nobody movie_ father Ranjith unveils extensive slate with Kamal Haasan, Vikram

Indian activist filmmaker father Ranjith has unveiled an extensive production list with top stars and socially relevant topics.

Ranjith was with the Cannes film market, where he revealed “Vettuvam”.a linked film and television series, a co-production between him and Aditi Anand’s Neelam Studios and Golden Ratio Films, the film production arm of Vista’s Media Capital.

Ranjith starts off with “Natchathiram Nagargirathu” with Dushara Vijayan (“Sarpatta Parambarai”), Kalaiyarasan Harikrishnan (“Kuthiraivaal”) and Kalidas (“Paava Kadhaigal”). Set against the backdrop of the Tamil language theater scene, the film explores different facets of love that transcend gender and includes straight and LGBTQ+ romance, says Ranjith. The film, which also examines how these different types of love work on a political level in Tamil Nadu, is scheduled for release in July. It is a co-production between Yaazhi Films and Neelam.

Next up is an untitled film starring Vikram (“Mahaan”), set against the backdrop of the Kolar goldfields in Karnataka. Ranjith was supposed to start the film after his blockbuster “Kabali” with Rajinikanth but decided to wait until the two “KGF” films which share the same background are released in 2018 and 2022. After seeing the “KGF” movies, such as Ranjith, a Bombay gangster who breaks the hegemony of the mafia that rules the goldfields and becomes India’s greatest don, Ranjith realized his story is completely different. His film is a historical play about working-class miners who discovered gold in the 19th century. The film is a Neelam co-production with Studio Green.

The scripts for the Vikram film and Vettuvam are being written, the latter will start production in November. Once Vettuvam is complete, Ranjith will begin a film starring an acting legend Kamal Haasan. Details are under wraps and Ranjith describes it as an “important” film that will “tackle a big problem” and will be set in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district. The film is for Haasans Raajkamal Films International.

Also in the works is Ranjith’s Hindi debut, based on the life of the Birsa Munda, a freedom fighter from India’s 19th tribe, who led a movement against forced conversions to Christianity during the British Raj. The film is produced by Namah Pictures (Majid Majidi’s “Beyond the Clouds”). All of these projects will be carried out over the next three years.

Additionally, a series complementing Ranjith’s 1975 boxing film Sarpatta Parambarai (2021), will explore Indian society through the lens of boxing history over three seasons, beginning in the colonial era and ending with political skull digging in the 1990s.

Neelam’s slate has also projected Ranjith-supervised projects such as “Dandakaranyam,” directed by Athiyan Athirai (“Gundu”), about a young man’s struggles for a government job; “Ill” by Akiran Moses (who worked on “Kabali”), where a traffic incident between two residents of a stressed-out capital sets in motion a series of events that will eventually unleash a gang war; and “Kizhakinthiya Company” by Lenin Bharathi (“Merku Thodarchi Malai”), which examines the legacy and scars left by the British Raj’s Criminal Tribes Act 1871.

Regarding the underlying themes of his work, Ranjith says that mainstream Indian cinema always tells stories set in specific communities, with stories about the oppressed Dalit caste being limited to small art house films. He says the producers were afraid they might not find an audience and not recoup their investment by supporting mainstream films about Dalits.

“India’s caste system is riddled with graduated inequalities, which means films are only made about the other castes and no one thought of the outcasts, the Dalits, and even those who portrayed them in a stereotypical light,” says Ranjith. “Dalits have been portrayed as dirty, dark-skinned, undressed, or as comic relief or murderous villains. Examples of Dalits as heroes are infinitesimal. Heroes are typically upper or middle caste. Even if there is a lower-caste hero, there will be a plot point explaining that he was born into a higher caste.”

“I tell stories about our people because no one else is going to do it and no one else is going to bring up our problems,” says Ranjith. When the filmmaker started his career, he was told that telling Dalit stories would not work at the box office. “At that point I decided that I would only do stories about Dalits. This will be my life and my way of working. And contrary to what was feared, the films worked. And that’s why I got films, including two with Rajinikanth.”

Ranjith debuted with “Attakathi” (2012) and eased off with “Madras” (2014). Superstar Rajinikanth starred in “Kabali” (2016) and “Kaala” (2018).

After proving that mainstream films about Dalits could be box office hits, Ranjith launched a wave of successful social issue films including Pariyerum Perumal, Asuran and Gundu. “Now everyone wants to deal with problems,” says Ranjith. “It created a discourse.”

Ranjith adds that themed films don’t always have to be serious, they can be entertainers or comedies, but they have to be socially responsible and break stereotypes, which he pays attention to as a producer.

Internationally, these films will appeal to audiences who understand oppression, like films set in black America, Africa, Palestine and Iran, Ranjith says.

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