Banner:    Cine Range Films
Cast:    Vijith, Shana, Chandra Shekar, Kaadhal Sukumar
Direction:    R. Puthiyavan
Production:    Raj Gajendra
Music:    German Vijay

Raj Kajendra’s `Mann,’ a Tamil film shot entirely in the rustic locales in Puttalam, near Vavuniya, in Sri Lanka, comes as an eye-opener. Because the regressive feudal system of yore is an evil that exists in the island region too. Set in the 1980s at a time when a full-fledged ethnic conflict was imminent, you witness a plethora of greenery and growth in `Mann,’ alongside poverty and prejudice.

“I want people of the world to be aware of the social dissonance extant among Tamils in Sri Lanka. When the world talks of Sri Lankan Tamils as one large, unified group, it is an erroneous conception. The suffering serfs and the callous landlords among the Tamils of the villages are a reality,” says Raj Kajendra, the producer who was in Chennai recently. You catch up with him at the Prasad Lab for inputs about `Mann,’ which will be released in Chennai and Sri Lanka in November. “It has already been premiered in Germany, U.K. and Switzerland,” informs C. J. Rajkumar, the cinematographer of `Mann,’ who had earlier worked in films such as `Ayesha,’ a short film, and Janaki Viswanathan’s feature, `Kanavu Meippada Vaendum.’

Tones in focus

“I wanted to make the countryside as green and natural as possible. So I went for the neutral tone,” says Rajkumar about his work in `Mann.’ Later in the narration Rajkumar contrasts it with the strife-ridden island of the present, with the use of yellow. “The idea is to show an incensed milieu. And more than planning where lighting was needed, I concentrated on where it wasn’t,” he explains.

The makers chose Puttalam as their location because Kanakarayankulam, the village where the story actually unfolds, is not conducive for film shootings these days. “As many as eight Sri Lankan teenagers play prominent roles in `Mann.’ Yet today Sri Lanka has no film industry. In fact `Mann’ is the first Tamil film to be made entirely there after a gap of about two decades. So Pudhiyavan, the director, conducted a workshop for them for nearly a month,” says Rajkumar.

Kajendra is a British Asian whose love for the visual medium is immense. He was associated with the internationally acclaimed Sinhalese film, `August Sun’ (`Ira Madiyamma’), directed by Prasanna Vithanage. Instrumental in founding Cine Sangham, a society for South Indian films in England, Kajendra’s interest lies in making `independent’ films, “where the work would neither be too `arty’ nor completely commercial,” he smiles and adds, “When Bollywood is making inroads into the world market in a big way it’s time the Tamil industry pulls up its socks and concentrates on meaningful cinema.”

Besides being a production and marketing person, Raj Kajendra is a writer too — `Mann’s screenplay is his. “I had earlier done the screenplay for a culture-conflict tale, `Kanavugal Nejamaanaal,’ shot in the U.K. Pudhiyavan’s story impressed me and I decided to produce it. At the superficial level it is calf love, romance and revenge we are talking about, but beneath it are the rumblings of discrimination between the haves and have nots and the unsaid fear of civil crisis. And having lived on the island in my school days, I thought I could do the scripting. Vagai Chandrashekar and `Kadhal’ Sukumar, actors from the Tamil film industry, have done a wonderful job. We also have the ace Suresh Urs as editor of `Mann,”‘ smiles Kajendra.

Raj Kajendra is the only one in the family who is in films. “The lone black sheep,” he laughs aloud.

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