National awards applaud film on auto-rickshaw driver’s story

  • KV Lakshmana, Hindustan Times, Chennai
  • Updated: Mar 28, 2016 20:04 IST
A still from the national-award winning film Visaranai. (Nikkilcinema)

What began as a diary recording of a victim of police atrocities in Andhra Pradesh eventually turned into an award winning national film by director Vetrimaran. His film, Visaranai, based on a novel by an auto rickshaw driver M Chandrakumar — popularly known as Auto Chandran — of Coimbatore, bagged three national awards — for best regional film, best supporting actor and best editing — on Monday.

The diaries of Auto Chandran, which he later penned down as one of his six novels — Lock Up — was picked up by Vetrimaran and turned into a hard-hitting film on human rights that won an award at International Film Festival at Venice.

The director himself was modest in his acceptance of the award, saying, “I am happy”. He added that all he wanted to do was make a good film. “I welcome the award and feel very happy for everyone who has contributed to it, but I do not make films for awards. Awards are not the only yardstick of quality of a film.”

Read: Visaaranai review: Vetrimaaran shows realism at its harshest best

Vetrimaran has chosen another novel by a young journalist turned researcher from Delhi, Kota Neelima, for another film on farmers’ suicide. He had picked up the novel at an airport, liked its theme and subject, and pursued the author for the rights to make a movie on it.

The author of the original novel Lock Up, Auto Chandran was extremely elated that he had contributed to the award-winning film.

M Chandrakumar, Coimbatore’s 53-year-old auto-rickshaw driver published ‘Lock Up’ in 2006. (HT photo)

“We knew that it would win an award, as other than technical excellence, in all aspects of film making and powerful storytelling, the subject matter of the film was appreciated by people,” Auto Chandran told Hindustan Times over phone from Coimbatore.

Vetrimaran earned praise from superstar Rajinikanth. Congratulating Ilayaraja, Rajinikanth said it was a great honour for Tamil cinema. “I wholeheartedly congratulate the national award winners, including Ilayaraja. They have made us proud.”

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