Q&A with film-maker Priya Krishnaswamy in attendance
Centerpiece for IMFF 2020
IMFF 2020 Screening:
April 4th 2020 |
Screening: 6.30pm - 8.40pm
AFS Cinema, Austin
Member Tickets: $12
Non-Member Tickets: $15
India | Fiction | Drama |2019 | 91 MIN. |Tamil; English Subtitles
This film will be preceded by a short: MAYA
When an idealistic young trade unionist investigates the sudden death of a favorite uncle, he comes face to face with the terrifying practice of Thalaikoothal, the killing of the infirm elderly by their own families in rural Tamil Nadu.
The film is a drama based on true events.
Karuppasamy, a 64-year old night watchman, lives with his sister, Menmozhi, and her sons, Veera, Mani and Murugan, in a small town in Tamil Nadu. A kindly man, he is devoted to his family, and goes out of his way to make people happy.
When the film opens, Karuppasamy is at a village fair, searching for a birthday gift for his little granddaughter. Finding himself short, he borrows money at home from young Veera, his headstrong, favorite nephew, and leaves for his shift. While returning early the next morning, Karuppasamy is involved in a hit-and-run accident, and breaks his hip.
It takes a whole day for his sister’s worried family to get news of him.
As Veera has left for Chennai on a 10-day work trip, his brothers, Mani and Murugan, pick up Karuppasamy immediately on hearing of his whereabouts, and take him to the small hospital in town. Following the doctor’s advice, Murugan suggests they have a hip plate operation performed right away.
However, Karuppasamy’s taciturn son, Senthil, decides to take him home to their remote ancestral village where he lives with his wife, Stella, and their young daughter, saying that a traditional bone-setter will treat his father.
Instead, 8 days later, Karuppasamy is dead.
At his funeral, Veera, who has just returned from Chennai, hears something from one of the mourners that makes his blood run cold.
And the burning question that faces him is – how did Karuppasamy die…?
I first read of Thalaikoothal, or forced senicide, online in 2012 in minor news portals and blogs.
Families of elderly or infirm villagers were dispatching them by starving them for 10-15 days, giving a cold water head bath to their weakened bodies, and then plying them with copious amounts of tender coconut water, which induced renal failure.
The inconvenient family member was dead within 2-3 days
The numbers were preposterous – thousands of elderly or ill villagers were purported to be killed by their own families in rural Tamil Nadu every year in a practice that enjoyed wide social and administrative sanction. I was raised very lovingly by my grandparents in Secunderabad, and the idea of head baths is irrevocably tied in with memories of Deepavali celebrations rather than murder, so the practice of Thalaikoothal disturbed me deeply, and I began to research it.
There was little information about it in any mainstream media or on the net, and I could see why.
Although practiced widely, it was done underground, usually clandestinely at night, and there were no medical or administrative records left behind. I still wasn’t sure how plausible the whole thing was.
Then Aamir Khan discussed the issue of Thalaikoothal in an episode of ‘Satyameva Jayate’ with the journalist who had filed the first story about it in the Deccan Chronicle newspaper in 2010. I was shaken. In 2015, after 3 years of research and debate, I decided to go to the small town in Tamil Nadu where the Deccan Chronicle broke that first case.
There, I met M. A., a 55-year old trade union leader, whose favorite uncle had died suddenly after a hip fracture.
He came to my hotel room at 9.30 at night and told me what had occurred.
It was a horrifying story of such inhumanity and helplessness that, having heard it, I had no choice but to make the film.
And that is how ‘Baaram’ was born.
Raised between India, the US and Nigeria, Priya Krishnaswamy is a 2-time National Award-winning producer and director from the Film & TV Institute of India (FTII), Pune, where she specialized in film editing.
Priya has also served as jury member for the National Film Awards in 2014, 2017 and 2018.
She has edited ‘Om Dar-b-Dar’, ‘Percy’, ‘Kaafila’, ‘Bombay Boys’, ‘Bhopal Express’, ‘Gangoobai’ and ‘Baaram’.
‘Baaram’ is Priya Krishnaswamy’s second feature film as director, and her first as producer, with Ardra Swaroop. It had its world premiere in the Indian Panorama section of the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa in November 2018. It was also 1 of 12 international features nominated for the prestigious ICFT-UNESCO Gandhi medal, an international competition section at the IFFI 2018.
‘Baaram’ was selected for the Indian Cinema Competition at the Bengaluru International Film Festival, 2019, where it was nominated for the FIPRESCI award, and has travelled to other festivals.
In 2019, ‘Baaram’ won the National Award for Best Feature film in Tamil.
It is the first film directed by a woman to have won this award, and the only Tamil film to win a National Award in 2019, the first time this has happened since 1992.
STILLS SLIDE DECK
R. Raju Karuppasamy
Sugumar Shanmugam Veera
SuPa Muthukumar Senthil
Stella Gobi Senthil’s wife
Natraj J Rajan
S. Nandini Meena
Bremnath V Mani
Sama Raja Murugan
Faridha Murugan’s wife
Arivazhagan Jay Town doctor
P. Arunagiri Murthy
Writer-Editor-Director Priya Krishnaswamy
Producers Priya Krishnaswamy
Executive Producer Ardra Swaroop
DOP Jayanth Sethu Mathavan
Sound Design & Music Ved Nair
Dialogs Rakav Mirdath
Line Producers Priya Krishnaswamy
Casting Director Sugumar Shanmugam
Sync sound recordist Bibek Basumatary
Sound Design & Re-Recording Mixer Tarun Sharma (Audiomagick, Mumbai)
DI & VFX Pixel D, Mumbai