Directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Bala, Paradesi is an adaptation of Paul Harris Daniel’s book Red Tea. This moving saga on the exploitation of Indian tea estate workers by the British was nominated in nine categories at the London Film Festival, taking two awards at the closing ceremony — Best Costume Designer for Poornima Ramasamy and the second for cinematographer Chezhiyan.
Paradesi was cinematographer Chezhiyan’s sixth film. “The film involved shooting in verdant landscapes of tea estates. And that’s where the challenge lay. We had to narrate a sorrowful story against this picturesque backdrop,” Chezhiyan said.
“Shooting the climax scene was tough,” added this civil engineer who pursued his passion for photography when he entered films as last assistant in Mani Ratnam’s Alaipayuthe.
“The shooting spot was on top of a mountain with poor visibility owing to foggy weather,” he said referring to the sets of Paradesi. “Besides, rains posed practical hurdles such as placing the equipments on slippery terrain. But we managed to overcome them.”
Who would have thought that the frayed costumes worn by the cast in her debut film Paradesi would take her places? Certainly not Poornima Ramasamy, costume designer of the movie.
This year’s National Award winner added another feather to her hat with the ‘Best Costume Designer’ award at the recently-concluded London Film Festival.
“I am still shocked,” the 32-year-old, who could not attend the award ceremony due to health issues, said. “I did not expect the national award either.”
Ramasamy is the granddaughter of late M.G. Naidu, founder of Naidu Hall, a well-known garment store in Chennai, and was assisting her father at the store before venturing into films.
“Bala sir handed me a copy of ‘Red Tea’ set in the pre-independence era,” the BBA graduate said. “He wanted me to get familiar with the period of the story. This being my first film, I was focused on putting in my best. The challenge lay in portraying reality. We stuck to earthy tones.”
Hand-woven fabrics were used and power looms were a strict no.
“We incorporated hand stitching, keeping in mind that age. After stitching the clothes, we bundled them up to get the frayed and crushed appearance.”
Besides sourcing garments from second-hand stores, Ramasamy even used a few of her grandmother’s blouses. “In our research, we came across piping work done on blouses worn then, so I took them along to the sets.”
“Bala was open to suggestions and gave me ample freedom,” she added.
Ramasamy has since wrapped up French filmmaker Michel Spinosa’s upcoming film, Mon Espouse, which will be screened at the Berlin Film Festival in 2014. Currently, this mother of one is juggling between two Tamil films, namely Naanthan Siva and Aishwarya Dhanush’s Vai Raja Vai.