previous scene is dancing in flowy dresses.

But Kolaigaran does get better mainly because it has an interesting storyline. In the film’s credits, the makers have said that this film is loosely based on The Devotion of Suspect X, a 2005 Japanese novel that won critical acclaim and was rumoured to have inspired Drishyam. The novel has been adapted into films in different languages since and Kolaigaran takes the basic plot line from this story.

Prabhakaran and Dharani (Ashima Narwal) are neighbours. There’s a stalkerish, eerie vibe about Prabhakaran. He does not talk much, is employed at a construction site and lives alone in his flat - a character sketch that Vijay Antony eases into with elan. Actor Seetha plays Dharani’s mother.

A body turns up, strangled, skull smashed and half burnt, and Inspector Karthikeyan works out the clues that leads him to Dharani and her mother. Surely two women could not have committed the murder? He then has a hunch against Prabhakaran, the moody looking neighbour, and the film’s plot tightens from here on, leading us from one discovery to another.

Actor Nasser plays Karthikeyan’s mentor, a retired officer who volunteers to help him with the case. The murdered man is identified, his back story revealed but there’s a bigger secret tumbling out of Prabhakaran’s closet. While the police are convinced the women could not have murdered the man, they aren't completely ruled out.

If Prabhakarn has already confessed to the crime (from the first scene) what’s the suspense, you ask? Inspector Karthikeyan who does not entirely buy Prabhakaran’s cool demeanour believes there’s more to what he’s telling. Who murdered the man and how forms the rest of the narrative.

While there are a few intense moments, what the film lacks is a tight screenplay. Like the disappointment we face within the first ten minutes with the song placement or Prabhakaran’s backstory which comes across as the most unimaginative writing. The character Aradhana who appears in this flashback reminds us of another Aradhana from another thriller which also had a cop losing his wife to vengeance. The film’s background score reminds us of the chilling score we heard in Ratsasan but feels out of place here.

With better writing and execution of the script, Kolaigaran might have been way better. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

The 13-year-old is acting as a thief with his real life father Vijay Sethupathi who plays the film's lead.
  • Thursday, June 06, 2019 - 14:03

Filmmaker SU Arun Kumar is joining hands with actor Vijay Sethupathi for the third time for Sindhubaadh, an action adventure that will hit the screens on June 21.

Arun Kumar, who made his directorial debut with Pannaiyarum Padminiyum in 2014 with Vijay Sethupathi went on to direct Sethupathi in 2016, once again with the star. For his third Sindhubaadh, Arun Kumar tells us that their original plan was to cast someone else in the lead.

“Sethu (Vijay Sethupathi) always knows what my next story will be. This time he wanted me to work with a different actor and refered many for it as well. But the project, unfortunately, never took off,” he begins.

He goes on to explain, “The thing is, I’ve done two films but they aren’t blockbusters. Pannaiyarum was widely appreciated but it was not a commercial success. Sethupathi did well in theatres and that was it. For Sindhubaadh, the project pitching kept getting delayed.”

Later, when Vijay Sethupathi offered to do the role, Arun Kumar didn’t think twice. While the lead character, Thiru, may not have been written for VS, his younger partner in crime was written specifically for VS’s son Surya Vijay Sethupathi.

“Even if Sethu had not done the lead, his son Surya would have been in it. I wrote the character with him in mind. He plays a petty thief in the film along with Vijay Sethupathi’s character,” says Arun.

The young boy of 13, whom we saw in a cameo in Naanum Rowdy Thaan, will be playing a bigger role in this film. A task, the director says, he pulled off with élan.

“I should say he picked up on it quite quickly. It will not look like this is his first film. I could see that he improved so well from his very first shot, going on to okaying shots in just one take. He takes after his father,” he shares.

Did Vijay Sethupathi guide his son through the shoot? “No, he doesn’t interfere much. I’m sure he gave him a few inputs now and then but Surya is someone who grasps things very quickly. He’s a jolly kid and was very natural on sets,” Arun explains.

A few months ago, a video was shared by the director on his Twitter handle, of VS and Surya fighting. Was this a sequence from the film? Would fans get to watch the two in a minor tussle?

“Oh no, that isn’t in the film. They don’t fight. That was recorded during our free time on the sets and I felt it would be nice to share,” he chuckles.

The film’s story is an interesting one-liner. “The film is all about how Thiru turns into Sindhubaadh,” says the director. But the premise itself was written around Anjali’s character Venba. “Her character was the penning point of my story. The film travels and revolves around Venba. She is a young woman who works in a rubber estate in Malaysia, comes home to Tenkasi once every year to renew her Visa. The character has more scope for performance and in the end will leave a mark in the minds of the audience,” he elaborates.

Venba also has a quirky trait, an ability that’s perfectly complemented by Thiru. “Thiru has a hearing problem and Venba can only speak above a particular decibel. This works perfectly for the two. He is the only one who never asks her to speak softly,” he laughs.

While this promises for a funny first half, the second half would have good action sequences, says the director. “Working with artistes who can perform so well is like a boon for the director and in Sindhubaadh I found that in my two lead stars - Sethu and Anjali. It is also the main reason why I was able to finish the film so quickly,” he says emphatically.

