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In the Spotlight

Prestigious : A still from the shooting of ‘Pasanga’, a small budget Tamil film, which has been selected for the SILPIX Children’s Film Festival 2011 to be held in USA.

Pasanga has already bagged the Golden Elephant at the 19th Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival (Jiangyin, China), the Golden Elephant Award for Best Director at the International Chidren’s Film Festival 2009 (Hyderabad, India), the Best Tamil Feature Film at the 7th Chennai International Film Festival, and has been premiered at various international film festivals like the Chinese Festival of India 2010 (China), the 40th International Film Festival of India 2009 (Goa), the 2nd International Children’s Film Festival, Bangladesh, and the Norway International Film Festival 2010, among others.
So, how did Pasanga come about?

“It was my first film. I wanted it to be something different and at the same time, a film that everyone could relate to,” says Pandiraj. How is it that the debutant director zeroed down on school life? “School life is something we all have experienced, although there are many like me who haven’t had the opportunity to go to college,” he says candidly, adding, “After Mani Ratnam’s Anjali, viewers haven’t been treated to a quality kid-centric film.” Pasanga was made with a small budget of 3.25 crore. “We never expected this kind of a response to the film. I just wanted to produce a good film,” says Sasikumar, the film’s producer. Though the realism of the film does dilute to a certain extent towards the end, over all, watching Pasanga introduces you to the issues faced by school children in a village — jealousy, perceptions and family stories.

The secret of Pasanga’s success? It is a film that is true-to-life. Confesses Pandiraj, “Kuttimani, Tukkada, including other kids in the film happen to be the real nicknames of my classmates from school. Some of the antics seen in Pasanga are inspired by real-life experiences.” In fact, Pandiraj went to the same school that serves as a setting for the film. After finishing school, Pandiraj worked as a salesman in a pharmacy, repaired cycles, and did other odd jobs before realising his dream of being a part of the film industry. Eventually, he got a job as an assistant to director Cheran (known for his award-winning film, Autograph). Finally, Pandiraj teamed up with Sasikumar (of Subramaniyapuram fame) to give us Pasanga. Incidentally, Pasanga’s story and screenplay too is by Pandiraj.

With numerous debutant child artistes in the lead roles and supported by newcomers Vimal and Vega Tamotiain (of Saroja fame), Pasanga is a story set in a barren, inconspicuous village. Anbu (Kishore), the protagonist of the film, and his bitter foe Jeeva (Sriram), are classmates in school. The antics of the other kids, the interactions between them, Anbu and Jeeva, and the consequent rift between their respective families carries the story along. But this narrative has a twist too — Anbu’s uncle (Vimal) falls in love with Sobikannu (Vega), the sister of Jeeva, which eventually unites the two families, much to the chagrin of Jeeva and Anbu. What happens thereafter is what Pasanga is all about.
The shooting of the film was done inconspicuously. “We would tell the kids, ‘Come on, tell me how you would enact this scene?’ And we would shoot it, without the kids knowing that a camera was on,” shares Pandiraj. Although they would do another take just for the kids’ satisfaction, Pandiraj always used the first take.

Proving that exotic visual graphics and locations are not necessary to create a gripping screenplay, Pandiraj has used a variety of techniques like slow motion shots, fast edits and interesting camera angles in the film. Premkumar is the cinematographer of the film, the music is composed by James Vasanthan, while the art direction is by Crawford. “Style is something that cannot evolve with a single film. The only thing I am clear about is that I want my films to generate a positive feeling among viewers.”

Well, there is a fair chance of that happening. After all, as someone who aspired to get into a film institute but couldn’t do so because of financial constraints, but persevered and managed to make it big as a talented and successful film maker, Pandiraj stands tall as a contemporary testimony to willpower. His own story, not just his film’s, is surely inspiring.

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