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Reel realism

To filmmaker Thankar Bachan, the distance between real and reel must blur



Thankar Bachan with "Azhagi" stars

THANKAR BACHAN makes realistic (read serious) films steeped in Tamil culture. So, he must be a real serious person, right? Walk in expecting to meet a `serious' filmmaker who will in all probability talk down to you, and the cinematographer-turned-director surely disappoints.

Extremely friendly, he answers your questions with earnestness. And, when you talk to him about his passion for movies, his eyes light up and Bachan animatedly talks about his concept of creativity. "Usually, there is a difference between the characters you see on screen and the people in the theatre. But, in my films the audience enter the screen, because they are the backdrop of my story," he says.

Bachan's love for his soil is something that comes across in every movie. He recalls what a representative of the Montreal Film Festival said after watching Thendral, his latest release, while shortlisting entries: "I was asked why I made the film. But, after watching the other movies, I was told that Thendral was the only movie with a cultural identity." All three movies of Bachan have had haunting music by Ilaiyaraja. The director says the maestro's tamizhisai suits the mood of his films and lingers for long in the minds of listeners.

Thendral, that moving film which showcased human dignity, did not do well at the box office. How much did that rankle? "I was very disappointed with the Tamil audience... they must develop sensitivity and sensibility."

Azhagi, his first film, introduced Nandita Das to the Tamil audience. How did he zero in on the Delhi-based activist-actress? "I wrote the short story (that was the basis for the movie) in 1983. I was shooting an anti-plastic rally in Delhi in 1997 when I first saw her and thought her perfect for the role of Dhanalakshmi. Soon, I forgot all about it. Years later, I saw her in a photograph with Shabana Azmi (Fire) in a film magazine. She was initially hesitant to accept Azhagi, but what a good job she did!" In all three movies - Azhagi, Solla Maranda Kadhai (SMK) and Thendral - he has cast fellow directors in the lead role. Was it difficult directing them? "Both Cheran (SMK) and Parthiban felt the films were directors' movies and did what I wanted them to," he states.

Bachan's next project is Thaai Mann, a British-produced movie. He is now scouting for actors. His ambitious Onbathu Rubaai Note (with Sathyaraj as hero) will now be shot in April next year. "The movie spans 48 years, from 1952 till the morning of January 1, 2000. I'm waiting for the next jackfruit, mango and cashew season to start... they form the backdrop of the movie."

SUBHA J. RAO

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