'City dwellers are often oblivious to issues faced in villages'
...says Remya Nambeesan, who, along with Vidharth and the film's director Vetri Dursaisamy, talk about Endravathu Oru Naal which has won multiple accolades in film festivals
After winning 43 awards in its festival run, the Vidharth-Remya Nambeesan starrer Endraavathu Oru Naal began streaming on ZEE5 last Friday. "It is the story of a farmer family and touches upon several topics like child labour," says debutant director Vetri Duraisamy, son of a former Mayor of the Corporation of Chennai. "The story revolves around a family that's close to a pair of cows that they raise, and when they lose said cows, they sink to new lows to retrieve them. The film is inspired by many real incidents."
While Vidharth is no newbie to rural dramas, the genre is rather new for Remya. Vetri says that even while scripting the film, he was keen on roping in Vidharth. "He plays a man named Thangamuthu. When I was looking for the female lead, I was keen on getting someone who could pull off a challenging character while still having that nativity look. Master Raghavan, who played Remya's son in Sethupathi, plays an important role in this film too." The film was shot in Vellakoil near Coimbatore. "The land is a part of the Kongu belt but unlike the luscious greenery you generally associate with Pollachi and Gobichettypalayam, this is an arid area," adds Vetri.
When asked about the film's similarity to the recently released Raamae Aandalum Ravanan Aandalum, the director says, "I just watched the film recently and the common elements include the two cows and how the loss of them affects the family, but Endraavathu Oru Naal also talks about child labour and exploitation. The film will dwell deep into how the families struggle after sending off their only son to a different state for their survival."
Remya, who spent a considerable amount of time with the cows to get used to them, says it isn't as easy as it looks. "It took me a while to get in sync with the way they function. They have their own personalities and we have to understand that. You know, I think they knew they were acting in a film," says Remya, laughing. "Working in this film was a wholesome experience, not just professionally but emotionally as well. Rasathi's journey in the film leaves you feeling sympathy for her but you will understand that it all comes down to the survival of that family. The film talks in detail about child labour and how it affects a family. Cinema is about striking a balance between drama and reality, and this film has the best of both worlds. It's disheartening to see many who live better lives in the city not knowing that such stories everyday occurrences in some villages. That sense of realism attracted me to this film."
Vetri had apparently written this story six years ago. "This script is close to my heart. The cows in the film are owned by my family. We saved them from the slaughterhouse by paying a huge sum to the previous owner. So, I wanted to talk about the connection we share with the animals," says the director. "As for child labour, children working in shops and hotels have become a regular feature. We should understand the extent to which a family is pushed for them to agree to such a proposition. The villain in this film isn't any character, but a situation."
When asked about mainly doing films in a rural backdrop, Vidharth quips, "Namba village dhaane (smiles). Three of my upcoming films are set in villages. There are so many stories that have to be told there and I am glad to be a part of this film." But that doesn't mean Vidharth wants to play it safe in his comfort zone. "I keep looking for challenges in the role I pick. I chose this film because I grew up in a family that had cows. Though we didn't have a farm, we made space for them on the verandah. Ours was a joint family and I grew up with cousins who would take turns to feed and take care of the cows. As we grew up, the elders in the family sold the cows and we have gradually forgotten that we even had them. When I listened to this script, it reminded me of the time I spent with those cows," says Vidharth, for whom the film has made a mark in his life as well. "I wanted to buy a house in Chennai but during the covid time, my entire family stayed at Kangeyam for almost two years. I really liked that town and I've already shifted my brother's family there. Now I want to buy a small piece of land, get some cows and engage in agriculture after a few years."
Vidharth had his share of challenges. "Speaking the dialect was tough for me. The Kongu dialect is beautiful and as the film was nearing its festival deadline, I couldn't dub as I was stuck in another film's shoot," says the Mynaa actor. On playing a role that is drastically different from their ideologies and beliefs in regards to child labour, Remya says, "For the female character, despite her intuition telling her to go against a lot of things she does, the struggle to survival makes her take certain decisions." Vidharth, though, says, "I see child labour from a different spectrum. When I was in my school days, I would help my father's business during my free time. Every kid who belongs to an agricultural family does that. Only when poverty pushes a family to send their child to do a job elsewhere for money, leaving their parents and education in the way, does it become child labour and that should be stopped at any cause."