Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee cast on their 'back to school' experience
Kishen Das, Meetha Raghunath, Harish Kumar, and Rahul Kannan speak about their experience while shooting for Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, and on how the story resonated with their life experiences
From fighting over WWE trump cards to sharing music over a shared walkman, Darbuka Siva captured the forgotten details of our past and painted a portrait of nostalgia through his directorial debut, Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee. Four of the film's all-new cast, Kishen Das (who played Vinoth), Meetha Raghunath (Rekha), Harish Kumar (Chinese), and Rahul Kannan (Francis), have been getting a lot of attention for their performances. Here are the actors in conversation about the positive reception and what this opportunity means to them.
The film has got widely positive responses. How are you feeling?
Kishen Das: The response has been amazing. None of us expected the volume of it all. We are just super glad right now.
Harish Kumar: During the shoot, many told me that Chinese will be well received by the audience. I didn't pay a lot of attention to that because I had a job to do. However, to see all the praise has been quite overwhelming.
Siva cast debutants to help the audience better connect with the characters. Do you think it paid off?
Meetha Raghunath: Of course! People don't know who Meetha is. When they saw the film, they only saw my character, Rekha…
Rahul Kannan: Siva was particular about casting debutants. He didn't want audiences to get influenced by a known face. I think it has worked really well.
Harish: Proof is all the people who saw this film despite it not having a known face. Audiences have been gracious to mention the names of the characters they liked the most. I think that's great.
Kishen: All of us stuck to the understanding Siva gave us about our respective characters. He gave us detailed sketches with specific character traits. These nuances have helped each character stand apart.
I heard that Siva did not give you a bound script and that you had to learn about the character arc during the shoot.
Meetha: We knew little about our characters' future. I only knew who Rekha was and where her emotions come from. It was like life, in a sense, where we don’t quite know what a new day will bring us. It helped, because knowledge of her future might have corrupted my performance in the past.
Rahul: We focussed on getting the younger characters right. After shooting those portions, we knew we were only halfway through, and I really had no idea what would happen to Francis. Would he become an antagonist? Would he get some redemption? We were blank. I think this is how it has to be. Such a script should be treated this way.
Kishen: I would have wanted a bound script, had you asked me this before this film. However, now, I realise how important Siva’s approach was. He asked us to write down our characters in a notebook and add traits we thought they would have. We would then discuss these traits. In a way, we shaped our own characters and were also invested in the process of creation.
Chinese and Francis seem to be getting the most attention. What did you both like about your characters?
Rahul: His innocence. Francis could have fought the bullies back if he wanted. However, he believes in trusting people, even if they are bullies like Richard. In fact, during that farewell party scene, Francis believes in Richard, and he even forgives him. It was only when he is asked to take his shirt off that he realises he was wrong to trust Richard. We see a completely different Francis in the second half. He gets empowered to voice out for the queer community. It was great!
Harish: Chinese is an extremely honest, pure soul. He is ignorant and doesn't realise that proposing relentlessly to girls is wrong. He is an innocent boy who means no evil and no harm. He is a great friend to Vinoth, and I loved that it came across to the audience despite all his eccentricities.
Were you able to relate to moments from your own school life?
Meetha: My school life was pretty much the same as in this film. Be it the equation Rekha has with Anu, Vinoth, and the gang, or just how Rekha is as a person…
Kishen: I can't say the same, but I could connect to my character. Like Vinoth, I too was raised by a single mother, and I believe that the mindset of children who are brought up by single parents is a bit different. I am as sensitive as Vinoth, and I too feel about things deeply.
Rahul: I could connect well with the sports selection scenes at the ground. Also, I knew someone from school who was like a carbon copy of Chinese in many ways. So, I could relate a lot to the characters.
Harish: I started thinking about my school days. At such an immature age, we would tease others, unaware of how it could affect them. I have made such mistakes too. But unintentional or not, the pain it can cause is real.
Which co-star was the funniest on set?
Kishen, Meetha, and Rahul (unanimously): Harish and Gowtham (who played Su).
Meetha: They are jokers and yet, they are both very sensitive, deep individuals.
Harish: Gowtham and I could afford to stay in our characters. That wasn't the case for Meetha or Kishen. However, Rahul is a big prankster on set, and he used to pull off pranks when Siva wasn't present. It was funny because his character is a serious one.
What are your takeaways from having done this film?
Harish: The process was so actor-friendly, and we had a lot of freedom. Secondly, the rapport we built and the fun we had during the shoot... If people are appreciating Chinese, it is because of the support of other actors.
Rahul: The 30-odd days of rehearsals were great. In fact, Siva ensured that we called each other only by the names of our characters. We didn't know the real names of each other for a very long time. Such things helped and we hardly went for a second take.
Kishen: My takeaway is simply that actors must always submit to the director. Just do what the director says and everything will fall into place.