My mother was moved to tears by Diya: Vijay
The director believes that his latest film, Diya — heavily criticised for being anti-abortion — is misunderstood
Director Vijay is quite aware that his Diya/Kanam has released to mixed reviews, with many problematising the apparent demonising of abortions. "I sincerely respect everyone's views. But many women told me they were deeply moved by my film,” Vijay says, as he takes questions about his latest film, including its meaning and the controversy around its title. Excepts from a conversation with the director:
Do you agree Diya is an anti-abortion film?
Who said that? I’m in no way trying to advocate whether it is right or wrong. I think cinema can change the perception of society, and that’s why I chose a subject like this. The story seemed interesting, and I just went with the flow.
What prompted you to focus on the loss of an unborn child?
I wanted to communicate the longing of an unborn child for her mother's love. It felt like a strong emotional story. As a writer, it was natural that I was drawn to the drama of it all. My characters spoke with me every day. Do you know that in India, 56 per cent of all abortions are unsafe? In light of this, I remember one guy coming up to me after screening and saying, “Sir, I’ll never make such a mistake before marriage.” I was shocked and surprised at the same time. This is the impact I am talking about.
It’s designed to make women guilty of elective abortions, is it not?
No, that wasn't my objective at all. I have to keep drawing your attention to how women have reacted. Many - in particular, mothers – are able to really connect with the story. My mother, for instance, saw the film, and was in tears. She said it reminded her of her past. As a filmmaker, I am quite emotional, and some of my characteristics naturally rub on to my creations. You see how the protagonist, Thulasi, behaves in the film. That’s partly how I think and act.
At the end, you say that abortions stopped many children who could have turned out to be Indira Gandhi or Kalpana Chawla. What if they had turned out to be bad people instead?
We can keep discussing such hypothetical situations forever.
Moving on… Why did you change the original title, Karu?
I had registered the title in 2013, and narrated the story to Lyca Productions in 2015. They were keen to produce this film. But after the first look was revealed, someone claimed the title was his. We even won a case in the High Court. But he appealed to the Supreme Court after the final date of release was announced. We changed the name to Diya because we didn’t want to postpone release. I could have fought, but didn't want to. Court procedures take some weeks, and I was particular that we get the film released as announced. The production firm wanted me to file a defamation case against him, but it’s okay. I’m happy to let it slide.
My next film, Lakshmi, is a celebration of dance. The story is about the relationship of a dance master (Prabhudheva), and his student, who's like his daughter.
The lead characters in most of your films, including Deiva Thirumagal, Devi(l) to Diya, are named Krishna.
Even for my upcoming film, Lakshmi, I've named Prabhudheva's character Krishna. If it’s a lucky charm, so be it.
You have also introduced quite a few child artistes like Sara Arjun (Saivam) and Veronica (Diya).
Lakshmi, again, has another incredible talent -- Ditya Bhande. You'll be amazed by her. In fact, the film has as any as 10 child actors. I find it easy to work with them. You don't have to explain much. They give exactly what’s asked of them. For instance, Sara doesn't like to see me upset or dull. She goes out of her way to present a scene to make me happy. "Maama, don't feel bad. I'll try again," she would say. I’ve learned a lot working with children.
How do you deal with criticism?
I enjoy the process of filmmaking, and see each film as a learning experience. There are some who say Madrasapattinam is a bad film. Just because they say it is bad doesn’t make it so. There are many who like it. The same goes for Thandavam, Thalaiva, Diya... I am not saying I've only directed good films. It all depends on your perspective. I am mature enough to handle criticism, and take it with a pinch of salt.