Karthik Swaminathan: Making of Mughizh was a magical journey
Filmmaker Karthik Swaminathan discusses his bittersweet family drama, Mughizh
Vijay Sethupathi may have appeared in over half a dozen films this year, ranging from a big-ticket actioner like Master to a lecture on communism that Laabam was. However, none of his films stands out the way his latest outing Mughizh does. Not only did the family film come across as a breath of fresh air in the actor’s ever-growing filmography, but releasing a 60-minute film in theatres is a move unheard of in Tamil cinema. Directed by Karthik Swaminathan, Mughizh is a family drama doubling up as a coming-of-age story. “Do you know what Mughizh means?” Karthik asked me during our Zoom interaction. “We believe that a flower starts emitting fragrance after it blossoms completely but in reality, the bud begins to give a smell right in its nascency. Mughizh stands for the birth of a fragrance,” he expounds, drawing an analogy between the blossoming of a flower and the emotional journey of the film’s protagonist, the young Kavya, played by Shreeja Vijay Sethupathi.
The film is a bittersweet take on a family coming to terms with a tragedy that left the child the most devastated of all. “I wanted to tell a story about how love helps overcome grief, and I was fascinated with the idea of making a film about a family. Everything fell into place, and Vijay Sethupathi came on board to produce and act,” says Karthik, who initially set out to make a short film with the concept. “As we were shooting, I felt the story and characters needed the time to breathe and grow. For instance, during one of the earliest days of shoot, I envisioned a scene to last a minute at most, but as the actors performed, the length of the scene came close to three minutes.”
In Mughizh, Regina Cassandra plays the brooding yet compassionate mother Radhika, who, at one point, is pushed to the verge of losing her cool, but manages to control her anger in a beautiful stretch. “Regina is an emotionally intelligent person. When I narrated the story to her, she was extremely enthusiastic about getting the look of the character right. She kept repeating, ‘I have to look like a mother to a 12-year-old child’. It’s very unlikely for an actor to say that they are excited to play an older role, and I was instantaneously assured that she could pull it off as her preparation had already begun,” he says.
The idea of releasing Mughizh in theatres comes across as a remarkable development, considering the finance-driven structure of the business. Karthik, on the other hand, shares that neither he nor the team was ever concerned about the fiscal aspects of the project. “It was a magical journey. We were happy throughout the journey, even when the film was released; we were never bothered about the result. I don’t think we will ever get to make a film like this again.”
Streaming platforms have become a safe haven for intimate and personal films, and I wondered whether Mughizh would have found wider visibility had it directly premiered on an OTT platform. Karthik, however, feels theatres should remain the first home to movies. “People often say quieter and subtler films make for a better viewing experience at the comfort of one’s personal space, but I argue otherwise. A theatre accentuates subtle emotions beautifully. If not for the pandemic, Mughizh might have never been released in theatres at all. I’m happy about it. I would even say, every film is meant to be seen in a theatre,” Karthik signs off.