Taking direction by the horns
Cinematographer PG Muthiah who debuts as a director with this week's release Madura Veeran talks to us about the Shanmuga Pandian-starrer
PG Muthiah, who is debuting as a director with Friday's release, Madura Veeran, is better known as the cinematographer of films like Poo, Saguni, Settai and the recently released, Mannar Vagaiyara. "I actually wanted to become an editor," begins Muthiah, who has worked under veteran cinematographers like Rajarathinam, Ravi K Chandran, Shamdat, SR Kathir and Ravi Varman. “But since I wanted to be part of cinema somehow, I took the opportunity to join as an assistant cinematographer.”
On Madura Veeran, he says, “It's a film about Jallikattu and the politics that surrounds it." The film, he says, isn’t another film that's piggybacking on this issue that took the nation by storm. "I had the script ready by mid-2016, well before the protests, and much before the release of Hiphop Tamizha's popular video. When I started the film, there was even a ban on using bulls for filming purposes. But I had an instinct that the ban would be lifted; so even then I made space in the script for scenes showing the sport."
The eventual lifting of the ban, he says, made it all easier. "My story isn’t really about the ban or the resultant protests. So, what transpired didn’t really change my script,” he says. “Incidentally, I had conceived of an episode of the hero doing a small protest in his village. So, when the actual protest happened, I felt it would be wrong to not mention what happened in Marina."
A number of actors apparently backed out of his project owing to the-then ban on the sport. "But when it was lifted, many expressed their interest. By then, of course, I had started the film with Shanmuga Pandian, who I believe to be the perfect choice for this film," says Muthiah. "I needed a hero hailing from Madurai. It was important that he have dark skin and be tall, so he was apt.” The protagonist doesn’t talk much and doesn’t have a love track either. “It's a subtle, mature character."
The film also features Samuthirakani, Vela Ramamoorthy, Mime Gopi and PL Thenappan.