‘Kaaka Muttai’ made me better director, father: Manikandan

Chennai, June 1 (IANS) Filmmaker M. Manikandan says directing the forthcoming Tamil children’s drama “Kaaka Muttai” was extremely challenging, but the experience of working with children has made him a better director and father.

“Working with children was very challenging. More than working, it is the process of making them act that’s tough. I like scenes in my movie to be very realistic but it was a struggle to make them perform. By the end of the first week, I almost gave up on the project,” Manikandan told IANS.

But he soon realised the struggle was worth it.

“If you can work with children and succeed in the process, then working with any actor becomes easy. This experience not only made me a better director but also made me be a better father to my son,” he said.

The film, about two slum children’s desire to taste a pizza, is releasing in cinemas on Friday. It was an international festival circuit favourite and had its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and subsequently got screened at film galas in Rome and Dubai.

Manikandan believes the film’s release will change the perspective audiences have about festival films.

“The general perception about movies that go to various film festivals is not very encouraging. People believe such films are not eligible for theatrical viewing. I’m very confident that my film will change that perception,” he said.

It was Manikandan’s son’s longing for pizza that inspired him to make this film.

“What got me thinking was why children craved for pizza, but not for fruits or even sweets. I wondered how children from low income background could afford something as expensive. What if kids in the slum who work for daily wages wanted to taste a pizza? What would they do to satisfy their urge? This inspired me to write this story,” he added.

National Award winning filmmaker Vetrimaaran agreed to produce the film after being impressed with what he heard.

“He had watched my short film ‘Wind’ and wanted to work with me. I narrated a few lines of ‘Kaaka Muttai’, and he immediately agreed to produce it. A month later, we approached Dhanush for financial support. He took a day to listen to the story, read the script and finally agreed to be part of the project,” he said.

As soon as the shoot was completed, Fox Star Studios came on board and agreed to market and present the film. “When Dhanush and Fox came on board, the film had become bigger and it got us lot of attention. It helped us to market the film quite well,” he added.

Right from the beginning, the team had plans to send their film to festivals across the globe.

“We were prepared to send our film to several festivals, despite knowing it will delay our theatrical release. Even for the world premiere, we had to wait for four months. We had also planned for release in cinemas a couple of months before the National Awards, but we eventually decided to wait and it paid off,” he said.

“Kaaka Muttai” won two National Awards for Best Children’s Film and Best Child Actors for Ramesh and Vignesh, who had also bagged awards for the performance at Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

By taking it to international festivals, particularly after its premiere in Toronto, the film has already made Rs.60 lakh through sale of its rights in Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

If that’s the case, why do most Tamil cinema producers don’t even think of sending their films to festivals?

“Most of our films are made from money borrowed from financiers. The interest on such loans is very high. If a producer has to wait for ten months for a film’s release, imagine the amount he’ll be paying as interest. Nobody can afford wasting so much money,” he added.

The film also features Aishwarya Rajesh in an important role, while actor Simbu has played a cameo.

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