Jama explores the lifestyle and challenges of therukoothu artistes in Tamil Nadu

Apart from directing the film, which has music composed by Ilaiyaraaja, Pari Elavazhagan has also played the lead role as a therukoothu artiste, who plays female roles in plays
Jama explores the lifestyle and challenges of therukoothu artistes in Tamil Nadu

Actor Pari Elavazhagan, who has previously worked in films like Yaanum Theeyavan (2017), Chennai Palani Mars (2019), and the recent J Baby, is turning director with the upcoming film Jama. Apart from directing the film, which has music composed by Ilaiyaraaja, Pari Elavazhagan has also played the lead role as a therukoothu artiste, who plays female roles in plays. Speaking on the significance of the title, Pari shares, "A group of therukoothu artistes who work together as a team is called a Jama. The story revolves around two artistes who start a Jama together. How the protagonist attempts to reclaim the leadership post that his father once lost forms the basic storyline of the film."

He further explains, "In earlier days, considering safety issues, women did not participate in the art form, so men stepped in to play female characters. As they started donning these roles more, they were required to grow long hair, and their body language also started changing in an effeminate way. This caused a lot of hardships in their personal and professional lives, to the extent of fellow artistes disrespecting them." He adds that the amount of respect that an actor is given for playing male roles would not be the same for an artiste playing a woman. Jama would explore the life of one such artiste, played by Pari himself, and his endeavours to become a leader of the troupe.

Pari, who comes from a long line of therukoothu artistes in his family, has taken inspiration from a few incidents from his uncle's life to write this story. "My hometown is Thiruvannamalai and therukoothu is intricately tied with our lives. People in our village would themselves host and play characters in the drama. Many artistes who have acted in the film are also my relatives. My uncle Thangal Sekar, who has won the Kalaimamani award, has mentored the actors to deliver realistic performances. We spoke to him, understood his personal story, and made the film. It was a two-year-long research process," he says. Interestingly, all the therukoothu portions have been shot in live sync sound. 

The actor-cum-director also emphasises the lack of recognition for such artistes in Tamil Nadu and the need to break existing misconceptions about their profession. "Short films and feature films regarding the art form, which have been released in recent years, have painted a wrong notion about the art and the artistes' lives. It is not a dying art form, and artistes are not living in poverty and hunger as you see them on screen. In reality, they are earning well and are leading a respectable life. I want to break this notion through my film," he notes.

Jama, which was completely shot in and around Thiruvannamalai, also stars Chetan, Ammu Abhirami, Srikrishna Dayal, KVN Manimegalai, Kaala Kumar, Vasanth Marimuthu, and Siva Maran, among others. On the technical front, the film has cinematography by Gopal Krishna, editing by Partha MA, and art direction by Srikanth Gopal. Learn and Teach Production, which has previously backed Koozhangal, is bankrolling this film. While the makers have completed the shoot and the post production work for the film, a release date is yet to be announced.

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