Chennai: As much as Tamil audiences root for commercial films, they are open to fresh stories too, says Tamil filmmaker Bharatbala, who has made his upcoming film "Mariyaan" for this reason.
"I was determined to make the film (`Mariyaan`) in Tamil from the start for two simple reasons. Firstly, I believe Tamil audiences are more open to fresh stories despite their weakness for commercial films. Secondly, since my film is based on a true story, I didn`t want to tamper with the setting," Bharatbala said in an interview.
Elucidating with an example, he said: "One of the recent Tamil films that did exceptionally well, boasting a fresh story, was Karthi-starrer `Paruthiveeran`. Even though the film had its share of commercial moments, the audience lapped it up for its portrayal of a story never told before".
"Mariyaan", featuring Dhanush, is a story about human will to survive in extreme conditions.
"The film is an emotional journey of a common man to an unknown place with the hope to come home and lead a better life. It`s based on a newspaper article about three oil workers from India being kidnapped in Sudan," he said.
He says he calls it "emotional" because the story "tests the human will to survive in the most unimaginable conditions".
Bharatbala made a name for himself by producing patriotic videos like "Vande Mataram" and "Jana Gana Mana". He also directed "Jiyo Utho Bado Jeeto", the music video of the official song of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. "Mariyaan" is his first Tamil film. His first film was the critically acclaimed "Hari Om" in English (2004).
Queried why he chose Dhanush, Bharatbala said: "I cast him after I watched his performance in `Aadukalam`, which literally moved me. I believe he agreed to work because of the vast landscape this film offers for him to perform as an actor".
So, has he done justice to his role?
"A few days into the shoot and I was referring to Dhanush as Mariyaan because he had immersed himself into the character by then. Since we shot the film in reverse, it was emotionally and physically draining for him to arrive at the transformation, but he did it," Bharatbala said.
Talking further about Dhanush`s professionalism, the director said: "He took classes for ocean diving. He was required to dive in one breath and go up to 40 to 50 feet underwater. He would jump with the diving suit, go deep, settle down and get rid of the suit. Once he was ready, we would the shoot the scene," he added.
In Tamil, "Mariyaan" refers to a man who never dies, but Bharatbala`s Mariyaan is someone who is adventurous and courageous.
"Mariyaan is like a fisherman who would not throw a net to catch fish, but instead dives deep into the ocean and picks what he wants. He goes out of his way to get what he wants and that`s what makes him adventurous and courageous," he said.
While the film may appear dark, he clarified it will be a beautiful journey.
"Even though it is about the fight for survival, it deals with several other emotions such as love, separation and struggle. The story recounts a beautiful journey about the separation of the protagonist from his loved ones and his struggle to reunite," he added.
It was shot predominantly in the Namib desert and Kanyakumari. It also features Parvathi Menon, Salim Kumar, Appukutty and Jagan in important roles.
"Parvathi plays one of the important roles in the film called Panimalar. I was looking for someone rooted to the south Indian landscape in looks, features and body language. She has a very compelling role to play," Bharatbala said.
He said "Mariyaan" will also venture into uncharted territories.
"A.R. Rahman`s music is embedded into the narrative in such a way that it serves as screenplay, while (French) cinematographer Marc Koninckx will add a different perspective behind the lens. Marc`s work will definitely be new to the grammar of Tamil cinema," he added.
Bharatbala is eagerly awaiting the release of the film in May. It is produced by Venu Ravichandran.