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Four films old, Tamil director Madhumita explores a rural story for the first time in her career with ‘KD’ aka Karuppu Durai

Madhumita debuted in 2008 with a neat family entertainer, ‘Vallamai Tharayo’, and went on to do two more urban stories, ‘Kola Kolaya Mundhrika’ and ‘Moone Moonu Varthai (a Tamil-Telugu bilingual).

‘KD’ has been festival hopping after its London premiere at the UK Asian Film Festival where Madhumita received the Best Director’ award. ‘KD’ won the Jury Award at the Singapore South Asian Film Festival. In an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid! the Mumbai-based filmmaker talks about the making of ‘KD.’

Seed of KD

“Four years ago I read an article on thalaikoothal [the traditional practice of senicide (killing of the elderly) or involuntary euthanasia by family members, prevalent in many parts of Tamil Nadu]. The report was about an old man who had complained to the police about his family planning to kill him by this ancient practice. That triggered me to make a film on this subject but since my films are not depressing and dark, the challenge was, what is the angle I should take? I wanted to focus on life and hope and not death.

Around this time my 94-year-old grandfather slipped and broke his hip. When I visited him he asked me to take him to Indonesia, the place I grew up. I realised then that people of the older generation have their wishes too.

While researching for my film, I met several senior citizens and asked them ‘what was that one wish they wanted.’ I was surprised with the responses. One old woman told me ‘I want to cook my favourite dish and enjoy it myself.’ On probing further she explained, ‘All my life I have made dishes for the children and now that I am old, the children insist on me eating healthy. No one asks me ‘what I really want.’

Having prioritised their life for others, the elderly feel guilty about their needs.

I decided to follow this 80-year-old man who meets this 8-year-old boy. And, this boy shows him that life is all about enjoying. He pushes him to think about what he wants in life.”

Pitching producer

“I pitched the story to Saregama. They loved the synopsis and asked me for the script. I had not written yet. Soon I began the writing process. My search for a co-writer to help me with Tamil dialogues was in vain and with pressure mounting I wrote it myself in four days. Saregama loved the story. There were minute changes done during discussions.

Later, I found Sabarivasan Shanmugam — short filmmaker and director — who got on board as additional writer and dialogue writer. He made changes to my Chennai Tamil dialogues to suit the rural milieu. His additions made the film earthy and rustic.”

Finding cast

“I auditioned many children but could not find someone spontaneous. The child actors I met were well rehearsed. I wanted someone raw and rustic. I found him in Kuttralam on the suggestion of his aunt who was doing a role in my film.

Initially I thought of approaching Dhanush to play the 80-year-old man. Then felt that it will become a gimmick for marketing. Besides viewers will not see the 80-year-old KD but rave about Dhanush’s performance. We even considered Prakash Raj and Satya Raj for the role. Then someone sent me Mu Ramasamy’s picture. I approached him but he did not have dates. I reached out to him two months later. He heard the story, loved it and agreed to do it.”

Challenges of KD

“This is a small budget film. We shot in Tenkasi and Kuttralam and within 28 days. Being a stage actor Mu Ramasamy sir was loud. His delivery had to be toned down to that of a fragile old man. Nagavishal was facing the camera first time. We had a 10-day workshop in Chenni where they bonded. It also built their trust with me.

Getting the same performance from the boy was not easy. Even Mu Ra sir could not replay the same performance. I did not have the luxury of multiple takes.

It was my first at shooting in sync sound. Sometime the boy would mess up, or Mu Ra sir will be loud. And, when everything was perfect, the sound recordist would ask for another shot because he had caught a sound of an ambulance or a generator in the scene. Some sounds cannot be cleaned. I would be guilty of murder every day. Sometimes if happy with a performance I decided to leave it at that and correct it with patch work during dubbing. I loved sync sound shooting and will not go back to dubbing.”

Festival hopping

“At the London premiere, more than 70 per cent of the audience were non-Indians. They loved it for its heart-warming story. Some remarked that it reminded them of their grandfather. Others said it brought out the child in them.

Singapore International Film Festival is special. This was the city where I did my undergraduation. I had an accident during my college days here and one of my professors challenged me that I could not complete the year. I did complete it with excellence and came back years later to win the Jury award for ‘KD.’ My professor was there during the screening and he had tears in his eyes. He told me how much he loved the film.”

Up next

‘KD’ will be remade in Hindi. I have done the research for its adaptation. I am also writing an action drama for another Hindi film.”

Don’t miss it!

‘KD’ releases in the UAE on November 22.