Sense of a scene: Kaadhal climax, love in the times of caste
In this week’s column, director Balaji Sakthivel talks in detail about the gut-wrenching climax of Kaadhal
"A lot of producers declined Kaadhal's script because of its hardhitting climax. They believed that the audience would love a film only if it had a happy ending. But I was very firm. Finally, director Shankar trusted the story and came forward to bankroll it.
As most of you know, the climax of the film is inspired from a real story I heard from a co-passenger during a train journey. Aishwarya's husband, who decides to take care of her ex-lover Murugan, is inspired by him. So I wanted the end card to be a tribute to him. I felt that's the right thing to do. I wasn't able to trace his location after the train journey.
Excluding the climax, the rest of the story is fictional. Despite the mixed response of Samurai, my first film, Vikram was impressed by its making and asked me to come up with a new script for him. While I was trying to pen that script, I noticed a school girl and a mechanic talking to each other from the window of my room. Within a few seconds, it hit my mind that they won't end up with each other due to their societal and economic differences. The image of the lovers standing with the bike lingered in mind for more than an hour and it gave me the spark to come up with a new story.
The desire to make a film about lovers separated by casteism was established in me during my days as a youngster in Dindigul. Once when I was walking through the streets of my hometown, I overheard a conversation between a mother and her daughter. The latter asked, "What would you do if I loved a guy from a different community?", and without a second thought, the mother said, "Vetti konnuduven!" This exchange created a deep impact on me and as years rolled by, a lot of lovers like Vasuki and Murugesan faced honour killings by the goons of the dominant caste in each district of Tamil Nadu. These events affected me, but I didn't know back then that I would end up making a film based on that.
I believe the circumstances, surroundings and friends collectively shape a creator. I grew up in a society filled with people from various communities and I felt it is necessary for me to register the social differences I saw, through my films. Every film is a reflection of the director's nature. As they say, "Literature is a reflection of the society."
Despite being hearing impaired, Beethoven composed symphonies which were loved by people; that's the magic of art. It can make a creator transcend the boundaries of nature. I was above forty when I shot Kaadhal, a film based on the love of a high school girl. When I wrote the love portions, I began envisioning Murugan from the point of view of Aishwarya. Years may roll by and the uniforms worn by the teenagers may be different, but the infatuation they go through remains the same. That love is real and the bond is stronger than we generally assume. Even though we diplomatically term it as love, it is actually the entry point to lust and it makes the young adults go to any extent. If I had planned to give the audience a positive climax, I would have made the entire love track glittery with a lot of exaggerations. But my climax was based on a real-life story; so I was very keen that the story be relatable.
The impact of Iranian films and Tamil literature helped me convery a lot of things sybolically to the audience, in the form of visual cues. In the scene where Aishwarya proposes to Murugan, he has a tiffin box in her hands, and when she begins to talk to him, it slowly starts sliding showing that he has fallen for her. And during the intro shot of Bharath, he is shown starring at an auto which has the quote, "Kadalil moozhgiyavan muthu edupaan, Kaadhalil moozhgiyavan pichai edupaan." Though it initially feels like a comic addition, this shot foreshadows his fate. I feel this was inspired from Silapathigaaram, which has lines stating that the flags waved about alerting Kovalan and Kannagi not to enter Madurai.
In Jayamohan's Pinthodarum Nizhalin Kural, a particular character says, "Yen jaadhi enna, avan jaadhi enna? Avanum naanum onna?" This shook me as a youngster, and I even thanked him for being one of the inspirations for the film. Caste is still prevalant among us and people are still curious to know the name of the caste you belong to, even if you refuse. They even start guessing your caste from your name, the way you dress and the deity you worship. When I was a student, it was normal to address a person using the name of his caste. Even though we have come to the cities, caste is still haunting us. That's why I had scenes of the casteist goons coming to Chennai in search of the couple. It would be an injustice to ignore this truth while making a film.
I just want to keep voicing against caste loudly and clearly. Valimayaa valiyuruthren, valiyoda valiyuruthren. Even if someone opposes my views passively, they are the ones who must feel ashamed. I want everyone to be treated equally; I will never stay silent out of fear."
(As told to Navein Darshan)