Natpe Thunai: To Hockey, with love
Director Parthiban Desingu talks about his debut film Natpe Thunai, starring Hiphop Tamizha Aadhi and Karu Palaniappan
Parthiban Desingu, the director of Natpe Thunai, the Hiphop Tamizha Aadhi-starrer which hits theatres tomorrow, thanks Pondicherry at the outset. "For this film to have shaped up this way, I have to thank my city. I am an ordinary guy, who studied in the quintessential Pondicherry school that was Petit Seminaire. I played a lot of hockey then. After I got transferred to a new school, I stopped playing the game out of respect for my parents wishes. But my love for hockey never diminished, and Natpe Thunai is my tribute to the sport," he says about the sports film which is set in Pondicherry, Tharangambadi and Karaikkal.
An assistant to director Thirukumaran for Maan Karate, Parthiban started writing his script while he was travelling for that film's multiple shoot schedules. By the time he finished Remo (he had one more AD credit to his name in the form of Gethu between Maan Karate and Remo), the script was ready. "I wanted an actor who was socially conscious. It was then that we chanced upon Takkaru Takkaru song, and I decided that I wanted Aadhi as my protagonist." The producers who initially listened to Parthiban's script, liked it but were hesitant to cast Aadhi. The director remained firm, however, and his persistence paid off. "The night that Meesaya Murukku was released, Aadhi called me and said that he was now a successful hero and we could start this project as soon as I was ready. I really liked his honesty and felt validated."
It was Aadhi who suggested Sundar C as the producer. "I narrated the script for 2.5 hours. He (Sundar C) had a poker face throughout. But at the end, to my relief, he said yes."
Given that Chak De India is the most prominent hockey film in the mainstream, I ask if he has watched it. "Yes, I have. After I finished writing and filming, I watched it to ensure we didn't repeat any scenes lest we be accused of plagiarism."
While Aadhi is the hero, the director points out three more of the cast to watch out for. "Karu Palaniappan sir's role is as important as Aadhi's. Harish Uthaman is the backbone of the story. His character, silent Shanmugam, is equal parts Gandhi and Netaji. And Anagha is not just the heroine, but also a hockey player. She got injured quite a bit whilst shooting but that only goes to show her commitment to the output. You will love her character."
Parthiban believes this is an important story that needed to be told. "Between 1948-56, India won gold in hockey at every Olympics meet, and there was an important contribution by a Tamilian in that. In Chennai, if you happen to visit the ICF and Egmore grounds, you will chance upon hockey lovers and former players talking about the sport lovingly." He recounts one particular story that has passed into legend. "Every year an England team used to play a ceremonial match in Chennai, and for the first five minutes they would give the ball to one player and try to get it from him. Not once could they succeed. This man, Peter, is from St Thomas Mount and he was a posthumous Arjuna awardee. That is just an example of how talented players are here."
He is all praise for the government's schemes centred around hockey and its development. "The game's popularity is on the rise. All I can say is, if thanks to Natpe Thunai, a new child picks up the sport, I will be content."