Having won the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival, Pebbles is sure to make more ripples.
Miles and miles Karuththadaiyaan (left) and Chellapandi in Pebbles
Earlier this month, Vinothraj P.S.’s sensational debut film Koozhangal (Pebbles) won the prestigious Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Though the Tamil film is hard-hitting, Pebbles is also distilled cinema; its precisely composed frames and minimalist approach mark it as the work of a true auteur. The film is about the relationship between the violent alcoholic Ganapathy (Karuththadaiyaan) and his son Velu (Chellapandi), 12, who walk 13 km in the parched landscape of drought-prone Madurai. The Tiger Award also brings the filmmakers 40,000 (around Rs 35 lakh) as a cash prize for this ‘love budget’ film.
Pebbles, in a sense, exacts sweet revenge: Vinothraj’s married sister was once beaten up by her alcoholic husband and thrown out of the house at night with their two-year-old. She walked 13 km to her parents’ home and Vinothraj has talked about feeling disturbed because “I wasn’t able to say or do anything”. Eventually, though, he sublimated his frustration into a film, and what’s more, his sister and brother-in-law were part of the film’s team.
In Pebbles, Ganapathy takes Velu to get his wife back from her parents’ village, where she has gone after a fight. As father and son walk 13 km home in the searing sun, Velu puts a pebble in his cheek to help him salivate. There is absolute economy in the screenplay (by Vinothraj), along with remarkable cinematography and tight editing. Although Ganapathy is a brute, Vinothraj avoids judgement, and shows us how the harsh environment shapes him: “I didn’t simply make Ganapathy a villain, because I wanted to create a debate about his situation.”
Vinothraj, who lost his father early, and whose mother is a street vendor, worked in a DVD shop and assisted other filmmakers before directing his debut. He says, “When we won the Tiger Award at Rotterdam, Chellapandi asked me, ‘Is it something to do with Tiger Biscuits?'”
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