Popular dancer and actor Swarnamalya Ganesh initiated a public consultation process for the advocacy of redressal in the performing arts.
  • Sunday, October 14, 2018 - 17:52
Facebook/TM Krishna/Swarnamalya Ganesh

Days after the MeToo movement gained momentum in India, several artistes have come together to break the veil of silence that has so far shrouded such allegations in the performing arts sector and expressed their solidarity in condemning sexual harassment at the workplace.

Popular dancer and actor Swarnamalya Ganesh initiated a public consultation process for the advocacy of redressal in the performing arts.

“We will make every sphere of Performing arts from Private dance schools, sabhas, organizations, government nodal agencies, ministry, artiste, universities accountable. No matter your gender, power, status, age you will never intimidate us anymore. Taking this forward. If the performing artistes want to continue your radio silence, its fine. Coz this battle is fought for you too. Your children will live in a safer space from now on (sic),” she wrote on her Facebook page on Thursday.

Several young Carnatic musicians from across the world have now come together and are signing an open document requesting for the constitution of a body to address such issues and to create a safer environment in the Carnatic community. The document has over 300 signatures so far and the number is growing by the minute.

“We ask for due process through civil society investigations into these allegations to hold these individuals accountable, and whole-heartedly welcome those who want to come forward and share their stories. At this juncture, we also encourage and request sabhas and cultural organisations all over the world to recognise this issue and put forward proactive structural measures to address such claims and prevent future incidents. We believe that this will make the Carnatic community safer for all,” reads the document that is being shared widely on Twitter.

Popular singers like Ranjani and Gayatri, TM Krishna, Sriram Parthasarathy and Bombay Jayashri have signed the document so far.

Speaking to TNM, Swarnamalya shares that there are no systemic redressal procedures in place, specifically in the performing arts, under the Ministry of Culture. “Performing arts is a largely unorganised sector, most of the organisations are private and so accountability is a major problem. The Ministry has to intervene to hold people accountable for their actions,” she explains.

The draft of an advocacy plan lists nine points that can be adopted. Setting up of a sexual harassment cell under the Ministry of Culture, a committee that follows Vishaka guidelines, redressal cell, are some of the mandates listed in the draft.

Swarnamalya also shares that while Raya Sarkar’s list did create a ripple, the present MeToo movement is making much deeper grooves. “While Pappu Venugopala Rao did step down from his post at the Music Academy, the real reason behind it was not discussed clearly. I think it is important to speak up during such times. It died down because of the radio silence from the senior artistes,” she says, adding, “It helps the younger generation to open up more freely when their gurus do.”

She also tells us that if such allegations are found to be true, the person in question should be held accountable and face consequences. “Taking back any Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards, lowering of position in the field and grading with Doordarshan, and blacklisting on Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) can be effective deterrents,” she further explains.

The need for an independent redressal system beyond the confines of organisations is paramount to encourage survivors to open up, says Swarnamalya. “Also, the committee should be made up of strong members coming from diverse fields. If the committee is going to consist of members from the artistic community who might tend to back the perpetrator(s), then the reason for its existence is lost,” she adds.

With the help of Ek Potlee Ret Ki (Kaani Nilam), an activists’ collective that works on cultural identities, Swarnamalya plans to take this up with the Ministry of Culture soon.

Radhika Ganesh, the founding member of Ek Potlee Ret Ki, shares that the collective has long been working on making cultural spaces safe for young artists, both male and female.

“While MeToo is more of an urban movement, we’ve had voices from semi-urban and rural places where young artistes venturing out looking for opportunities come back with very bad experiences. We are more keen to take it further and with the MeToo Movement, we feel the time is now right,” Radhika tells TNM.

The consultation process will invite opinions from all kinds of stakeholders. “The idea is to create a working body that does not just follow due process or remains defunct, as is the case with most such redressal cells. We invite people to come forward with suggestions to implement the same,” she adds.

Jemma's gorilla tiptoes around sleeping dogs, paints skies with pink-streaked clouds, pole vaults across buildings and enjoys Chennai sunsets.
  • Friday, October 12, 2018 - 16:43
Instagram/ thatgorillagirl

The Hollywood film King Kong was the story of a giant ape that went to New York City in search of his love. But do you know of the gorilla that’s popping up all over Chennai? If you haven’t seen it yet, head right over to Jemma Jose’s Instagram page!

Jemma’s gorilla makes its presence felt (or not) in almost every situation imaginable. Sometimes it appears playing the keyboard as a man tries to make up to his partner. Other times, the gorilla appears to blow hot air balloons out of a bubble blower. It quietly tiptoes around sleeping dogs, paints skies with pink-streaked clouds, pole vaults across buildings and enjoys Chennai sunsets. Could gorillas be any more adorable?

This goofy gorilla is part of Jemma’s 100-day project, #gorillagirlathon. A 2-D animator and artist based out of Chennai, Jemma began the project only to keep herself creatively engaged. “And to be more regular on social media,” Jemma adds.


A post shared by Jemma Jose (@thatgorillagirl) on


A post shared by Jemma Jose (@thatgorillagirl) on


A post shared by Jemma Jose (@thatgorillagirl) on

But what made her think of gorillas in particular? “Well, it was my husband Rishad (then fiancé) who gave me the idea,” she says. A phone conversation between the two, while Jemma was at work in the kitchen, would spark off an interesting thought process that would result in the creation of the this quirky gorilla.

