Director wants to make her own version of ‘Jungle Book’

Madhumita Sundararaman is a Tamil film director. Her latest film ‘KD’, released last week, has won a slew of awards

'KD’ explores the bond between an 80-yearold man and a 10-year-old orphan.

Tamil director Madhumita Sundararaman is a well-known figure in the Tamil film industry and is known for films like ‘Vallamai Tharayo’ and ‘Kola Kolaya Mundhirika’.
After a four-year hiatus, she is back with a movie on death, a dark subject which is a depature from her usual films that focus on hope and interpersonal relationships.  

In a chat with Metrolife, Madhumita talks about the idea behind her latest film ‘KD’ aka ‘Karuppu Durai’ and what drives her to make movies.

How did you come up with the idea of the film?

A few years ago, I read an article on senicide. It is a form of euthanasia where older people are given extensive massages and a lot of coconut water to drink. They then suffer from renal failure and multiple organ failure. The article said that an old man ran away from home to file a complaint with the police, saying that his family is trying to kill him. 

That’s when I started reading about the practice to find out which part of Tamil Nadu it is prevalent in. I kept thinking about it but I wasn’t really sure how I wanted it to play out as I have never made a film on such a dark subject before. Death is not something that one can deal with easily.


Madhumita Sundararaman

My grandfather, who was 94 years old at the time, had once asked me to take him to Indonesia. However, he was bedridden. I realised that when older people are at the edge of their life, they start to introspect and that is when they start to prioritise themselves. During my research, I spoke to many elderly people and I was surprised that some of them had such simple wishes. 

And that’s when I decided that I wanted to tackle this journey. The movie is about an eight-year-old boy who helps an elderly man realise what he wants to do with his life.  

Where do you usually get your inspiration for a film? 

I like to watch people. Not to sound creepy or stalker-like, but I like to sit in coffee shops and just observe people. Which is why a lot of my stories are about interpersonal relationships. That is an element that’s always there in my film, be it a comedy, drama or an ad film.  

Sometimes I also get inspired by something I read or see.

What made you pursue a career in filmmaking?

I grew up abroad and as with every diaspora parent, my parents were insistent that I was raised as Indian as possible. They sent me for singing and Bharatanatyam classes and made me learn Tamil at home. More than Hollywood films, we grew up watching Rishikesh Mukherjee and Mani Ratnam films and listening to AR Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja’s music. So, my getting into filmmaking was inevitable. My mother wanted me to be a doctor but I faint at the sight of blood, so being a medical professional was ruled out long ago (laughs). 

What drives you?

Sometimes, it is the urge to tell a story, and sometimes it is to see certain things on screen. When I see pure talent, grit and intelligence on screen, it makes me want to do better and tell more stories. 

Which film has inspired you the most? 

My all-time favourite film is ‘Children of Heaven’ directed by Majid Majidi.

Which book would you like to adapt into a film? 

The one book I would like to make a movie on is ‘Jungle Book’. It would be
my version. We have always seen Mowgli and his relationship with Baloo, Sher Khan and others. What will be interesting to know is Mowgli’s adaption to the human world after he is out of the forest. It would be interesting to see what he learned in the jungle and what is he trying to change in society today.

Your short film ‘Abstract Identity’, won the BBC Award in ‘Best in the World’ category... 

I was in my second year of college in Singapore and we had to make a short film under two minutes. ‘Abstract Identity’ was about an Indian woman and the cultural nuances behind wearing a bindi. I have also highlighted the traditional practice and how it actually defined a woman. My second short film was about menstruation and the taboos attached to it in India.

You have also briefly worked on ‘Pirates of the Caribbean III’, before returning to Chennai...

I was pursuing a course in direction from New York Film Academy and as part of that, we had to do an internship with a film crew, to learn from the big names of the industry. So, I was an intern on the set of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean III’. More than handling responsibilities, I just had to observe. It taught me discipline and techniques to be organised, transparent and inclusive on the set. It was great to be exposed to that kind of experience.

Tell us about your upcoming projects. 

My next project is in Hindi and it is currently under discussion. It is an action-drama with a strong focus on interpersonal relationships. I’m still working on the script but some producers are already showing interest in it.

This apart, discussions are on about the remake of KD in Hindi as well. However, we have not decided anything yet. Apart from that, I am doing a Telugu show for an OTT platform.

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