Chennai, Sep 27, Director Pandiraj, the son of farmer parents, couldn’t pursue graduation for want of money and did odd jobs to support himself. But the Tamil director, whose first film “Pasanga” bagged three National Awards, says even while working as an office boy, he made sure he was not far from the movie business.
“Cinema became an integral part of me before I entered Class 12. I wanted to study at the Chennai Film Institute after finishing school but only graduates could join the institute,” Pandiraj told IANS in an interview.
“I was determined not to do any job that is not related to cinema. I got a job in director K. Bhagyaraj’s weekly magazine Bhagya. I joined there as an office boy but he made me a sub-editor after seeing my interest and talent in writing.”
“Pasanga” won the best dialogue award for Pandiraj and was declared the best Tamil movie at the 57th annual National Film Awards this year. Kishore and Sri Ram shared the best child artist honours for it.
Excerpts from the interview with IANS:
Q: Tell us about your background.
A: I was born and brought up in a small hamlet called Virachchilai in Pudukkottai near Tiruchy. Both my parents (Chinnaiya and Meenaakshi) are farmers. I am the youngest son in my family.
Q: How was your relationship with cinema in your earlier years?
A: There were no theatres in our village. We used to go to Pudukkottai to see movies. I had my first date with movies during our temple festival. It was a devotional movie. My father did not allow me to see any other movies. The restriction triggered my interest in cinema.
Q: Tell us the process of moving closer to cinema.
A: Cinema became an integral part before I entered plus two. I wanted to study at the Chennai Film Institute after finishing school but only graduates could join it. Since my family was struggling to make both ends meet, I couldn’t. I joined an electrical shop in Thanjavur but left the job soon. Then I worked in a medical shop in Salem but couldn’t continue. My obsession with cinema did not allow me to settle anywhere else. I quit the job and came to Chennai with the aim of making films.
Q: Did you struggle in Chennai?
A: Yes, I did. But there is no point in recalling bitter experiences. I was determined not to do any job that is not related to cinema. I got a job in director K. Bhagyaraj’s weekly magazine Bhagya. He was one of my idols. I was mesmerised by his screenplays. I joined there as an office boy but he made me a sub-editor after seeing my interest and talent in writing. I learnt a lot under his guidance.
Q: Who were your favourite directors?
A: I liked both Bharathiraja and Vijaya T. Rajendhar, though they represent diametrically opposite schools of filmmaking. I started liking Balu Mahendra and Mahendran after I came to Chennai.
Umapathy, Chimbu Devan, Shanmugaraj introduced me to world cinema. I liked Iranian films for their realistic and aesthetic portrayal of life. I joined (Tamil filmmaker) Cheran sir because he has been making realistic films. I feel proud to call myself a student of Cheran sir.
Q: You have beautifully captured the lives of children in “Pasanga” and have also got their lingo perfectly. How?
A: After penning the script, I realised that dialogues would be vital to this story. Then I started watching the kids around me very keenly. I went to schools and overheard the conversations between students. Memories of my earlier days too came in handy to shape the script.
I approached them not as a director but as a friend. The first week was a bit difficult, but soon I grasped the behaviour of all the kids and could mingle with them easily.
Q: Nithyanandam, the teacher’s character, stood out in the film. Was it an expression of your inner feelings that you never had such a teacher?
A: Our ex-president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has said only if a society possesses dedicated teachers, it would be able to achieve great things. Nowadays education has become a business and unfortunately most teachers don’t think about anything beyond money. Probably this acted as a catalyst in creating the character of the ‘teacher’ in the film.
Q: Future plans?
A: I have plenty of them. My next project would be a city-based one. After two village-based subjects, I’m entering the city. This film would also be very realistic in portrayal. The three National Awards that ‘Pasanga’ fetched me have made me more responsible as a filmmaker and I’ve to ensure that the quality in my characters isn’t lacking, come what may. I would never depend on glamour to make my film run. I don’t think my films should have it.