“According to him, which was nothing like it, by the way, it “sounded” like there was a gorilla in the kitchen,” she laughs. Jemma went on to work on a short film during her design course in NID Ahmedabad where this gorilla was featured for the first time. When she later decided to work on a 100-day project, it was this gorilla Jemma went back to.


A post shared by Jemma Jose (@thatgorillagirl) on


A post shared by Jemma Jose (@thatgorillagirl) on


A post shared by Jemma Jose (@thatgorillagirl) on


A post shared by Jemma Jose (@thatgorillagirl) on


A post shared by Jemma Jose (@thatgorillagirl) on

So does the gorilla have a name? “No, the gorilla has no name, no gender. It’s just the gorilla,” she chuckles. 

At the time of writing, Jemma had just completed her 74th illustration and the project is nearing its close. For the first 50 photographs, she worked on her own photos. “I’d randomly choose a photograph from a folder on my desktop. I then requested people to send me their photos, to give back something to the community. I was quite surprised by the response, I took in about 25 entries,” she says.

The rest of the project will be completed with her own photos. Jemma plans to work on an anime series next. 

‘Manusangada’ is based on one of the most inhumane practises – of denying someone the right to bury, cremate their kin with dignity on the basis of caste.
  • Friday, October 12, 2018 - 10:46

Filmmaker Amshan Kumar’s second feature, Manusangada, that won critical acclaim in international film festivals, has released almost a year after its world premiere at the 19th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, 2017. The film is based on one of the most inhumane practises followed even today – of denying someone the right to bury or cremate their kin with dignity on the basis of caste.

Manusangada (which translates to Cry Humanity!) follows Kolappan (Rajeev Anand) who has just lost his father and is fighting tooth and nail to give him a dignified burial. Kolappan, who is employed in Chennai, wakes up to the news of his father’s sudden demise. He immediately rushes to his village only to be confronted with the reality that it is soaked in caste-based prejudices. How Kolappan stands up to his most formidable foe - caste - and how he fights till the very end to give his father a dignified burial forms the rest of the story.

The film, in fact, begins with one of Nelson Mandela’s most powerful quotes: ‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity’. It establishes this notion during its brief runtime of one-and-a-half hours.

There are no glossed over representations of caste in this film. The institutional apathy, disregard of basic human rights, the unjustified sense of entitlement and the convenient disregard for the law enjoyed by the upper class are all laid out bare in Amshan Kumar’s Manusangada.

The film is based on true incidents and gets as close as it can to reality. Sheela Rajkumar plays Revathy, Kolappan’s fiancé, who works with him in Chennai. For someone who is from the city, witnessing casteism that’s still in practise in Kolappan’s village puzzles her at first. However, Revathy's role could've been explored further to draw a deeper connection from the audience.

Sethu Darwin plays Thalaivar Anna (leader) who helps Kolappan fight for his cause. Actors Sasi Kumar, Manimekalai, Vidhur Rajarajan and Anand Sampath form the rest of the cast. The performances at most points seem almost theatre-like, bringing down the film's cinematic appeal.

The film’s cinematography, with no fixed frames, brings out the uncertainty that is ever present in the minds of its characters. The camera movements, with its frames cut just below the character's forehead, however, gets distracting after a point.

Kolappan and his family are repeatedly asked to follow what has been “in practise for years” so as to avoid communal clashes. In one scene, the very police officer who is supposed to oversee the smooth functioning of his father’s last rites asks him to not make any trouble and to take the usual ‘kaatu vazhi paathai' (forest way) instead.

In presenting one of the most inhumane, distressing practises of denying a person their dignity even after death, Manusangada is gut-wrenching. At the end of it, we realise, the fight is far from over. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

From 'Vishwaroopam 2' to '96', several films have had the morning show cancelled, leaving fans disappointed.
  • Monday, October 08, 2018 - 12:39

Vijay Sethupathi-Trisha’s most awaited romantic flick of the year, 96, was released on Thursday. But close to 600 people who had reserved tickets for early morning shows at Rohini Silver Screens, hoping to catch the film's first show, were in for a disappointment when they learnt that the special show at 5.30 am had been cancelled in the last minute.

Some having travelled several kilometres early in the morning were visibly angry at this unexpected letdown and had to be pacified by the theatre employees. It almost seemed as if the film’s 10.00 am show would be cancelled too.

This was the scene that played out in almost all the theatres in the state on Thursday morning for those who hoped to watch the film 96. In this case the early morning special shows had to be cancelled due to some financial tussle between the film’s producer and the financier. Soon after, this was resolved and the news that Vijay Sethupathi had intervened, paying the money upfront from his salary to facilitate a smooth release, emerged. Shows resumed from 10.00 am in all theatres.

However, such delays are not uncommon in the Tamil film industry. Movie goers are often told by the theatre owners that there has been a delay in receiving the KDM (Key Delivery Message) that is required for playing the film from the distributors. This delay is the result of an unresolved financial issue between the distributor and the producer. While the problem seems to be between producers and the distributors, those at stake are the theatres and most importantly scores of hopeful fans.

When the delay in the film’s release is known well ahead, theatres manage to send out a message through their online booking partners to all those who’ve made the bookings. These are instances when the producers and distributors decide upon a different release date for the film, in which case it is known several hours ahead. Arvind Swami’s Bhaskar Oru Rascal is a recent example.

