Tamil film Kaaka Muttai was completed in September, 2014, but it had to wait till June 5, 2015 to receive a theatrical release. Meanwhile it was selected for two prestigious honours at the 62nd National Film Awards. It’s a film that puts on display the amazing class difference we witness everyday in India. M Manikandan, the director, pours his heart out about the idea, problems he faced in life and Dhanush, the producer of the film.Many are calling Kaaka Muttai the Indian version of Slumdog Millionaire. Was it intended?
There was no intention to make this film as Slumdog Millionaire. But after completion, I gave my script for feedback to my friends who said that the script reminds them of Slumdog Millionaire. The desire of slum kids may be the factor which correlates both the films, but I am sure that you’ll understand the differences between the two films when you watch Kaaka Muttai.
M Manikandan, the director of Kaaka Muttai.
Why such a strange title (Kaaka Muttai means Crow's Egg in Tamil)?
Some of us have a subconsciously inherited habit of judging others with their skin tone, appearance and we don’t even consider their moral values. I too had some experience of those judgements. We don't even leave birds. We pay more attention to pigeons, parrots but not to the crows, may be because they’re black and not good looking. In reality, there’s no awkwardness in the crow’s features and it’s a beautiful gift of the nature. This factor was one reason for my title selection. Another reason was that during a conversation with the slum kids, they said that they will consume crow's egg to build their stamina and strength. This sounded very interesting to me.
My son is very much eager to eat pizza, not because he loved the taste but because of the advertisements which create a sense of desire. At a juncture I had a question in my mind, what if this desire comes to a boy who cannot afford pizza? I also think a lot about the notion of globalisation in our country, so I decided to use the script as a medium to express my ideas.
Kaaka Muttai is about two slum kids who want to taste a pizza.
How difficult was it to make these kids act?
I have seen some films in which the performances of child artists are either overwhelmed with the influence of actions expressed by the director, or are diluted with artificial flavor. So, I was very keen on ignoring this in my movie. I decided to pick up two real slum kids to act in my movie. They have good acting sense but the problem was their camera shyness. We trained them for two months in order to improvise their skills. Added advantage was that I was also the cinematographer, so I used two cameras to track their performances. This ended the problem of taking multiple shots from different angles for the same scene. It eased the kids from the burden of retakes.
Yes, I have been judged by my clothes and appearance at several occasions. I need to showcase my work to people to get respect. Even if a person is earning well and living a satisfactory life, he or she needs to have a certain kind of appearance, otherwise the world is not ready to bless him or her with the same kind of respect that it would give to a so-called better looking person.
Kaaka Muttai won two awards at the 62nd National Award ceremony.
Your film is very relevant in today’s world as it shows how we are getting affected by the media and capitalism. Wasn’t it tough to attempt a film on such a topic when you could have easily made a regular entertainer?
We are all affected by the media and capitalism. Interestingly, we don’t have any escape route. Even when I mocked the media in my film, I am dependent on it to promote my film. But, when it comes to cinema, we have a platform to express all these things and I don’t have much interest in doing a regular entertainer.
How did you get support from Dhanush?
One day, Mr Vetrimaran called me and asked about my current assignments, I explained to him the essence of Kakka Muttai. He immediately agreed to produce the film. Some days later, I got a call from him, he asked me to travel to Delhi to meet Dhanush. I prepared a presentation to showcase the highlights of my script, but the meeting didn't go for even 30 minutes. Dhanush said that he has already read the script and asked me to start the project as soon as possible. This is how it began.
No, I am making movies that I had in my mind. But, I am very much conscious that my film should also make profit for the producers.
Watch: Kaaka Muttai Trailer
Is life changing after Kaaka Muttai? One of the bigger Hindi film producers, Karan Johar, has also praised your film.
Of course, I am very happy about the praise from Karan Johar. With a single tweet from him, Kaakka Muttai has reached many boundaries. I need to wait to know whether my life changes or not (smiles).
What are your future projects?
I have finished my next movie titled Kuttramae Thandanai which means crime itself is punishment. It’s a thriller.
(Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/ @nawabjha)
Read:Kaaka Muttai is a small film with a big heart