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Eager to explore human psyche

The National award has brought along new responsibilities and raised expectations, Janaki Visvanathan tells CHITRA MAHESH.


Simple, unassuming and completely focussed... Janaki Visvanathan.

AWARDS ARE only an endorsement of the work you have done and a kind of vindication of the stand you take through it. It may not be everything in a country where the masses expect entertainment through films of a kind that is largely debatable. But these awards that come at the national level do spur artists and technicians to better themselves and their craft. And while each year there are many who may or may not agree with the choice of films that are honoured with titles, those who do win them are in the spotlight. And quite a few of them richly deserve it. Thirty two-year-old Janaki Visvanathan is one of them.

The film ``Kutty" that has been given the Special Jury Award, and the Best Child Artiste for Swetha, who plays the main role, is a poignant story of a little girl's journey from the village to the city as a child worker and who is eventually thrown into a situation with hardly any chance for redemption.

It is Janaki's first directorial venture and did not leave those who saw it, untouched by its simple, but effective narration. ``When I first heard that I had won the National Award I thought it was a joke. Rumours kept floating around days before the awards were announced but I refused to believe them till it was officially confirmed,'' says Janaki when asked how it felt to be recognised thus. Simple, unassuming but with tremendous focus, Janaki is a person who wants to make a difference in the world of cinema. ``It took some time to sink in. And I felt a mixture of excitement, happiness, euphoria and fear!" The first three sentiments one can understand but why fear? ``Because,'' she says, ``this means heightened expectations. And you want your audiences to accept what you do as well. When you make a film the most important reactions are those of the audience. But of course, an endorsement from the experts, colleagues and seniors is a great honour too. However it is not an easy crown to wear." What then is next? Janaki is clear: ``I have started working extra hard to ensure that my next project `Kanavu Meippada Vendum' matches the increased expectations. Now I have set a standard for myself. And more than anyone or anything else, I have to live up to it. It has made me that much more critical of my work and I am trying to iron out all the wrinkles even at the script stage to ensure a good product.''

Her next film deals with a man from an oppressed section of society who rises above the odds to achieve personal glory. But is that everything? The film examines how the choice of a path affects those around.

Janaki is very clear that she does not want to be slotted or labelled as anyone kind of a filmmaker. ``I would like to work on a variety of subjects to avoid repetition. I am deeply interested in the human mind and would like to explore its myriad shades and emotions. I cannot deal with the abstract but prefer to give a human face to even serious social issues that I'd like to deal with.''

Janaki understands that the audience comes to the theatre to be entertained. And would certainly like to take care of tehm. ``Although, entertainment in itself is subjective, I want to make films that a wide cross-section of audience finds interesting and appealing. That is what I am striving for.''

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