This Malayalam remake starring Amala Paul and Arvind Swami in the lead was originally slated for release on May 11. But on May 10, the actor took to Twitter to post that he was unaware of the reason behind postponement “despite very strong advance booking”. Amala Paul, too, tweeted her disappointment over the unclear reason for its delay. The film released a week later on May 17.

This, however, is not always the case. Last minute delays of special shows where fans are caught completely unaware happen quite frequently.

A perennial problem

So who decides which films get special shows? “Based on the film’s hype and demand, after checking with the distributor, we plan for special shows,” says Nikilesh Surya, Executive Director of Rohini Silver Screens. Subramanian of Kasi Theatre adds that while earlier only big star films had special shows, it is no longer the case today. “Today if there’s a hype for a particular film, we tend to go for special shows after checking with the distributor,” he says.

Right from big star cast films like the recent Vishwaroopam 2 and Imaikaa Nodigal to smaller budget films like Sadha’s Torchlight, last-minute cancellation of shows have become a common occurrence.

But this is not something new says Sateesh Thulasi, AGM, Qube Cinema Technologies, one of the most prominent Digital Service Providers in the state. “This has been a problem in the industry for over 30 years. In fact earlier, when there used to be a delay, it would take a couple of days for the prints to be sent to the theatres. Now it is not so. As soon as the issue is sorted, it becomes a matter of a couple of hours,” he shares.

These delays too can be area specific, where theatres in a particular zone might end up cancelling shows. Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam 2’s morning shows were cancelled in Madurai, Dindigul and Theni districts of the state.

In such cases, it becomes a distributor-specific problem. “Tamil Nadu has eight distribution zones - City, Chengelpet, Salem, North Arcot-South Arcot, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli-Kanyakumari, Trichy-Tanjore and Madurai. If there’s an area-specific delay, it can be due to some problem with the distributor,” explains Sateesh.

Sivakarthikeyan’s Seema Raja, Nayanthara’s Imaikaa Nodigal, Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam are some of the recent examples where shows were cancelled.

In each case, the issue seems to be different. “It depends on the producers. If they are unable to keep up their schedules, it severely affects their business. Problems might be unavoidable but a way to sort them out has to be worked out,” opines Abirami Ramanathan, President of  Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association.

Why does only the Tamil industry face this issue?

But is this a problem only specific to Tamil Nadu? “When you look at how it is in the western countries, giants like Universal Pictures make sure the film’s print is ready at least 30 days before its release date. There’s no last minute hassle there,” he explains.

But we need only look at the other industries in our own country to realise the stark difference in the state of affairs, says Sreedhar Pillai, film writer and social media influencer. “Such delays hardly take places in other industries like Telugu or Bollywood. What we see in Tamil cinema is a very bad trend. This is not good for the industry,” he explains.

Nikilesh notes that this problem can be attributed to the fact that the Tamil industry functions differently in comparison with the others. “In Bollywood and Telugu industries, producers are backed with good funding whereas here the producers tend to borrow at high-interest rates. This leads to a number of other issues. But now there are big names in the industry as well. This might bring in some change,” he shares.

Producer G Dhananjayan too asserts the existence of this structure in Tamil Industry. "Unlike Bollywood and Telugu industry, where we have big studios and productions houses, Tamil industry has many independent producers. And therefore the financiers tend to play a bigger role here in comparison with the other industries," he says.

So what can be the possible solution to this unending tangle? Sreedhar is of the opinion that the Producers' Council and Theatre Owners Association will have to come to an agreement. “There has to be a better mechanism in place. A meeting has to be held to clear things. At least 24-hours before the film’s release, all clearance should be in place.”

TFPC’s treasurer SR Prabhu also shares this opinion. “This is the side-effect of the indiscipline in the industry. This is not just one person’s mistake. TFPC is planning to put in place an internal regulations mechanism for releases that’ll monitor if timelines are being adhered to,” he shares.

Dhananjayan lists down a few points that producers should keep in mind while making their films to avoid last minute hassles. “They should have a tight control over their budget. Also, the actor’s lowest box-office should be set as their benchmark, not their highest grosser. This will avoid unrealistic expectations. The third most important thing is to treat each project individually. Never burden your current film with past losses,” he explains

But theatres often bear the brunt of such last minute cancellations. “Sometimes people might think it’s the theatre’s fault. But now, they are slowly able to understand that such delays are actually not in our hands. It all becomes a part of the game,” says Nikilesh.

The filmmaker talks to TNM about his upcoming film, which is based on the practice of denying those from lower caste groups access to burial grounds.
  • Sunday, October 07, 2018 - 18:11

“I travel to rural areas often as part of my work and whenever I do, I talk to villagers and ask them about their pressing problems. I was expecting they’d tell me about the lack of infrastructure like schools, hospitals, connectivity and lack of facilities like good drinking water, etc. But to my surprise many of them invariably said that they wanted good burial sites,” begins documentary filmmaker Amshan Kumar.

“Now this did not mean that they had other facilities. Maybe they had learnt to live without them but the humiliation that they undergo every time someone dies is far more berating, far more pressing. When someone dies, there’s fear in their minds. Where to bury the dead now? Caste pursues them beyond the grave,” he further explains.

Amshan’s upcoming feature film Manusangada, only his second in many years, is based on this very problem, of denying those from lower caste groups access to burial grounds. “They are made to walk several kilometres. There’s a fight every time. They have to choose a longer route, wade through water, agricultural fields, etc. and finally bury their kin in some unknown place. This is not the case in just one village,” he tells us.

