Tharumaar - A Mumblecore film in Malayalam
Filmmaker Ratheesh Raveendran talks about his second feature which chronicles the behind-the-scenes experiences of a fictional film crew as they rehearse for a new project
Mumblecore is a genre that is more familiar to American moviegoing audiences than Indians. Films from the genre have minimal budgets and non-professional actors, with few lights or available light and location sound used on the set. The acting is mostly improvisational with lots of dialogues.
Mumblecore is yet to catch up in India even though a few films have gotten made in this genre. Some notable examples are The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project and Sulemani Keeda. We are soon going to get one in Malayalam too - at least that's what the makers of Thaarumaar claim. It's a comedy-drama that tells the story of a filmmaker trying to make his second film.
Though the term was coined in the 2000s, the origins of the style can be traced to as far back as the early 60s or 70s, when independent filmmakers like John Cassavetes (Shadows, 1959) and Claudia Weill (Girlfriends, 1978) stayed away from the allure of studio-based filmmaking and opted for an extremely minimalist approach. These days the term is associated mostly with American filmmakers like Noah Baumbach or the Duplass brothers. Mumblecore is also quite similar to the Dogma 95 movement in Danish cinema.
"Tharumaar chronicles the days of a film crew and actors as they engage in the rehearsal process for a few days before the shoot. It's about interpersonal dynamics, relationship conflicts, and how ego and doubts threaten to derail certain situations," says writer-director Ratheesh Ravindran, who drew from elements of his and his actors' personal life experiences for the film's material. Ratheesh made his directorial debut with Pixelia, an independent film which did the rounds in the festival circuit in India and abroad.
Ratheesh shares that Tharumaar would be relatable for not just film professionals and aspiring filmmakers, but everyone else too. "It is essentially about human nature, and how things can get chaotic when a group of people are put together in a confined space. We also address the insecurity of men married to working women. Everyone carries a certain degree of ego which can create a positive or negative impact. Sometimes it becomes a necessary evil. Actors' psychology, in particular, is so complex."
A host of fresh faces populate the film. Ramesh Menon plays the protagonist Syam, the filmmaker in trouble, while Anjana Balaji plays his live-in partner. The rest of the cast features Manjula Mohandas, Arun Suresh, Antony Sanal Thomas, and Akhil Raj aside from established actors Prasant Murali and Suraj Ramakrishnan.
Thaarumaar is the maiden production of Vasanthan Chandrasekhar under his banner TCS Film Productions, in association with creative producer Sharmila Nair of DocArt Productions. Arun Bhaskar handled the camera, Arun Asok captured the location sound, and Imnah Felix worked on the art.
Ratheesh also adds that Thaarumaar is the first Malayalam feature film to be shot on Fujifilm X-T4 Camera, in the native DCI 4K format, using only one Fuji 35mm lens for 99 per cent of the shoot.
"To create a film that is engaging to the audience and sticking to the director's vision and the budget was a truly challenging task," adds Sharmila Nair. The makers are hoping to release Thaarumaar on OTT platforms this April.