Sindhubaadh’s story is driven by an important question. “This question is where my film starts. A place like Tenkasi has everything a man needs to live his life. There’s also a dialogue in the film that goes, ‘Kari sotha saptutu, aathula kulichitu nimadhiya irukaren. Na yen veli ooruku poi vela thedanum?’ (I eat meat and rice, take bath in the river and live my life peacefully here. Why should I go outside and search for a job?) The answer to this question would be money. What happens when a common man ventures out from his comfort zone looking to make money? What difficulties would he face in the foreign land? These are the questions that Sindhubaadh will ask,” he tells us.

And in that process, the film travels to different places from Tenkasi to Thailand. Close to 1.15 hours of the film has been shot in these southeast Asian countries - Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand.

The director says that these landscapes - Tenkasi, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand - in Sindhubaadh will be shown differently from what we are used to as an audience. “When we think of Thailand, we’re immediately shown massage spas. This film will be different. It explores the daily lives of people there. We’ve shot in a police station, ferry, airport, train station, bus stand etc. to capture everyday life in this country,” he says.

Produced by SN Rajarajan and Shan Sutharsan of Vansan Movies and K Productions, the film’s music has been composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja and the cinematography is by Vijay Karthik Kannan.

While the film was originally meant to release in May, the director says that the reason for the delay was due to some issue on the producer’s end. “There was some problem with my producer’s previous release, not sure what they are exactly going through but the release of Sindhubaadh was postponed due to that issue only. Things have now been sorted,” he adds.

Human Interest
Ashok, a cut-out creator from Tirunelveli district, has trained over 200 women over two year in fixing serial lights for cut-outs, helping them make it a livelihood.
  • Wednesday, June 05, 2019 - 18:41

The neem trees around Ashok Kumar’s house sway intensely in the breeze. You hear a strong whoosh sustained by thousands of leaves that never stop rustling. Even as the day’s heat continues to rise, the breeze makes the shed in which Ashok Kumar is working more bearable.

On a wide canvas, 46-year-old Ashok Kumar bends and ties together slick bamboo stalks above coloured chalk outlines to create the shape of an eye, to trace the forehead and then Cupid’s bow of a smile. As the goddess’ face takes shape, Ashok Kumar stretches his arms and legs before starting work on the rest of her body.

Ashok is working on a 20 by 10 cut-out of the Tamil goddess, Mariamman, seated on a lion and a swan (the creature varying each second based on the lights), which will be lit up a few weeks from now at a village festival in Tirunelveli. It will take him 2 weeks to complete the work, during which time six women, including his wife, will string the serial lights to this bamboo frame.

A few meters away, inside the small house-turned-workshop, the women clip and twist wires with small multicoloured serial bulbs, checking them every once in a while by connecting them to the power socket, the sharp shades of the LED lights briefly illuminating their faces with bright hues; now yellow, now red, then blue.

Dhanalakshmi Lighting Company in Gandhi Nagar Colony in Arasanarkulam village in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district was started five years ago, but Ashok acquainted himself with the trade quite early, learning the craft when he was just 13.

Does art come naturally to him, given that he’s drawing well-proportioned figures on giant canvases? “I learnt it on my own,” he smiles, bent over his work, with a modesty that’s rare to come by.

“Back when I started, no one in my village was doing it. My father climbed palm trees for a living but I’ve always done this. Now a few of them who learnt from me have started making cut-outs like mine in my village itself,” he tells us.

Ashok and his wife Dhanalakshmi, who got married 19 years ago, together toiled long hours to run the business from their workshop. Two years ago, with help from the Srinivasan Service Trust, the social arm of TVS Motor Company and Sundaram Clayton, Dhanalakshmi formed the Gandhi women’s self-help group. The women helped Ashok and Dhanalakshmi expand their business and in turn, were given training, empowering them to take up a business opportunity.

So far, Ashok has trained over 200 women through the Gandhi self-help group in fixing serial lights and creating cut-outs, helping them make it a livelihood. Currently he employs a team of 15 members, both men and women, to help run the company. Today, Dhanalakshmi Lighting Company has an annual turnover of close to Rs 10 lakh.

SST has also helped Ashok and Dhanalakshmi procure loans, in addition to nominating their company for the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Awards 2019. The CII Awards identify and celebrate innovative Indian enterprises across industry segments and sectors.

While Ashok sources the bulbs from Richie Street in Chennai, the bamboo sticks are brought in from Madurai. Earlier the problem was in transporting cut-outs as a single piece but today, his cut-outs are sent as pieces to Kerala, Chennai and Mumbai. Some clients buy the cut-outs while others prefer to rent them. Starting from small ones priced at Rs 5,000 to 30 feet by 27 feet giant figures costing Rs 3 lakh, Ashok has made cut-outs of all sizes and shapes!

While there’s a good market of serial light cut-out makers in Dindigul district in Tamil Nadu, Ashok tells us that he pioneered the craft in Tirunelveli district.

A Class 10 pass-out, Ashok gets help from his eldest daughter Durga Sri, who is studying computer science engineering at a college in Thoothukudi, to programme the serial bulbs. She also helps him come up with new designs. “I’m not very good with computers. My daughter gets printouts of models from the computer and I work on them,” he says, showing us a colour printout of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose with grids drawn on it with a pencil.

Starting his day at 9 am every day, Ashok sometimes works until 11 in the night. Employees usually put in 7 hours a day on an average and earn Rs 20 for fixing every set of 50 bulbs.

Unlike other businesses, Ashok’s market has no peak period, he tells us. “Every season is a good season for us. The recent elections kept us very busy. We’ve done cut-outs for all leaders starting from MGR, Karunanidhi and Amma to the latest TTV Dhinakaran,” he smiles.