Filmmaker Amshan Kumar

An acclaimed filmmaker known for his national award-winning documentary, Yazhpanan Thedchanamoorthy Music beyond boundaries (2015), Amshan tells us that the idea for making this feature film came to him almost a decade ago.

“I always had this idea at the back of my mind, but in 2016 when I was working on a screenplay adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth I came across several news reports on such incidents. Even a few days back a similar incident was reported from a village in Thiruvarur. This is not an old practice, it is happening even today. So I set aside whatever I was doing to work on this feature,” he says.

Manusangada, inspired from Tamil poet Inkulab’s song ‘Naanga Manushangada’, is a fictional narrative of true events. Shot in just 22 days with a handheld camera, the film’s cast includes theatre artists Rajeev Anand, Sasi Kumar, Manimekalai, Sheela, Vidhur and Anand Sampath. Produced by S Thara and Gana Natkunan, it has camera by PS Dharan, music by Aravind-Shankar and editing by Dhanasekar.

Manusangada, therefore, is the story of a young Dalit man who fights against the oppressors who deny his father a proper burial. Amshan tells us that he deliberately chose to tell his film from a Dalit’s point of view. “Usually the approach in Tamil cinema has been top to bottom. The upper caste are shown having a clash against the lower caste and in the end the upper caste are shown to be reformed. Films like Unnal Mudiyum Thambi are a forward caste experience. But that is a not a Dalit film.”

Amshan Kumar’s Oruththi, his first feature film that came out in 2003, was based on a Dalit woman’s life and the film was narrated from her perspective. He tells us that he has employed a similar point of view in this film as well. “A Dalit film should project a Dalit person’s point of view. I deliberately wanted to do away with the usual depiction,” he shares.

He goes on to add that recent films like Pariyerum Perumal have digressed from this narrative. “It is an interesting change and a welcome one at that.” Amshan also tells us that the hero in his film reflects the current state of mind of the Dalits in the country. “They don’t take it lying down anymore. They put up a fierce fight. They confront. This angst is new in the present scenario. They are not at the receiving end anymore. They are questioning the authority. I am seeing it in real life also,” he tells us.


As someone who is well known for his documentaries, why choose to make a feature film instead? “It does make a lot of difference! If it were a documentary I will have to be very specific about the communities. Whereas in a feature film it is not required to reveal the caste identity,” he says adding, “When people (forward communities) feel that they’re not being directly attacked, they will think. When we tell them (forward communities) that they’ve done such things as a community, they might get defensive. My intention was to not pit one group against the other. Also, this problem is not specific to a particular community.”

Manusangada was one of the films selected for the ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Medal award. Subsequently, it participated in several international film festivals, including the prestigious Cairo International Film Festival. Last month, it won Best Feature Film Award from the Government of Puducherry at the five-day Indian Panorama Film Festival. The film is releasing on October 12, almost a year after its world premiere at the 19th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.

The film feels like a mix of all the psycho killer films you’ve seen before, but this surprisingly works for it.
  • Friday, October 05, 2018 - 19:26

There’s nothing like a good thriller. And I believe, as audiences mature, delivering one that manages to keep them on the edge is quite the challenge. Most thrillers with psycho killers are at some point predictable – and for a thriller movie junkie like myself, the acquired knowledge can immediately join the dots, zeroing in on the killer, their motive, backstory, etc. dousing the thrill altogether. In that sense, director Ramkumar’s Ratsasan fares much better, retaining the suspense almost to the very end.

The story is religiously in line with how psycho thrillers work. A disfigured body of a young girl is found on the banks of a river. Soon after, there’s another, leading the police to believe that there’s a killer on the loose. Who the killer is and what their intent is forms the rest of the story.

The film’s posters and trailers had us believing that Arun (Vishnu Vishal at his best) is a cop. Therefore, the first five minutes of the film will take you by surprise when it is revealed that Arunkumar is actually an aspiring filmmaker who ends up becoming a police officer only reluctantly.

It is quite amusing when we realise that the director has looked no further than his own life while writing the first few scenes. Arun has literally devoured all the serial killings that have taken place in real life (his walls are plastered with newspaper clippings of such incidents) and passionately tries to find a producer for his ‘psycho-killer’ story.

When things do not work out very well for him, he ends up applying for a police job at the behest of his mother and brother-in-law (Munishkanth Ramdoss) who is also a police officer. With his late father being a cop, he gets in easily, becoming a sub Inspector. While this backstory works, the fact that Arun’s very first case just happens to be up his alley (psycho killings) seems more convenient than real. Our hero, therefore, is an ordinary guy who rises to the occasion with an obsession for the truth (a lot like Robert Graysmith from Zodiac).

The story of Ratsasan is tautly strung. When the police figure out there’s a serial killer on the prowl, Arun, who’s an underdog, persuades them to take an unconventional route. This sets the pace for a cat-and-mouse chase that’s extremely well packed.

Another thing that surprisingly works for Ratsasan, is how it feels like a mix of all the psycho killer films you’ve seen before - there’s also a Buffalo Bill moment. How can this possibly work? With an assortment of thriller elements, it leads you on in one direction before dangerously swerving onto another, keeping its tautness intact. While these are tried and tested thrills, the way in which it has been presented is what works for this film.

