On Thursday, the Film Federation of India announced the Tamil crime-drama Visaaranai as India’s entry at the Oscars in the Foreign Language Film category. The film, that had released in February, 2016, is about a group of Tamil labourers in Andhra Pradesh who get wrongly convicted in a crime they haven’t committed. Later, they become victims of a bigger conspiracy and subjected to inhuman torture. The film won Amnesty International Italy’s “Cinema for Human Rights” at the 72nd Venice Film Festival. The writer-director, Vetrimaaran is an important filmmaker in Tamil Nadu, associated with making hard-hitting commercial films.
His first feature Polladhavan(2007) was set among bike-theft gangsters and drug traffickers in Chennai. His next wasAadukalam(2011) that was about the world of cock-fighting pits of Madurai — a setting that Vetrimaaran was inspired by was the dog-fighting scenes of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros. It won six National Awards. The lead role in both his films were played by Dhanush, who has become a steady collaborator of the director. He has co-produced Visaaranai and Kaakkaa Muttai (2014), a film about two slum kids who dream of ordering a pizza.
A recurring theme of Vetrimaaran’s movies is his championing of the downtrodden; Visaaranai is based on Lock Up, a novel by M. Chandrakumar, an auto rickshaw driver from Coimbatore who wrote it on his own experiences in prison. The name of his production house Grass Root Film Company, perhaps, reflects the philosophy.
Vetrimaaran’s films may feature grim subjects, but the 41 year old English language graduate has said that he makes them for a mainstream audience. His next, Vada Chennai, starring Dhanush, is about the mafia wars in North Chennai.