Bharath Mohan: Selvaraghavan’s female characters inspire me
The director of last week’s web release, Igloo, talks about his inspirations while stressing on the importance of writing strong women in films
Filmmaker Bharath Mohan, who made his debut with the heartwarming Igloo that was released last week on Zee5, is a self-confessed fan of Mani Ratnam and Selvaraghavan. It’s evident from his style of filmmaking. "All the characters of Mani sir and Selva sir are strong and sensible, but they are also relatable to the masses. When I began writing the script five years ago, these were the only guidelines for me," says the filmmaker, who initially hoped to get a theatrical release. "I did a pilot version of the film to approach producers and Amzath (Khan) played the lead in that one too, but the project got delayed. Amzath took things on his hands and got me the opportunity to make it as a web release."
While some filmmakers look to make their debuts with outlandish ideas, Bharath has done it with a simple, almost predictable love story. "I was particular that I make my debut with this story." He talks about his father succumbing to cancer and how it inspired him to write the film. "I saw how my mother took care of him during his fight against cancer. Seeing that in the family made me feel the pain and trauma cancer fighters face each day. For the pregnancy portion, I did some research to check about cancer patients birthing children."
One of the most interesting parts of the film is the realistic portrayal of the mood swings experienced by cancer patients. "Writing those scenes alone took me three months," says Bharath, "Cancer patients are irritable, as they endure a lot of physical suffering. A wrong word is enough to enrage them or break them. I wanted this entire episode to be flawless."
I also liked how the relationship between a hot-headed guy and a headstrong girl was depicted. He feels that half the job is done when you create strong women. "Shiva's character is a reflection of my own; so that didn't take me long. Ramya's character was more delicate. I was careful while structuring it. Andha ponnu kannula paridhabamo irakkamo irukka koodadhu. That was what I liked when I picked Anju Kurian. Selva sir's female characters were my benchmark. He gives them screen time, and he always makes them strong-willed."
There’s some depiction of intimacy in this film, and I ask if he would have done it the same way, had this film secured a theatrical release. "I would have added two more kiss scenes, but only after making sure the scene absolutely merits it. For instance, if a husband kisses his wife while on a busy road like in the Igloo scene, it becomes an unforgettable experience for her, even though she feels embarrassed. Highly intimate partners make for the best love stories."
There’s a police station scene in the film that has an inspector wearing a lungi. "That's how some cops are in reality," says Bharath. "The real cops talk casually, and listen to music as they go on rounds. But namba padathula ACP-ay arms kaatitu erangiduvaaru accused-a pidikka. It’s only when people see real policemen do they understand their practical difficulties." He reveals that he is currently penning a script along those lines; it’s a thriller based on a couple who go on a killing spree. Before that though, he is set to begin working on a romantic comedy titled Tom & Jerry, which he says will likely feature Ashok Selvan in the lead.
Bharath has named a highly annoying character, Appala Reddy, in Igloo. "It's the name of the producer of my first film as an AD (laughs). When I was thinking for a catchy name for the character, this came to my mind."
Though it is often said that child artistes are hard to work with, Bharath says it was a breeze to work with the twins, Anikha and Arohi. "They are extremely talented and I didn't have to give them cues. They even improvised. For instance, the entire introduction sequence was shot in a single take. You just need to be sweet with the. Finding the right children is a harder ask. At one point, I almost considered rewriting the script with just a single girl."
He elaborates on his method of extracting strong performances. “I always ask them to underplay. After a couple of days, they will begin getting into the skin of the character and won't need my guidance any more." He says his work will always bear the stamp of films released during the early 2000s. "Ghilli, Dhool, 7G Rainbow Colony, Kaakha Kaakha, Thiruda Thirudi… These were all films from different genres, and yet, all of them became super hits. I think it was the golden period of Tamil cinema. It's disheartening to see the reduced runtime and lifespan of films in recent times."