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    I feel strongly about social issues

    [Interview by IANS]
    Tuesday, May 04, 2004

    After debuting with a film on child labour that bagged a national award, Tamil director Janaki Viswanathan's second movie again highlights social issues.

    She won critical acclaim with her first film "Kutty". Her new film, "Kanavu Mei Padavendum", is the story of a young man who has to spend his childhood in a juvenile home while his mother, a temple dancer, goes off to Mumbai to try her luck in films. She lands up in a brothel instead.

    The young man educates himself and gets married, and that is when his mother comes back into his life. When he has to choose between his old mother and pregnant wife, he chooses his mother. Back in his village, he plunges into social service and finally wins the Magsaysay award.

    Janaki told in an interview about the importance of highlighting people who toil away at the grassroots, unsung.

    Your first film dealt with a social issue, child labour. Your new film talks about prostitution...

    No, my film does not deal with prostitution. Everybody is talking only about that aspect. Actually, it is one of the issues I have dealt with in the film. My film is about a human being and how he faces life. I want to make this very clear.

    Is the story based on any novel, or a story which you read somewhere? It
    is quite unusual to see such a protagonist in a film.

    It's partly inspired by a news report that appeared in the Times of India
    a few years ago. But the man's character is inspired by a lot of people I have read about. I have also met quite a few such people in real life too. I have always felt that those who work at the grass root level are not known to the rest of the world. You find very often that they become known only when they get honored internationally

    Do you feel very strongly about social issues?

    Not only me, I feel everybody feels very strongly about social issues. Probably my films are my way of expressing my emotions about many things.

    In your film, when the man had to choose between his mother who has come back from the red light area and his pregnant wife, why did you make him choose his mother?

    I feel sometimes, the choice is predestined; predetermined. He really didn't have a choice. Because being the kind of person that he is, that is the way he has to decide. I believe the way you lead your life is predetermined, preordained. For me, that's how the character is. Sometimes I feel I am like that in my own life. There's a certain amount of my own personality in that character.

    Your first film won you a national award. Is it a big responsibility to live up to the expectations?

    The fact is, with your first film itself; you set a certain standard for yourself. Obviously people expect you to maintain that standard. But when I was making 'Kanavu Paada Vendum', I did not think of all that. I made the film the way I want to make it.

    Did you compare your first film with this one, or have you forgotten 'Kutty'?

    Obviously I can't forget my first film. But I definitely can compare and I feel as a filmmaker, I have graduated in terms of the language of cinema. When I made 'Kutty', my experience as a filmmaker was nil. Only my passion for the medium and the subject carried me through. In this film, it is not just that. I wanted to go beyond issues, subject etc and do justice to the visual medium.

    Your new film deals with a fairly wide time span of nearly fifty years. Was it difficult for you to recreate the various decades?

    No. I did some research and based on that, I recreated the period. I tried to do as much justice as I could to reality.

    Is mass appreciation very important for you?

    Of course, it is very important. I have done my job and now, it is there (the audience's) turn to accept it or reject it. I am very open to constructive criticism. As a filmmaker, I don't make a film for myself and the critics to watch. Definitely I want people to watch my film. There are different kinds of people. It is very difficult to make everybody happy.There is no way you can make every single person in the audience happy.

    How do you look at appreciation and criticism?

    Neither affects me beyond a point.

    Have you started thinking about your next project?

    Yes. I am working on a couple of ideas but I am not sure which one would I start working on. Basically I am into relationships, and that's' what interests me more. I am not talking about conventional relationships alone, it goes beyond that.

    You are basically an urban person but both your films are rural-based. Don't you feel you understand the urban milieu better than the rural milieu?

    It is true that I am a very urban person but making a film on a milieu I am not familiar with is the biggest challenge. As an individual, I am always driven by challenges. I don't like to do things that come very easily to me. I want to try and understand the unfamiliar and the unusual.

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