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‘We don’t take a stand on the ethics of Thalaikoothal’- Cinema express

‘We don’t take a stand on the ethics of Thalaikoothal’

Ahead of release of Thalaikoothal, actors Kathir & Vasundhara, along with director Jayaprakash, set expectations for film & talk about how they intend to make rooted topic appealing to wider audience

Published: 01st February 2023

For a film about a man on his deathbed in a vegetative state—and his adult son being coerced by his family to practise thalaikoothal (senicide)—the team speaks of the film as a love story, and of the value of an emotion like love to make a niche and rooted topic more palatable to everyone After directing Lens and The Mosquito Philosophy, filmmaker Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan brims with confidence when he says that his third directorial, Thalaikoothal, will resonate with the audience because of its emotional heft. “How truthfully and emotionally you tell the story determines its impact. There are many international films we love even though we don’t associate with their culture. You can talk about any custom or ritual from around the world, and as long as you speak of it honestly, it will resonate with everyone,” explains Jayaprakash.

The vision and idea behind the film convinced Kathir to come on board. Specifically, he talks of a person’s thoughts on a deathbed, and reflections on a long life full of memories... “After hearing this, I developed a passion to travel and collect experiences. Even if I was not associated with the project, I would have been very interested to know what they were going to do with the idea behind this film,” says Kathir.

While the ethics of Thalaikoothal are often fiercely debated, the team clarifies that the film does not take any stand but merely tells a circumstantial story. Vasundhara says, “The story does not promote any belief. It is as it is, and we talk about the feelings of the characters involved in the story. You can watch it even if your beliefs don’t align with what the characters think. I am an actor and whatever my beliefs are, I keep them aside when meeting the film’s demands.” Kathir agrees and points out how it is always the filmmaker’s vision and perspective that makes a certain character act in a certain way. 

Jayaprakash goes a step further and talks about how films don't always need to make a statement or take a stand. “For me, it is about translating the emotions when I write a scene. Creatively, I would like to have theme and layers, and as a work of art, it is about the viewer’s perspective on what they take back home. No filmmaker or artist can determine what you make of their work,” says Jayaprakash, whose aim behind making the film was to take up the rooted concept of thalaikoothal and present it to a new audience. There was much research that aided Jayaprakash who wanted to make it a visual experience. “Thalaikoothal will be a sound and visual treat even though it talks about a rather dark subject. To balance it out, we have kept Kathir’s portions dreamy and fantasy oriented.”

Throwing light on how his characters reflect his own personality, Jayaprakash explains, “Only through me do I find motivations of these characters. Through the person on his deathbed, I explore the brittleness of love. In any relationship, there is a certain give-and-take, but when your father is in a vegetative state, how long can a child sustain purely on nostalgia? On the other hand, there is a man who understands everything that goes around him but cannot do anything about it. What is running through his mind? Thalaikoothal is the story of these two men.”

Vasundhara steps in to clarify that even though the primary arc revolves around two men, rural stories often manage to give a good role for the women too, and often provide them with agency and a reason for existence. After portraying some roles of caliber in PeranmaiPoraali and Thenmerku Paruvakaatru, Vasundhara believes that her Kalai from Thalaikoothal will be a valuable addition to her oeuvre. “Despite being written by a man, Kalai showcases so much depth. She pushes the story forward and has her own wants, needs, and reasons. Her anger and thought process is justified. We often receive Whatsapp forwards of wife jokes, and honestly, it’s not at all funny and often denigrates women and portrays them as incapable of individual thinking. Kalai is angry in this film for many reasons, and the film respects her anger,” concludes Vasundhara.

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