Once the joke was that some writers and directors made movies only for film festivals and awards. Not for the masses. This could not be truer in Tamil Nadu, though this does not happen by design. Helmers and auteurs do not plan this.
Manikandan's Kaakka Muttai is a case in point. It won the Best Children's Movie Prize on Tuesday evening, when the National Awards were announced. And also the Best Child Artists' Award went to Vignesh and Ramesh, child actors featuring in Kaakka Muttai. The director says he is happy about this honour, but will be happier if the film hits the theatres. There is now a plan to release Kaakkaa Muttai in May -- to time it with the summer vacation, when children will be free from the tussle of school and examinations.
Kaakkaa Muttai is a children's movie, all right. It centres on two boys from a Chennai slum who watch a pizza advertisement on television and are so smitten by the Italian dish that they somehow want to taste it. Manikandan hit upon the plot when he took his little son for a pizza.
The theme, like in many Tamil films, is novel. Who could have thought about the craving of two boys for a pizza that they have never eaten? But with virtually unknown actors like Vignesh and Ramesh who play siblings in the movie, Kaakkaa Muttai might have scored critical acclaim at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, but may find it hard to get exhibition outlets in Tamil Nadu or anywhere else in India.Vignesh and Ramesh are actually from the slums whom Manikandan spotted while he went on a photo shoot to a fishing village. Perhaps, for them a pizza or some good food would mean a lot more than the trophies they would soon be presented with.
Bramma's Kutram Kadithal is another movie with a national prize -- adjudged as the Best Tamil Film -- that is yet to find screen space in Chennai or elsewhere. One saw it at the International Film Festival of India at Goa last year. The movie is about the guilt of a teacher who hits a boy in class, and he swoons. Newly married, the teacher and her husband are forced to flee the town. But midway through the journey, she changes her mind, comes back home and meets the mother of the boy. She apologises, and luckily for her, the kid did not faint because of the teacher's slap. He already had a medical condition!
Kutram Kadithal is a powerful indictment of India's archaic education system. But it is also a work about the goodness of human being. The teacher does not run away, but returns to face the consequences.
Will Kaakkaa Muttai and Kutram Kadithal find theatres, now that they have won national recognition?