Vasanthabalan: Thalaimai Seyalagam will break the stereotypical portrayal of politicians

Director Vasanthabalan, along with actors Ramya Nambessan and Aditya Menon, speak about their upcoming political series Thalaimai Seyalagam, the role of women in politics, violence as the solution to oppression, and more
Vasanthabalan: Thalaimai Seyalagam will break the stereotypical portrayal of politicians

A famous adage of Mahatma Gandhi goes, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Director Vasanthabalan, who identifies himself as a Communist and Gandhian, has tried to explore these philosophies through his upcoming series, Thalaimai Seyalagam. "As a child, before the Soviet Union's dissolution, I had a dream that Communism would prevail throughout the world, reinstating the ideology of equality for all. I have a deep interest in politics and I wanted to tell a story made out of all of my observations. I wanted to portray a woman rising up the ranks and establishing the ideals of Communism. That woman, Kottravai (Sriya Reddy), who tries to bring this change, is a character designed after me," says the director, who is making his web series debut with Thalaimai Seyalagam.

Vasanthabalan further wanted to correct the stereotypical portrayal of politicians in Tamil cinema. "Cinema has made a stereotype out of politicians, that they’re always corrupt and evil. With Thalaimai Seyalagam, I wanted to break that stereotype and show the audience what happens inside the CM's house, or how he is as humane as the rest of us," the director shares about Kishore's character, Chief Minister Arunachalam. 

Apart from Kishore and Sriya, the series also stars Bharath, Ramya Nambessan, Aditya Menon, Kani Kusruti, Santhana Bharathi, Niroop Nandakumar, and more. Ramya says that while Vasanthabalan sir was the most convincing factor to take up the project, she had her doubts about her character, Amudhavalli, the CM's daughter and Finance Minister. "Initially, I had my doubts regarding the scope of my character. I am selfish about my screen space and character. I tortured Vasanthabalan sir during the shoot to know if my character had a prominent arc, only because I wished to bring my best foot forward on screen," she shares.

On the contrary, Aditya Menon, who plays a CBI officer in the series, initially rejected the offer for the role. "I was in no mindset to do a web series and when they called me for the role, I said no without even asking for details. Later, Sarath Kumar sir called me and recommended the role to me personally," the actor shares, adding that he was further interested after knowing that the series is a Vasanthabalan directorial. Interestingly, Vasanthabalan too had a different actor in mind for this role. "I initially thought of Nana Patekar while writing the role, but Aditya's performance has exceeded my expectations," the director shares giving us an anecdote from the series to explain the actor's versatility. "There is a scene in the series in which a boy runs into him, and according to the script Aditya should get angry. However, he thought from the character's perspective, and instead replied with a simple ‘Thank you’ in a sarcastic tone, which made the scene much better."

In the series, Sriya Reddy's journalist character, Kottravai, rises up the rungs in politics. On writing the character, and pondering upon the difficulties faced by women in politics, Vasanthabalan says, "I wish this series makes way for a discussion regarding the opportunities for women in politics. He goes on to point out how our society turned from a matriarchal to a patriarchal one. "While life and human existence have been made possible because of women, I wonder how and when this society became a male-dominated one. I wish all women raise their voices against the inequality meted against them," he says. However, Ramya contradicts saying, "It is very easy for men to ask women to raise their voices to change their situation. I am indeed glad that there are men like Vasanthabalan sir who take our side. Please don’t give us freedom, provide us a way to enjoy said freedom." 

Ramya's character Amudhavalli is said to be in constant conflict with Kottravai for power. When asked if their characters are true to the notion that women are women's worst enemies, she begs to differ. "It is a stereotype that women are women’s enemies. To give you the best example of women supporting women, take the Women’s Cinema Collective in Malayalam cinema that has paved the way for an Internal Complaints Council to protect women. Yes, there are some women discouraging others, but even that comes due to the insecurities that this society roots in women's minds. Perhaps, education is the one thing that will further help women provide support to each other." 

Vasanthabalan started his career as an assistant director. From there, the filmmaker has completed 22 years with a National Award, a film that went to Cannes, and now forays into OTT. "I don’t know if I have grown as a technician, and therefore I don't identify myself as one. But I always aspire to be a good storyteller. I will keep evolving and adapting to tell different and important stories through various formats. If my stories are of some use to society, then my job here is done," the director reflects on his journey ahead. 

True to Vasanthabalan's Communist thinking, Thalaimai Seyalagam touches upon feudalism and the rise of Naxalism to battle it. On whether he endorses violence as a solution to battle oppression, the director circles back to Gandhi and says, "According to me, citizens should react to every injustice they face. I follow Gandhian principles, and no matter how violent revolts are at the beginning, change can only happen when the methods are non-violent. And so, the series will also conclude by showing that change can only be brought about from the place where it is all decided, the government, or the Thalaimai Seyalagam."

Related Stories

No stories found.
Cinema Express