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I don’t like to show my characters belonging to any caste: Arunraja Kamaraj

Express News Service

Remakes are tricky. The challenge of living up to the original always looms large, and there’s also the question of whether the native audience would find it relatable.

Actor-filmmaker Arunraja Kamaraj, however, sees Nenjuku Needhi, a remake of Article 15 (2019) more as an opportunity than a challenge. The director, who made a successful debut with Kanaa, says,

“Remaking an acclaimed film is a great opportunity that will help me mould myself as a filmmaker.”

Arunraja missed watching the original in the theatre. “But I heard a lot of positive things about the film from my inner circle, and my curiosity was piqued by how my Tamil friends were all speaking about a film belonging to another language. When I watched the film eventually, I understood that it was worth all the discussion. After being offered the remake, I watched it just once to ensure I wouldn’t get too influenced by the original.”

Calling Kanaa his ‘visiting card’, the actor-filmmaker asserts that the debut film opened doors for multiple projects, including Nenjuku Needhi, which stars Udhayanidhi Stalin in the lead.

“In fact, it was Udhay (Udhayanidhi Stalin) sir himself who suggested my name to the makers. Since Udhay sir loved Kanaa, he felt I would be a good choice to direct him in a film for Boney Kapoor’s production house. We both were given the choice of three films to remake, and we zeroed in on Article 15 because we believe it to be an important film.”

Article 15 is the hard-hitting story of an outsider cop investigating the disappearance of three girls from a small village, subjugated for generations due to their caste.

The film is based on various real-life incidents that occured in Uttar Pradesh, and Arunraja admits that one of the biggest challenges was to adapt this story to the Tamil milieu.

He reveals that a lot of well-wishers and socially conscious people took out the time to “educate” him about Article 15, its politics, the discrimination in our society, and about similar incidents that have occurred in Tamil Nadu.

“When news came out that I’m remaking Article 15, so many people, including those I didn’t even know, started reaching out to me to share their stories. I received enough information to make multiple films out of it. I have tried to incorporate whatever I felt would make the adaptation better. I wanted Nenjuku Needhi to be a fresh version that will also do complete justice to the original.”

Though Article 15 was appreciated, it also invited criticism, the most prominent being the portrayal of an upper-caste Brahmin policeman as a “saviour” of the Dalits. Arunraja has a different take on this subject.

“I don’t agree with the whole ‘white saviour complex’ criticism,” says Arunraja. “Why do we have to put labels on people who are working for the betterment of the society? It is only the intent that matters. Classifying people like that is itself against the idea of Article 15. Why should we be bothered about who they are or what their background is? If you start thinking why a certain person is helping, it only means you are not realising that till that person stepped forward, noone did. Isn’t that a bigger problem?”

This is why Arunraja doesn’t like his characters to be shown belonging to any caste. “I prefer to make films without speaking of caste but I can’t do that with Article 15. Caste is imposed upon us at our birth. I’m completely against it and I don’t think it’s necessary. Every individual should have the freedom to choose their identity. It’s our actions and thoughts that define us, not who we are born as.”

Arunraja, an admitted keen observer of life around him, finds underdog stories to be exciting

“Everybody has larger-than-life aspirations. There’s an antagonist too in everyone’s story. The journey to success after all the struggles and obstacles is what makes life interesting. I would like to continue telling such stories,” signs off Arunraja.

Source: The New Indian Express