The women of Putham Pudhu Kaalai: Kalyani Priyadarshan, Andrea Jeremiah, Ritu Varma on Amazon's first Tamil anthology
Ahead of the release of Putham Pudhu Kaalai, actresses Kalyani Priyadarshan, Andrea Jeremiah, and Ritu Varma talk about their respective short films, working with seasoned filmmakers, and shooting during the coronavirus lockdown.
After acquiring films from different languages across India, Amazon Prime Video has finally moved to the regional scene to produce original content. Completely shot and edited during the lockdown, the upcoming offering on the platform is Putham Pudhu Kaalai, an anthology that packs in films from five prominent directors from the Tamil film industry.
The film, which marks Amazon Prime Video's first Indian anthology feature, and drops on Friday, has an ensemble star cast consisting of many well-known names.
In this exclusive interview, Ritu Varma, Andrea Jeremiah, Kalidas Jayaram, and Kalyani Priyadarshan talk about the film and their shooting experience during the lockdown.
Priyadarshan said she enjoyed working with the father-son pair of Jayaram and Kalidas Jayaram in filmmaker Sudha Kongara’s Ilamai Idho Idho. “I remember going to Kalidas Jayaram’s two-year-old birthday party, that’s how long I have known him. We all grew up in Chennai but for a long time, we hadn’t really been in contact. So it was actually very nice to see him after such a long time and work together. Despite being a short film, this was very complicated because we had song sequences with choreography, and we couldn’t do it on set because we had a maximum of five people on the set – it was a rule. So we had the dance master come over to our house and teach us. So Kaalidas used to interact with my mom a lot, speaking about all the olden stories," Priyadarshan tells Firstpost.
She showers lavish praise on veteran actor Jayaram, who plays a pivotal role in the segment. "Jayaram sir is one of my mom’s favourite people, and they have 100 stories about each other. Jayaram sir is one of the funniest people you will actually meet, and you will see his real self in this short film,” she says. Kalyani adds that she was in awe of his charm, and had a great time listening to stories that even her mom wouldn’t tell her," says Priyadarshan.
Kongara’s films have been raw and rustic so far, but Ilamai Idho Idho seems to take a new path and venture into bright, feel-good areas. Priyadarshan talks about the changeover from the director and the experience of shooting during the lockdown, saying, “As this was all done during the COVID-19 lockdown, we finished most of our discussions over the phone. Sudha is someone who focuses a lot on her actors, as she needs a lot from her actors. It is very different from what she has done before, but I can tell that it comes from the same filmmaker. I felt that the storytelling style comes from somebody who has worked so closely with Mani (Ratnam) sir. It is real but there is a sense of romanticism and happiness in it.”
While it is Priyadarshan’s first time working with the director, Kalidas, on the other hand, has already completed a film with Kongara for Netflix, titled Paava Kadhaigal. When the offer came to him again, he jumped on board immediately. “A filmmaker of such a big scale like Sudha Kongara ma'am could have cast anybody, but she came back to me, which is a big thing for a beginner like me. The added bonus was that my dad was also acting in it,” he says.
Ilamai Idho Idho is a 30-minute short film, but it has four songs composed by GV Prakash Kumar. Kalidas speaks about the USP of the film, saying, “I had many doubts on how it was going to work out. But once I got to know what Sudha ma'am had in mind and how she was going to execute all this, it was very clear. Personally, I am a big fan of GV Prakash’s music. I have gone to the theatre, whistled and danced to his songs in the theatre. It’s a personal connection to act to his music. The songs that he has composed are worth feature films. You will feel that they could have been longer.”
Cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Rajiv Menon’s Reunion stars Andrea Jeremiah, Leela Samson, and Sikkhil Gurucharan in lead roles. Jeremiah, who is back to Tamil films after her impressive performance in Vada Chennai, says her role is in complete contrast to the Vetrimaaran directorial. "To be honest, my first reaction was to jump at it. Three months of sitting at home and not working, and I would have done anything to be back on the sets. I had worked with Rajiv many years ago when I first started modelling, so I have that comfort level with him," says Jeremiah about venturing into OTT.
Shooting at the time of a pandemic indeed involves a certain level of risk, with all the precautionary measures to be taken at all times. However, Jeremiah personally has been on the other side of the fence. “We all have to be cautious, but life has to go on. We were very strict with our rules – the number of people on set were at a bare minimum, everyone except the actors wore masks, and we shot without any air-conditioning. Nobody fell ill, and it was a successful experiment," she said.
Being an anthology, there is indeed a very short span of time that an actor gets to prepare and perform, with each film having a runtime of only 30 minutes. Speaking about the preparatory experience, Jeremiah says, “This is the first anthology that I have worked on. But to be fair, I treated it just like any other film. Rajiv and I had a lot of discussions about the character.
In a feature film, you have the luxury of easing into a role, but here, there’s hardly any time because the entire film has to be wrapped up in three days. Your game has to start from day one.
It was a short and sweet experience. I don’t have much knowledge about the other films, but the trailer was fantastic. I can’t wait to watch Sudha Kongara’s film, the cast is just phenomenal.”
Gautham Menon's segment is titled Avalum Naanum, a film starring veteran actor MS Bhaskar and Ritu Varma. The project marks Varma's second collaboration with Gautham after the long-delayed Dhruva Natchathiram. "Dhruva Natchathiram was supposed to be my debut in Tamil, but it didn’t happen. I had developed a good rapport with Gautham Menon during the shoot, and when he sent me the script of this film, I just loved it. I do enjoy working with him, and when I got to know of the rest of the names such as MS Bhaskar, PC Sreeram, and the others, there was no reason to say no," says Varma.
Although Varma is busy with multiple projects in the Telugu film industry, she says she does not want to be typecast and immediately gave her nod to the film after Gautham offered the role. "Right now, my focus is on feature films as I am working simultaneously on multiple projects in the Telugu industry. But when I look at such a project with such a director, and the exposure that comes from Amazon Prime, it is something worth the effort. I am also lucky to get such projects, and don’t want to be limited to a certain type of films," says Varma.
Gautham’s story focuses on the relationship between a grandfather (Bhaskar) and his granddaughter. Speaking about the experience of working with the veteran, Varma says “Bhaskar sir gets so enthusiastic for every shot, the kind of dedication that he brings is simply superb. Throughout the shoot, he used to suggest a lot of things to Gautham Menon sir and ask him so many questions. He has just killed it in this film. He even cries without glycerin, and I don’t know how he does it.”
In addition to these three films, there are two more to round off the five-part anthology. While director Suhasini Maniratnam’s story titled Coffee, Anyone? is based on the generation gap and familial relationships, Karthik Subbaraj's Miracle narrates a real-life theft that took place in actor Bobby Simha’s office.
Putham Pudhu Kaalai will stream on Amazon Prime Video India from Friday.
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