The child abuse angle has been very sensibly done and this is another thing that works for the film. The romance angle between Arun and Viji (Amala Paul) is very gradual and is not overdone making it one of the most realistic portrayals in recent times.

All the child actors have done their part very well. Even though their screen time is brief, their performances have lifted the film’s pace. The film also has a good number of gripping moments, like when the girl pauses briefly before closing the doors, when Viji tries to tell Arun about the auto and when the lorry arrives at the wrong moment almost have you on the edge of your seat.

The visuals in Ratsasan at no point irk you and this is an interesting change in a psycho-thriller film. Music director Ghibran has done a great job in infusing the thrill into his music, keeping us hooked to the moment.

The first half might seem like a stretch and falters in establishing an emotional connect with its lead, mainly because it jumps into the psycho killer angle early on. That being said, a little more of character establishment could’ve lifted the entire script.

Munishkanth Ramdoss, Suzane George and Kaali Venkat have done a great job with their roles. However, Suzane’s character as an egoistic superior gets annoying after a point and seems like a character solely written to boost up the lead. The Ratsasan in the film could have had better make-up and this shoddy detailing brings down the excitement of the big reveal. The climax too seems like a bit of a stretch and its pace falters after we know who the killer is. On the whole, Ratsasan is a good thriller in recent times but goes slightly overboard towards the end. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

Also Read: The psycho killer in 'Ratchasan' is based on a real person: Director Ramkumar to TNM

Dr Jagan Mohan was famous for charging his patients between Rs 1 and 20, or even free of cost if they could not afford to pay him.
  • Thursday, October 04, 2018 - 12:47

Perhaps the gloomy, overcast skies hanging over Chennai on Thursday too are mourning the demise of Dr Jagan Mohan, fondly referred to as ‘20 rupees doctor’ by many – people not just from Chennai but from other places across the state. Dr Jagan Mohan passed away on Wednesday night due to age-related ailments; he was 78.

The one-way RK Mutt Road on which his clinic and house are located, wedged between a clothing store and a supermarket, overflows with people, many of whom have come to pay their last respects, unmindful of the weather.

“I moved to Chennai when I got married at 16. Ever since, I’ve always come only to him. He used to take Re 1, then took Rs 2, that’s it. Even if I didn’t have the money, he wouldn’t mind. He’d say, ‘Go now, you can pay me later.’ Now who’s there for us?” asks 67-year-old Selvi Amma.

“Once, my son had severe stomach pain. He had kidney stones and the pain was unbearable. It was 3 in the morning. I still remember, when we rang his doorbell, he answered, gave my son tablets and an injection and didn’t take any money from us. My son was cured soon after. He’s got that kai rasi (lucky touch),” she adds.

Selvi Amma is not the only one who has such stories to share of Dr Jagan Mohan’s goodwill. The number of people gathered outside his house on Thursday morning is proof of his kindness. 

Dr Jagan initially charged only Rs 1 for all his patients. His patients were mainly from the poorer sections of society and so he’d also treat them for free when they couldn’t afford to pay him the Re 1. Later he’d charge Rs 2, Rs 3, Rs, 5, Rs 10 and then, up until two weeks ago when he was still seeing patients, he’d charge Rs 20.  "Now people are calling him ‘20 rupees doctor’. For us he's rendu ruba (Rs 2) doctor only," says Selvi Amma.

“You actually didn’t know how much people paid. They’d give him whatever they could and he never really insist that they pay. I knew he charged Rs 2, when I was 10-years-old and saw someone drop the coin in a box on his table. Money mattered very little to him,” says 43-year-old Murali, a distant nephew of his.

“Now who’s there for us?” This question swirls around us on the street outside his house. Pakiyam who has been working as house help in a few houses in Mandaveli tells us that she was unable to sleep last night after hearing of his demise. “I wanted to come immediately. He is a very kind person. I came running this morning. I wanted to come see him before going for my work,” her voice chokes with emotion.

“He’d give us the tablets too for free. Blood tests were done for Rs 10 at his clinic. You should see how he’d cajole a child before giving him or her injection. There’s no one who’d be as kind as he was. Today, the least a doctor charges is Rs 200,” adds Thangamani, who has been working at his clinic for 15 years, sweeping and mopping floors.

That, Dr Jagan touched the lives of many is evident from the love you see around. Katheeja, 20 years old, has come all the way from Pallavaram to help in whatever way she could for his family. “Doctor was my father’s close friend. I’ve only been to him all my life,” she tells us as she sweeps the rose petals off the mosaic floor inside his clinic. 

Born in 1940, Dr Jagan Mohan set up his clinic in the early 1970s. A framed picture that hangs inside his clinic, shows that he’s from the class of ’69, having passed out from Stanley Medical College.

Rajendran of the famed Trouser Kadai in Mandaveli, whose shop is right opposite Dr Jagan’s clinic, recalls the days when the doctor used to drop in sometimes at his eatery. “Whenever he went out, he’d come tell me personally to also keep an eye on his clinic. Romba nalla manushan (a very kind human),” Rajendran tells us.

He goes on to share that Dr Jagan Mohan never charged any money for him and for all those from his kadai (shop). “I will miss his company,” he says with a weak smile. Rajendran also shares that Dr Jagan’s father too was a doctor in their hometown. “He used to tell me that his father too was generous and charitable with his practise. Maybe it’s in the family. Dr Jagan’s hometown is in Srivilliputhur, I’ve heard,” he adds.

