RIP SP Jananathan: Tamil cinema loses its comrade
Director SP Jananathan, known for Iyarkai, Peranmai, and E, breathed his last on Sunday at a private hospital in Chennai; he was 61
Filmmaker SP Jananathan passed away on Sunday at a private hospital in Chennai, where he was admitted on Friday after assistants found him unconscious at his residence. The director, who was 61, reportedly died due to cardiac arrest. He was working on the post-production of his upcoming film, Laabam, starring Vijay Sethupathi and Shruti Haasan, at the time of his demise.
Jananathan won the National Award for his debut film Iyarkai, which was inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky's White Nights. Right from his second film, he became a unique voice in Tamil cinema and unabashedly expressed his leftist ideologies through his work.
“Podhuvudamai arasiyala vida sirandhathu edhumae illa (There is no better ideology than communism),” blatantly puts his protagonist Dhuruvan in Peranamai. Director Balaji Shakthivel, a friend of SP Jananathan, says, “He was keen on making such statements with his films. There have been other filmmakers who dealt with themes of Marxism, but he was very obvious about it. It was a risk certainly, but one he was willing to take. We used to have long discussions about everything. Even a month ago, I wanted to meet him, but he was busy with Laabam.”
Cinematographer NK Ekambaram, who worked with Jananathan in Iyarkai, E, and Purampokku Engira Podhuvudamai, says, “Not just in his films, he followed leftist principles in real life as well. He treated everyone on the sets as an equal and liked to travel with the crew instead of having a car for himself. He was well-read and very knowledgeable. Working with him, I learned immensely about politics and filmmaking. I was supposed to work with him in Peranmai, but I missed the opportunity, which I regret to date. He had plans to make a period project post Laabam and had asked me to be part of it. That’s not going to happen anymore.”
Despite winning the National Award for his directorial debut in 2003, Jananthan took things slow. Arun Vijay, who played a prominent role in Iyarkai, says, “That’s because Jananathan was someone who committed himself only to things that he believed in. He could have made several films after Iyarkai, which has now turned out to be a cult film, but he was not after such success. He would take his time to write his stories. I initially didn’t want to be part of Iyarkai since it was only a cameo, but Jananathan sat me down and explained the importance of the role. The industry will miss him.”