Let us begin this piece with a question. How many Indian films have been made on capital punishment? There are only two I can think of, and both are not a direct commentary on death sentence.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Nizhalkkuthu or Shadow Kill was made in 2002. The movie spoke about the guilt of an ageing hangman in the erstwhile princely State of Travancore before Independence.
In 2010, Om Puri-starrer The Hangman described the angst of a man forced into this dreadful profession through hereditary tradition, and his struggle to keep his son out of this sordidness.
It is in this context that SP Jhananathan’s under-production work, Purampokku, looks highly relevant and novel – not only to an issue as sensitive as capital punishment, but also to the times we live in.
If the civil society is advocating the noose for a crime as heinous as rape, it is imperative to remember that sending a man to the gallows does not deter others from committing the same offence. Surveys the world over have concluded this.
Jhananathan’s film will question the consequence of hanging a man or a woman, and although India has been using this form of punishment only in the “rarest of rare cases”, it is well within the realm of possibility that a court can make a mistake and send an innocent man to his death – given the country’s poor policing, humungous backlog of legal cases and deep divides in society (caste, religion and economics).
The movie will also delve into the abysmal conditions in some of India’s prisons, and as the director alleged that even proper records of the number of executions were not being maintained.
Some of the crucial scenes in Purampokku will be set inside a jail: a huge set has been built on the premises of Chennai’s Binny Mills. This will hopefully give a greater authenticity to the film that stars Arya, Vijay Sethupathi and Karthika Nair.
Jhananathan’s debut feature, Iyarkai (Nature), about a triangular love story set on the island of Rameshwaram, won him the National Award for the Best Tamil Movie. He has since then made films like E and Peranmai.