Outside, people watch, teary-eyed as his last rites are performed. People of all age groups, coming from different strata of society have come to pay their respects one last time for this benevolent, kind human. Dr Jagan is survived by his wife, daughter, son-in-law and a grandson. 

Waste Management
In October 2017, Greater Chennai Corporation mandated source segregation of waste into wet waste and dry waste, before handing it over to the conservancy staff in their respective neighbourhoods.
  • Wednesday, October 03, 2018 - 19:13
Image for representation

Does our responsibility towards waste management end with throwing trash in the garbage bin? Or is there something more we could do? The garbage menace is the elephant in the room that is growing bigger by the second. In October 2017, Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) mandated source segregation of waste into wet waste and dry waste, before handing it over to the conservancy staff in their respective neighbourhoods. It has been a year since the mandate was announced; but has the city moved towards a sustainable solid waste management practice?

As per a 2011 report in Columbia University’s Earth Engineering Centre - Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council (WERTC), Chennai ranks first in the country, generating the highest per capita waste at 0.7 kg, followed by Kolkatta (0.66 kg) and Delhi (0.65 kg).

While the Chennai Corporation claims to have set in place certain mandates and infrastructure, residents opine that the October 2017 mandate failed to serve its purpose due to poor waste segregation mechanisms. 

Poor segregation, the fly in the ointment

Ganga Sridhar, a resident of Raja Street Mandaveli and also a member of Madaveli Raja Street Residents Welfare Association, says the mandate to segregate waste at source is faulty. “This mandate is a joke,” she says.  “Even if residents hand over segregated waste, the conservancy workers mix it in the main bin. There’s no proper mechanism in place,” she points out.

Ganga adds that waste segregation has been a successful exercise only in gated communities and apartment buildings, where residents take it upon themselves to manage their own trash as a collective. Having started Sustainable Solid Waste Management People's Forum (a group on Facebook) four years ago, along with other residents welfare association, Ganga shares that this is an ongoing battle.

“In areas like Mandaveli and Adyar, where independent houses are more in number, waste segregation is disproportionate,” she says, noting that the OMR and ECR stretches, where there are more gated communities, seem to have better plan of action.

A conservancy worker in Mandaveli, on the other hand, says that while most houses segregate their trash, few others continue mixing it. “We separate compostable waste from non-biodegradable waste at the transfer stations,” says a conservancy staff.

While officials at Chennai’s Solid Waste Management (SWM) department say that 100% door-to-door collection has been implemented, segregation of waste at its source is yet to be achieved.

According to SWM department, 5,000 MT (1 MT = 1,000 kgs) of garbage is collected and removed from the city every day, of which 68% comes from houses and 14% from schools, colleges and institutions. There are about 19,073 conservancy workers collecting and sorting Chennai’s waste on a daily basis.

A Chennai Corporation official tells TNM that north Chennai fares well as far as waste management is concerned when compared to other parts of the city.

“For instance, in Zone 2 (Manali), almost 100% source segregation is carried out. This has been possible primarily because of fewer commercial entities in the area and active residents. In fact, it is safe to say that at least one division in each zone, which constitutes two to three divisions, generates zero garbage. Of the 63 wards that make up the north constituency, residents of seven wards segregate their waste, producing zero waste.”

Are SWM rules in Chennai 100% successful?

Chennai Corporation has a total of 200 wards divided into 15 zones. The waste collected from these zones are dumped in two major landfills - Kodungaiyur (north Chennai) and Perungudi (south Chennai).

Before it ends up in these 200-odd acre landfills, the municipal waste is sorted into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. The non-biodegradable waste is then taken to the resource recovery centre (RRC), where plastic and other such recyclable materials are segregated once again, to reduce the quantum of waste reaching the landfills.

In May, GCC announced its plan to commission decentralised waste processing plants in all the 200 wards, which would process 15 per cent of municipal solid waste generated in the city.

An official from GCC shares that an important requirement for handling solid waste in the city depends on the infrastructure. “We plan to have one micro composting yard in each division. A Resource Recovery Centre will also be attached to these yards to segregate recyclable waste,” he said.

Chennai presently has 177 functional micro composting yards, including seven vermicomposting centres, 26 biogas composting centres and five bio-thermal composting centres. Proposal to build 17 RRC is also currently underway.

Chennai Corporation has also joined hands with the State Horticulture Department to selling the compost from its composting centres.

“We currently have 70 MT stock. One MT is sold for Rs 10,000 to the State Horticulture Department. The manure will be used in Horticulture farms across the state and will also be sold to farmers,” says the official, who adds that the plan will be implemented soon.   

Chennai Corporation’s bye-laws of 2016 have also listed penalties for non-segregation, littering, burying, burning of solid waste/domestic hazardous waste, mixing construction and demolition waste with solid waste and domestic hazardous waste. Fine ranges from Rs 100 to  Rs 25,000. Non-segregation, littering, dumping garden waste on public streets warrants a fine of Rs 1,000 from residents.

GCC has also proposed bio-mining - a technique where specially-cultured microorganism liquid is sprayed onto huge dump yards, thereby reducing its size by half and turning it into soil. An official from GCC shares that a proposal to run a pilot test in Athipattu dump yard is underway. 

How can these translate into reality?

