Stepping back into Kollywood

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direction Bharathiraja, at the launch of ‘Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum’.When a film begins with a voice claiming to address all Tamilians (“En Iniya Thamizh Makkale…”), you know you’ve chanced upon a movie by Bharathiraja.

The man who is often credited with taking the Tamil cinematic experience beyond the four walls of a studio, has returned to the film industry, wielding the megaphone in another directorial venture, Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum — a movie set in the backdrop of a village.

The movie claims to be Bharathiraja’s big comeback, and promises to challenge the young filmmakers of today. “It is my dream project. I will prove myself once again with this film,” says the veteran, who has some landmark movies in the history of Tamil cinema (16 Vayathinile, Kizhakke Pogum Rail, Muthal Mariyathai, etc) under his name.

The shooting for this film, his 44th to be precise, started amidst much fanfare in his native Alli Nagaram, located in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu. The function was attended by some of the biggest names of Kollywood, including ace directors K Balachander, Mani Ratnam, Balumahendra and K Bhagyaraj.

Throwing some light on the project, Bharathiraja says, “It’s a story that I’ve been wanting to do for some time now. I am happy that it is finally taking shape. The film will reveal the rural face of Tamil Nadu to the world, with originality and sincerity.”

Ask him why he chose his native village, quite a distance away from Chennai, to launch his film, and he replies, “It was in Allinagaram that I grew up. I may be living in Chennai now for practical reasons, but I belong to Allinagaram. The village is where my heart is, which is why I planned to launch Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum there.”

Those playing lead roles in the film are director Ameer, Karthika (daughter of
yesteryear actress Radha, who had worked with Bharathiraja in the evergreen Muthal Mariyathai), newcomer Lakshmanan and Iniya of Vaagai Sooda Vaa fame. The musical score will be put together by G V Prakash Kumar.

“Working with youngsters makes me feel young and propels me to perform better. G V Prakash Kumar has already proved his mettle as a music composer and his music is too mature for his age. There are six songs in this movie,” explains Bharathiraja.

He also compliments Ameer’s rugged look, a look that was responsible largely for his casting, for, it was R Parthiban who was initially slated to do the role. While Karthika and Lakshmanan play the title roles, Annakodi and Kodiveeran respectively, Ameer essays the role of Kattuviriyan, a negatively shaded character, and Iniya performs as Mallanginaru
Mangatha. “I have given everyone a strong character and they show a lot of promise,” Bharathiraja says.

Known for introducing fresh new faces, Bharathiraja is launching Lakshmanan this time. “I have roped in someone who had never considered venturing into films before. He is a good cricket player and my friend’s son. He will be much talked about after this film,” says the director, who is also a mentor to a long list of celebrities.

Ameer, a popular filmmaker himself, is thrilled to be a part of Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum. “I didn’t ask him (Bharathiraja) about the story, character, my co-stars, etc, or even what the shooting schedule would be like.

He wanted me to act in the movie and I just agreed to do so. How could I question him? When he says something, I have to obey it,” says Ameer.

Equally elated is Karthika. The actress, who is popular for her journalist role in Ko, one of the biggest blockbusters last year, says, “I get to play four stages in Annakodi’s life — from a kid to a teenager, a woman and an old lady.”

She adds: “Initially, even the director wasn’t too confident about casting me in the role, especially after seeing my photos that featured me in a more ‘modern’ look. But once the photo shoot for Annakodi was done, he was convinced that I could play the immature village lass with ease. There are only a few lucky ones in my generation who can boast of such roles.”

On her part, Iniya says, “I play a rustic village belle who tends to the cattle. My look will be different from what I’ve done before, complete with a nose stud and the traditional anklet on one leg. I’m paired opposite Ameer in the film. I am very lucky to be associated with this Bharathiraja project.”

It’s not without reason that everyone associated with Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum are thanking their lucky stars. For they sincerely hope that with this film as a part of their profile, their careers would see a growth or elevation to greater heights.

In the very own words of Mani Ratnam, one of the top filmmakers of the country, “Bharathiraja has been a great influence. In the past 30 years, there is not a single person in Tamil cinema who has not been influenced by him. I am eagerly waiting for the release of Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum, which I hope, will happen soon.”

With shooting already in progress, it won’t be long before we get to hear — “En Iniya Thamizh Makkale” — in theatres once again.

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