It was Ilaiyaraajas decision

Print edition : July 18, 2008

The men who made it: (From right) The music legend Ilaiyaraaja, the director Ravisubramaniyan and the cinematographer Chezhian. - BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

BEHIND the success of Ellaigalai Vistharitha Ezhuthu Kalaignan are the talent and persuasive skill of Ravisubramaniyan, the director, and Chezhian, the cinematographer. The perfect understanding between the two apparently played a significant role in making the documentary memorable.

Ravisubramaniyan (44) hails from Kumbakonam, close to Thanjavur. He said in an interview to Frontline that he used to write poems, sing, dance, act and perform mimicry while still in school. As a student he was appointed as an artist in the Drama section of All India Radio, Tiruchi. These experiences led this post-graduate in Economics to opt for a full-time career in art, and he made his entry into the visual media in the 1990s.

Ravisubramaniyan received a State government award in 1991 for his collection of poems Oppanai Mugangal. His first documentary was on the Tamil novelist Indira Parthasarathi, followed by those on M. Aranganathan and La.Sa. Ramamirtham, and now Jayakanthan. The documentary on La.Sa. Ramamirtham, though complete, has not yet been released.

Excerpts from the interview: Which was the first documentary you made?

First, I took up Indira Parthasarathi. I applied for a Sahitya Akademi grant. Only a part payment was made. I was able to do it within a time frame. The delay in getting the rest of the promised amount affected me badly. However, I had the satisfaction of doing it well. The documentary won acclaim and also a cash award from a United States-based organisation of Tamils.

You then did a documentary on Ramamirtham. How did it occur to you that you should do one on Jayakanthan?

It was, in fact, a decision by [legendary music composer and lyricist] Ilaiyaraaja. Impressed by my work on Aranganathan, he suggested that Jayakanthan be our next project. At first I hesitated. I told Ilaiyaraaja that a documentary on Jayakanthan had been done by the noted writer Sa. Kandasami. Ilayaraja said we could still do it, maybe in a different way. I agreed. Ilayaraja announced this at a public function in Madurai. Jayakanthan was also on the stage. Ilayaraja announced his decision and turned to Jayakanthan for his approval. After some hesitation, Jayakanthan said, Who will score the music? Will you? Ilayaraja replied, Who else for a film I produce? This was how it came about.

Did Jayakanthan see the script?

No. He didnt. I read again the Jayakanthan Reader before framing the questions to put to him. But I did not go into his stories when I did this work. This was because the targeted audience was mainly the present generation. Most of them would not have read the stories and would not understand anything if the questions pertained to his stories. The question-answer section was to take Jayakanthan to those who did not know him. Our purpose was to generate a healthy discussion. Almost all scenes were taken in natural light and there was no dubbing.

S. Viswanathan
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