According to Ganga, “Some gated communities compost their biodegradable waste, while the recyclables are sold to trusted recyclers. I believe we can tackle the waste problems only with such proactive measures.”

She points out that service providers such as and are helpful in managing with recyclable waste. She also suggests that the government should institute a better mechanism to identify the local recyclers who deal with dry recyclable waste.

Kripa Ramachandran, a researcher in the urban governance team of Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), shares that municipal corporation in Thiruvananthapuram does not collect organic waste from residents.

“Instead, they offer them their service for composting and for installing biogas plant at houses. This might be an ideal option to consider. If this can be implemented in Chennai, it will drastically reduce the bulk of solid waste generated.”

Incidentally, five years ago, when Transparent Chennai, a group that aggregates, creates and disseminates data and research about important civic issues, conducted an audit five years ago, it was found that 70% of waste generated is organic and has composting potential.

She also says that dustbin liners or plastic covers can also be avoided in dustbins. “These plastic bags are major pollutants. Single-use carry bags, too, should be avoided. The ban that will come in place starting January 2019 can be of some respite to this garbage problem,” she adds.

Social issues
The drawings by teen girls in Chennai’s Kannagi Nagar and Ezhil Nagar resettlement colonies painted shocking pictures of child marriage, substance abuse, lack of hygiene and more.
  • Wednesday, October 03, 2018 - 11:15

“Women are not able to roam freely. Should not touch a woman in places that are not meant to be touched,” reads the scrawl under a picture drawn by a class 8 student in Chennai. The drawing shows two smiling children – a girl and a boy. The boy’s hand rests on the girl’s chest.

Another drawing shows two boys with what looks like sharp weapons in their hands, clashing. Their smiles seem to be starkly in contrast to the caption written by its artist – “Should not fight”.

Yet another detailed drawing, shows a brick structure with a large ‘X’ on it. It is, presumably, the police station. The ‘X’ on it becomes clear once we read the notes accompanying it: “In the police stations that in Tsunami colonies of our Nagar, the officials do not do their duties properly. They tend to willfully ignore the wrongdoings that take place in the station’s vicinity.”

“Even if the septic tanks are overflowing; if complaints are made to the authorities, no action is taken. The health of children and the elderly are severely affected by diseases that are caused due to mosquitoes and other insects,” the teen artist adds.

These are just some of the drawings made by girls between the ages of 13 and 17 in Kannagi Nagar and Ezhil Nagar. These neighbourhoods in Chennai came up specifically for rehabilitating the fishing communities after the devastating tsunami of 2004.

Previously living closer to the shore within city limits, these families had to move away from their source of income as part of state government’s rehabilitation policy. The artists’ parents are mostly fisherfolk and house helps who travel several kilometres every day for work.

The children made these drawings as part of a workshop conducted by Sowmiya and Swetha, final year Master of Social Work (MSW) students from Madras Christian College (MCC). As part of their three-month training programme with Centre for Women’s Development and Research (CWDR), the students have been visiting these children twice every week to conduct workshops and awareness programmes.

No drinking water facility

For this project, the women asked the children – 27 teen girls – to draw what their home meant to them. “We do know that it is quite a challenge to get adolescent girls to open up. So we decided to conduct an art therapy session as part of our SHout-Sexual Harassment Out campaign,” says Swetha.

But the resulting imagery was nothing short of eye-opening for them, for it showed the grim reality of their childhoods.

Apart from the issues like sexual abuse, restrictions on women, lack of law and order that the above drawings show, these children and their families struggle for basic needs such as drinking water and sanitation. One drawing by a child, for instance, says, “In colonies, we get salt water instead of drinking water.” The building drawn beside the tap and earthen pot, ironically points to the lack of proper living quarters for these families.

In our colonies, we get salt water instead of drinking water, there are no proper buildings in our area

And then, there were revelations of serious issues like child marriage and substance abuse that these communities deal with too. “This, in turn, instilled fear in the minds of these girls, who hesitated stepping out of their homes. There’s also the fear of safety,” Swetha observes.

Child Marriage

School children smoking cigarette and tobacco will affect their lives. The consequences are greater. Children should not smoke. The Government has to ban cigarettes

Swetha and Sowmiya have also learnt that children in this neigbourhood grow up witnessing violence too - gang wars are pretty common. “People who lived in different slums in different areas just a decade ago are now living in one area. This has sparked off several gang wars. Young boys tend to get into fights and this has instilled fear in the minds of these adolescent girls,” shares Swetha.

No healthcare centres

Referring to the drawing where a girl had drawn and crossed out a police station to show the officials being lax, Swetha says, “When we asked her why she said police stations are of no help and the officials do not do their duties like they should. There’s a clear sense of helplessness,” shares Swetha.

Teen pregnancies is another issue in these communities, Swetha and Sowmiya found from the healthcare centre in the area. The duo, in collaboration with CWDR are conducting awareness programs on child sexual abuse and sexual health with the girls.

“We have submitted our findings to the NGO. CWDR will take it up with the authorities to fix the amenities in the colonies,” Swetha says. 

Starring Vishnu Vishal and Amala Paul, 'Ratchasan' will be released on October 5.
  • Monday, October 01, 2018 - 11:17

Director Ramkumar’s Ratchasan trailer, that released a few days ago, sent thriller fans on a tizzy. Starring Vishnu Vishal and Amala Paul in the lead, the trailer had clock-ticking, nail-biting sequences, timed perfectly to the beats. This racy drama coming from the director who gave us Mundasupatti - a rural comedy-drama - is what makes this film even more interesting.

