If you are a listener of Tamil indie music, you have probably heard about Kaber Vasuki. The indie musician is known for his philosophical, brutally honest lyrics that are designed to penetrate your soul. Kaber Vasuki, the man, is no different. I ask him about his chosen name, Kaber Vasuki, and he shares that he didn’t like the name his parents gave him. “I did not want my name to reflect my gender, religion, or where I am coming from.” Why this specific one though? “Nothing in particular. A lot of people have asked me this, but I tell a different story to each one of them depending on my mood. Siladhu lam en epdi nu theriyadhu, apo thonum pannuvom,” he says, with a chuckle.
The first question I had asked Suhasini Mani Ratnam when meeting her for an interview two years back was, “Why aren’t you directing more?” She had laughed and said it would be a matter of time. And now, two years later, 25 years after her directorial debut, Suhasini has worn the director hat again for Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil Anthology, Putham Pudhu Kaalai. “I began writing short stories in 2009 after taking a course. These were not published but worthy enough to be so. I have kept them to myself, but perhaps OTT is a good place for them.”
In this freewheeling chat, the actor-director talks about her return to filmmaking and what it’s like to work with her own family.
Aishwarya Rajesh is bemused about interacting with the press through a Zoom call. “All of this is new to me,” she says, taking in all our faces peering through the little boxes on screen. This actor, whose Ka Pae Ranasingam has begun streaming on Zee Plex, admits to being a fan of the big screen. “I prefer watching films on the big screen. My mom and I used to catch the early morning shows.” She adds that Ka Pae Ranasingam was made for the theatres. “The film has been ready for release since April, but as we had no idea about when theatres would be allowed to open, we had to opt for a digital release. We believe that if a film is good, it will be acknowledged no matter which platform it releases in.”
Guneet Monga, the woman behind celebrated films such as Gangs of Wasseypur, The Lunchbox, and Masaaan, is a trailblazer. Her production, Period. The End of Sentence, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. In 2018, Variety listed her amid the top 50 women to have created an impact on the global stage.
She is back now with an audio series backed by Audible Suno on sex-education. Titled Jab We Sex, Masti ki Paatshala, the series spans over 14 episodes and looks to demystify sex, one story at a time.
As you revisit Vasanth’s Rhythm, it is tough to imagine that it was made twenty years ago. A sensitive, moving portrait about two people who lose their partners in an accident, Rhythm’s charm is intact. 2020 also marks the completion of 30 years as a filmmaker for Vasanth. I ask him about his evolution as a filmmaker, and he replies, “Have I evolved?” with a laugh. “With age, I notice that I understand the same story differently. Life experiences have opened doors to new perspectives. Human being a evolve aana thaan correct.”
The director of Netflix’s International Original Film department, Srishti Behl Arya, talks to us about building the Indian slate for the streaming giant
Authenticity and Diversity. These two words often pop up in conversation with Srishti Behl Arya, the mind behind Netflix’s original slate in India. “We look for passionate creators. If we are enjoying what we make, we hope our audiences will enjoy them too,” says Shristi. “Storytelling barriers are being broken every day. People don’t want to get stuck with one kind of content.”
This lockdown, there has been a consistent stream of Tamil content in the digital sphere. While most haven’t exactly set our screens on fire, SG Charles’ Lock Up, which began streaming on Zee5 recently, has found praise for its smart premise. “I have always been fascinated with non-linear narratives. Lock Up is a combination of this and linear narrative. One can experiment when it is a small-budget production. I am happy that a few of these experiments worked out,” says the debutant director.
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar is a bundle of energy. She’s visibly active as we connect over a video chat, and this isn’t surprising if you are aware that her activities during the lockdown include helping migrants, collecting support for animals, starting a baking business, and of course, listening to scripts. “I have been busy,” she admits with a laugh. “I have to be useful or I won’t be able to sleep at night. I haven’t been so tired even when I was shooting.”
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They say art reflects life, but I say how art is consumed is also a reflection of our lifestyle. Amazon Prime Video has become an important player in the ever-changing universe of film exhibition—so much so that ‘wait for it to come on Prime’ has become a legit line to use in the context of film releases. “We aim to serve the customers across the length and breadth of this country. India is diverse, and we recognise that. The idea is to make the canvas as wide as we can,” says Vijay Subramaniam, Director and Head, Content, Amazon Prime Video India. Here’s Vijay discussing the nitty-gritty of the streaming universe, and the part Prime plays in it…
Siddharth is visibly kicked about his latest release Sivappu Manjal Pachai (SMP), which he calls his first ‘universal Tamil film’ in a long time. Director Sasi, he says, is one of the few filmmakers who tells middle-class stories authentically. “He is a special filmmaker. I wondered why we hadn’t worked together for so long. We had discussed a script 7-8 years back.” But he is glad that it didn’t happen and agrees it was maybe not meant to. “He never repeats his heroes. So I wouldn’t have gotten this film,” says Siddharth, with a laugh.