Kanam Interview: Rebirth of a mother

Actor Sharwanand and director Shree Karthick discuss their upcoming sci-fi drama, Kanam, that incorporates time-travel to tell an emotional story
Kanam Interview: Rebirth of a mother

Even the most cerebral, high-concept, sci-fi films are centred around basal emotions. It’s that emotional core that becomes the beating heart of many great works of science fiction. Director Shree Kathick seems to have understood this well as evinced by the way he describes his upcoming sci-fi drama Kanam. “My intention while writing this film was born out of my own desire to see my mother again,” the director explains, speaking of his mother who has passed away.

Kanam is a time-travel drama that follows three friends as they travel back in time to change their past. Sharwanand plays the lead while Sathish and Ramesh Thilak play his friends. Amala Akkineni, who is returning to Tamil screens after 31 years, plays Sharwanand’s mother in the film. On Amala Akkineni choosing Kanam as her re-entry vehicle to Tamil cinema, writer/director Shree Karthick says, “I worked on the script for two years and for those two years, I only imagined Amala ma’am as the mother. The story is close to my heart and the development of this project has been an important part of my life. I have given it my everything, and luckily, Amala ma’am sensed that. She connected with the story, and I guess that convinced her to accept the film.”

Sharwanand, who plays the protagonist in the film, is returning after a noticeably long absence of almost seven years. “I’ve been busy in Telugu. I did JK Enum Nanbanin Vaazhkai, in Tamil, back in 2015, and I was confident about that film but unfortunately, it did not even get released and that took a toll on me.” He apparently stayed in touch with producer SR Prabhu during his sabbatical. “All this while, I have been listening to stories from him, but I was waiting for a story that would connect with me, and I think I found that with Kanam.” The actor has much respect for the producer and his body of work: “He has introduced a lot of young, new talents to the industry.”

On what the film offers beyond the thrill of a typical time travel adventure, Prabhu responds, “The film is a combination of various commercial elements. It uses time travel as a vehicle to ponder upon what we would do if we got a second chance to right our wrongs. Our primary characters face challenges that emerge while they try to rewrite their own fate. Whether your inclination is towards the sci-fi elements, or you are only interested in the emotional drama, the film will work.” Sharwanand is all praise for director Shree Karthick. “I loved the film as soon as I heard the story.” He recalls a conversation they had after reading the script, “I asked him how he wrote such a script. I told him he would have to shoulder heavy expectations after this film.” Sharwanand’s preparation for this emotionally intense character involved long conversations with Shree Karthick. “He spoke about his mother and the profound impact she had on him. His emotions have shaped my performance.”

The film has apparently been constructed in a way that gives importance to several characters. “My intention while bringing in Sathish and Ramesh Thilak was not to add comic relief to the film. Both characters are vital to the story; they have their own set of conflicts and resolutions. Even if you take their story arcs out of the film and think about it in isolation, it will make for compelling, relatable stories.”

Shree Karthick believes that the three central characters played by Sharwanad, Sathish and Ramesh Thilak stand for three different genres. “Sharwanad’s character is about his attachment to his mother, which becomes the central axis upon which the story is mounted. Sathish and Ramesh Thilak are driven by their own emotions which you will see in the film.”

Kanam is also being released in Telugu under the title, Oke Oka Jeevitham. Prabhu says, “We shot the film simultaneously in both Tamil and Telugu, and some of the supporting cast had to be replaced for Telugu to adjust for cultural differences. Sathish and Ramesh Thilak’s roles in the film have been done by Vennela Kishore and Priyadarshi in Telugu.”

According to the director, it’s hard to slot the film under one genre. “The film reflects how our lives are a colourful mix of different emotions. While writing, it began as a simple story about a boy and his love for his mother, and as we added the sci-fi elements, it evolved into an exciting mixture of genres.” Sharwanand ends the conversation with a line that summarises his belief in the project: “This will be among the best choices I have taken in my career.”

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