In this interview with TNM, the director talks about the making of Ratchasan, how he overcame his numerous rejections, the major clue that’s already out and on his next with actor Dhanush. 

How did Ratchasan happen?

After Mundasupatti, I did not want to do another comedy film. I wanted to do something that’s completely on the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of its genre. I wanted it to be a serious film. I read an interesting article about two people in the newspaper. They are not Indians. One was a psycho killer and the other was a lady. This gave me a basic structure to the story. That main character sparked off a story in me. Screenplay took almost a year. The character in my story is based on a real person - a psycho killer. Ratchasan is a fictional story built upon this character.

So you did not want to get typecast as a director?

Exactly. Making someone laugh is the most difficult thing to do. It is the most challenging aspect of filmmaking. So I would not say one is better than the other. I mainly did not want to get typecast as a comedy filmmaker. I was sure on that. If this film (Ratchasan) wasn’t going to happen for me, I wouldn’t have made another. People often consider their film as their child but for me the story itself was my child.

Ratchasan has been in the making for a while. You also faced a lot of rejection initially. Tell us about that

The kind of rejection I faced for this film was huge. Perhaps people did not expect something like this from me. I must’ve lost them immediately after I began narrating the first scene (laughs). Also, initially the hero of my story was a 40-year-old guy who also had a child. Many actors were a little hesitant to play such a character. Then I removed the child from my story and even then things did not pick up.

Another aspect that put them off was the villain in my film. The villain is a very strong character, bigger than the hero. This might have worked the opposite way for a few. I think the hero has to win over the most powerful villain. But perhaps they thought it might not give them better scope in terms of acting. So the project itself took a while to take off.

So you had to compromise with your story?

I haven’t compromised at all. If I had, I would’ve made the film sooner. (laughs) I did change my hero’s character and thankfully it has worked wonders for the story. Here again, I only changed it truly for the sake of my story. Originally the hero was an influential, powerful ACP. Now he’s a sub-inspector who comes from a normal background. This change was a major plus for the story.

There was a change in the film’s title from Cinderella to Ratchasan. Why?

Actually, Ratchasan was the original title we wanted to use for this film. Back then, we faced a few problems in getting the tile so we decided to change it to Cinderella. This name also fit very well with my story. But this title too ran into trouble. So I came up with Minmini. I wanted the title to be the complete opposite of the film and Minmini had a very light, happy ring to it. But a few team members preferred the film’s original title - Ratchasan. So we tried as much as we could to amicably settle upon this title. 

Is there going to be a social message in Ratchasan?

Yes, there is. Girl children especially go through sexual abuse and the abuser in most cases is someone well known to the child and her family. This film will create an awareness among teenage girl children to stay alert at all times.

The trailer revealed that the film’s villain has anti-social disorder. How sensitively have you handled this mental condition?

When a child is affected during his/her formative years, especially during their adolescent years, it causes a deeper impact to their psyche. They tend to never recover from it and this backstory is true in the case of all psycho killers. I’ve based my story only around this.

You seem to have put quite a bit of research into this. Have series like Mindhunter inspired you?

I did this story four years ago and Mindhunter is pretty recent. As far as research goes, I read a lot on such psycho killers. It was difficult to go any deeper (laughs). Also, when it comes to thrillers, the pattern is the same. There’s a killer on the loose, hero tries to solve the murder mystery. So what can be done differently here? The way in which it is presented.

I do like a lot of Korean films - Memories of a Murder, I Saw the Devil. That is not to say Ratchasan has been done on the lines of these films. I’ve tried to keep it as Indian as possible. There’s a backstory of my villain, there’s also a higher emotional quotient in this film - things that foreign films lack.

The dialogue in your teaser and trailer - ‘Ne enna pudichalum, naan, naana irukka matten' (Even if you were to catch me, I wouldn’t be myself), sounds like a major twist is in the offing. How did this happen?

This dialogue came very naturally. The dialogue will tell you all about the character. It is a very important pre-climax twist.

The title's font has piano keys. Is this a clue for us? 

Definitely. Piano is the main clue.

Tell us about Vishnu and Amala’s performance in this film

Vishnu has done a great job. Especially there’s a scene on top of a bridge that required him to drive while talking over the phone. We filmed it at 1.00 am and this also happens to be the time when heavy vehicles’ movement would be high on the roads. It was a very emotional scene and so he had to drive carefully, remember his dialogues and remember the right kind of emotions. He did the scene so well!

Amala Paul needed very little directions, she’s a great actor. We only gave her a little information and she was able to pull it off so well. Also, actor Muniskanth has to be appreciated for his performance. He’s a great actor. After filming a particular performance of his in Mundasupatti, the crew members clapped and appreciated him. The same happened for Ratchasan as well. Here people around the sets, who had come to watch, broke into applause after his performance. This shows how good his performances are.

We heard you’ve signed your next with Dhanush?

You have already? (chuckles) The film’s teaser was ready a year ago. Having seen it, someone from his office called me asking if I had a line for Dhanush. Back then, I didn’t, so I said I’ll come back with one. Now again, a few months ago, they had called. This time I narrated a line and he immediately liked it. It is a fantasy-based character and would be a very daring choice for an actor to make. We’ll begin work after Ratchasan’s release.