Madhumitha made her debut as a director in Vallamai Tharayo starring Parthiban and Chaya Singh. The film was a commercial success. And She went on to win the Tamil Nadu state award for it.
Vallamai Tharayo was a woman-centric film on marital problems, her second film, Kola Kolaya Mundhirikka is released today May 21 is a mega comedy package written by Crazy Mohan, who has written memorable movies like Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Panchathantiram, Avvai Shanmughi, Thenali, Pammal K Sambandam, Sathi Leelavathi and Magalir Mattum to name a few.
Click here to watch Kola Kolaya Mundrika Team Interview
Interview with Madhumitha.Excerpts:
How did you get into films? Were you passionate about films even when you were young?
I was raised in Indonesia and did my under graduation in Singapore in multimedia. One of my short films as a student won an award from the BBC. Also, I won a couple of awards for my short films from the Singapore government. My university recommended my name to pursue higher education in the US. So, I went to do my masters at the New York Film Academy. That was how films happened.
How much did the course in the US fine tune your idea about film making?
I don’t think it fine-tuned me. The course was what shaped me as a film-maker. Till then I had only watched Tamil films and was exposed to Hollywood and world cinema and even films by Satyajit Ray and Akira Kurasowa. I would say the way I think on cinema was shaped by my years in the US. I learnt to watch films as a student of cinema and a film maker.
I worked with the crew of Pirates of the Caribbean 3 as an intern. And yes, I did meet Johnny Depp.
How did your initiation to Tamil films happen?
I was quite sure that I was going to make only Tamil films. Maybe because of my father who made sure that we never lost touch with our roots. So, although I got a job as a creative director at Universal Studios, I decided to return to India.
I was in for a shock initially as the way things are done here are quite different. What I was exposed to was a meticulous, professional kind of film making but what I saw here at the various sets was chaos. Later I saw a method to the madness; they knew what they were doing.
I then met Gautham Menon and showed a short film I made in the US on adoption. The film had gone to some 21 film festivals. That was my ticket to his crew. I got a chance to join him as an assistant in the film Pachaikili Muthucharam. Unfortunately, I worked only in one schedule as there was a delay in the shooting and I had to start some of my ad films.
Did you face any difficulty because you were a woman?
That is one difference I found here. In the US, nobody is bothered whether you are a male or a female film maker. Initially I was angry and upset when people treated me without respect. Only if you prove yourself, you are respected here. For men, respect is given automatically. For a woman, you have to earn it.
It is more challenging for a woman director to approach an actor and make him understand that you can do it. When people introduce me as a woman director, I tell them, ‘why do you say woman-director? Isn’t just director enough? They don’t say man-director. Similarly, they ask me, why do women make women centric films? I reply with a question of my own saying that there are hundreds of male directors here. Do you ask them why they make hero-oriented films?’
Yes, it is a tough world out there for a woman. I am not unhappy about the hurdles.
Why did your parents decide to produce your first film?
After the script was ready, we approached a few actors. The response from them was like, have two fight sequences, have two kuthu songs, reduce the importance to the heroine and increase our importance.
After the meetings, I understood it was not easy to make the film in a patriarchal society. I also understood it was not going to be easy to get producers. That was how my parents decided to produce the film. So, I didn’t have to make any compromises.
I am happy to say that the film ran for a 100 days, and the producers made some profit and I also won a state award. We have been to seven film festivals. Overall, it was a satisfying experience. After all, Vallamay Tharayo is my first baby, it will always be special.
What is your second film Kola Kolaya Mundhirikka about?
I made people cry with my first film. So, I decided I was going to make them laugh with the second one. Yes, it is a full length comedy written by Crazy Mohan sir. It is the exact opposite of Vallamay Tharayo. I didn’t want people to say that because I am a woman, I would only make films that make people cry.
It is a typical Crazy Mohan film. It is about a diamond that got lost in the 80s. It is hidden by a wealthy man in a chair but to fool the thieves, he sends various chairs to different places.
Krish (Karthik Kumar) and Veni (Shikha) who are petty thieves start working with each other. There are three other villains who are still after the diamond. Then, there is an inspector who is more like Inspector Clousseau (of the Pink Panther series) played by Jayaram. They go from one place to another in search of the chairs. So, the film is all about the chase and non-stop laughs.
How was it making a non-stop fast paced comedy which is totally different from your first film?
It was very challenging. Comedy is not easy. I thought it was easy at first but after I shot for a week, my editor-cum-husband Vijay and I watched it and found that there was something missing. The comedy was not working. I then realised that like Vallamay Tharayo, I was using a lot of close ups which will not work in a comedy. Comedy is all about action and reaction. Once we realised this and understood what works for Crazy Mohan sir’s comedy, it was easy to shoot the film.
Was it because of the theatre group Evam which Karthik runs, that you chose him?
We wanted an actor who doesn’t have an image because audience won’t accept a popular hero as a comedian. We conducted auditions but were not satisfied.
I called Karthik and asked him whether they had anybody in Evam who could do the role. The sub text was, will you audition for me? I didn’t want to embarrass him by asking that. But he said that he would love to do a Crazy Mohan sir film. It was really nice of him to say so. He blew us away in the audition.
What does Kola Kolaya Mundhirikka mean?
Kola kolaya Mundhirikka, naraye naraye chutti vaa, kollayadichavan enge irukkan, enge irukkan, kandu pidi, kandu pidi… is a game children play. They sit in a circle and one catcher runs around while those who sit sing the song. A similar game is played by the characters in this film.
How do you feel waiting for the audience reaction?
I am quite confident that it is a good product and people will laugh watching the film.