'Simbu's music in 90ml will be appreciated'
...says Anita Udeep, who is making a directorial comeback with the upcoming Oviya-starrer, a comedy centered on women’s friendship
With the 10-year challenge going viral across social media, I ask Anita Udeep if 90ml can be thought of as her answer to the challenge. After all, it was in 2009 that she made her debut with Kulir 100 degree. She laughs in response, and recounts her journey during this period. "I was new to the industry when I made Kulir 100 degree. I handled everything from script writing to getting the film a release. It was an exhilarating experience, but made me realise that my next film should be one that both the audience and I like." She also realised that the people in the industry were not on the same wavelength as her and they were more interested in making template films. "It made me reassess my goals. Four years later, in 2013, I felt I was ready to make a film on college romance as it had been quite some time since such a film was made. I had finished the pre-production but casting proved to be a stumbling block. I tried to audition with newcomers but it just didn't fit."
Anita had written as many as five scripts by this time, but after this setback, she had to wait for nearly four years till Bigg Boss Tamil Season 1 when she again believed in a script. "Oviya was behaving exactly like one of my characters. After she came out of the show, I pitched the story to her, and she liked it. She felt both the script and her character were realistic and casual."
90ml is a comedy and Anita was particular about it being so. "Tamil cinema treats women as either goddesses or sl***. There are many women who don’t care what society thinks about them, and I wanted to represent this section. There is also a perception that women can't be funny. When girls as a group gather and talk, we do laugh, you know. A male director will not be able to get this because the number of women he interacts with is limited."
Like her debut film, this one is also about friendship. "I think men give a lot more importance to friendship than women do and you can see that reflecting in films too. Post marriage, women get burdened with responsibilities that they hardly have time to think about what they want. 90ml is about about five different middle-class women. Through the course of this film, they help each other out, and talk about their feelings."
Anita has a problem with how women empowerment films are made in Tamil cinema. "These films are usually centred around a woman getting raped and then getting revenge. They ignore the smaller everyday issues that women also face, like disagreement with a boss or an ego issue in a relationship. These are important and need to be talked about," she says. "In 90ml, there is no male bashing and definitely no emphasis on preaching. It is a story of women who through the course of the film shed their conservative outlook. My characters are not liberating society. They are liberating themselves."
The big stumbling block with getting the film made was the supposed lack of interest in heroine-based films. "I was told they wouldn’t do well. Films with two heroines apparently are in developmental hell; so people weren't really enthused about taking this film up. Also, the question of who will actually buy this film was repeated." But she remains positive. "The industry has people with, for want of a better word, an older mindset. With more educated people coming in, I see an increase in professionalism. Audience mindset has also changed. The potential success of 90ml will definitely create a mindset change in the industry as well as in society. We will definitely feel the effect in the next few years."
The conversation moves to the inevitable, as I ask about Simbu, the music director of the film. "I had sung Azhagiya Asura in Whistle, and the songs in Kulir 100 degree were hits. So I thought of doing a promo song for 90ml and approached Simbu with the story," she says. "He told me not to treat it as a festival film and advised me to include songs and make it as a commercial film. He has been in the industry for some time, and if things excite him, he gets super-motivated. Beer Biryani is a kuthu and EDM mix, and this is not a combination you see normally. Similarly, the other songs are also unique. He has even used around thirty violins in the rerecording and worked exclusively on that for three months. Simbu's efforts will be appreciated when you see the film."