Why filmmaker Karthik Subbaraj is more excited about anthologies


Filmmaker Karthik Subbaraj and actor Bobby Simha discuss their upcoming anthology Putham Pudhu Kaalai, which brings together five of Tamil cinema’s finest directors

Of all incidents that could spark an idea for a film, it was a theft that did the trick for filmmaker Karthik Subbaraj. The victim in the incident was actor Bobby Simha, whose office was targeted by thieves.

While there is no clear picture on the nature of losses incurred by the actor, Karthik, however, wrote a story based on the incident, which eventually developed into a short film set to stream on Amazon Prime from October 16 as part of an anthology titled Putham Pudhu Kaalai.

The film brings together filmmakers Karthik Subbaraj, Rajiv Menon, Suhasini Maniratnam, Gautham Menon and Sudha Kongara: a first-of-its-kind initiative as regards Tamil cinema.

Anthology love

“I’m always interested in anthologies,” says Karthik, who has previously been a part of two other anthologies: Bench Talkies and Aviyal.

Karthik Subbaraj

Connecting over Zoom alongside Bobby, Karthik notes that a short film allows space for a filmmaker to experiment with ideas not possible in a feature film format. “Amazon [Prime] approached us with the idea of making these shorts but the rider was that the stories should have a common thread of hope or a new beginning. All five shorts gives hope to the characters as well as the audience towards the end,” he says.

Bobby chips in: “Watching an anthology is a unique experience. Instead of watching one story unfold, the audience gets to watch five different short stories, in different genres.”

Karthik’s short is titled Miracle. “We are all still hoping that COVID-19 miraculously goes away one morning and someone will say ‘We are back to normal’. This film is a story about similar characters… of people who yearn for that miracle,” Karthik says.

Usual suspects

  • Also starring actors Muthukumar, Sharath Ravi and Ezhil, Miracle’s cinematography is by Shreyaas Krishna. The latter handled the camera for Jagame Thandhiram, which counts Bobby Simha among its cast. Karthik shot for Miracle with a limited crew following relaxation of shooting restrictions.

Prior to the pandemic outbreak, Karthik Subbaraj was one of the first among mainstream stakeholders of Tamil cinema to expand his portfolio into indie films, launching a separate arm under his banner, Stone Bench Productions, to help fund quality small budget films.

Even with corporate behemoths like Amazon venturing into the same space, Karthik sees no threat to his investment but rather looks at it as an encouraging sign. “With OTT platforms, there is a lot of interest in producing anthologies. I know more such projects have already been commissioned. I think it is a good thing,” says Karthik, adding, “When we brought Bench Talkies and Aviyal to the theatres, we only acquired previously completed short films and presented them as an anthology, unlike Putham Pudhu Kaalai.”

Unique situation

Though their association stretches back well over a decade, Bobby remarks that he approaches every project with Karthik Subbaraj as his first film.

Bobby Simha

“The fear and discipline is still there. I am his close friend but he is eagle-eyed and smells out any lag in performances,” he laughs. “Working on a film with Karthik is definitely a learning experience, especially with Miracle, it felt like we rolled back the years,” Bobby adds.

Questions still remain over a potential OTT release for Jagame Thandhiram, Karthik Subbaraj’s upcoming film starring Dhanush. But the filmmaker prefers to play coy.

“If theatres open by October-end, then it is very good news for the cinema industry,” he says. On the film’s release prospects, he adds: “It is the producer’s choice. Stone Bench produced Penguin, which we gave to Amazon though it was made for a theatrical release. We are in a stage where we have to survive with what we have.”

Putham Pudhu Kaalai streams on Amazon Prime from October 16



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