Director Mohan Raja delves into the politics and ideology of his blockbuster success, Thani Oruvan, that recently completed its fifth anniversary
It’s easy to see where Mohan Raja’s films get their boundless energy—and their limitless appetite for social commentary—from. The filmmaker can go on hours at a stretch, discussing cinema and society, with an enthusiasm that if anything, only seems to increase as the conversation progresses. In this hour-long conversation to mark the completion of five years since the release of Thani Oruvan, he sheds light on the ideology of the film, the importance of the protagonist, Mithran, and of course, plans for the upcoming Thani Oruvan sequel.
It’s often said that Thani Oruvan transformed your life, and that of your brother, Jayam Ravi. What does this film mean to you?
Let me clarify right off the bat that this wasn’t a film done to prove my detractors wrong. This wasn’t about making a point to those who had decided that I couldn’t do any more than remakes. I don’t even see the ‘remake’ tag as an insult; I always poured my heart and soul into those projects. I needed all those remakes to be able to fulfill my eventual dream of making a film that was my own—a big-budget experimental film like Thani Oruvan. When talking to Mani Ratnam sir, I mentioned the climax of the Iranian film, Children of Heaven—about how the boy runs with his eyes closed and finds that he’s won first prize. I said that my success with Thani Oruvan was something similar and asked him how he managed to recover from the fatigue of making at least 25 such films, when I felt as drained after making just one. I’ll remember always what he told me: “Close your eyes again.”
The title of the film speaks of the protagonist’s solitude, a quality that is emphasised several times in the film.
Heroism in our cinema is usually of two types: Active, where the hero questions something wrong that happens around him, and Reactive, where he reacts to a wrong done to him. I don’t know if it has been done in Indian cinema before, but we came up with the idea of a ‘Proactive’ hero in Thani Oruvan. After acquiring reasonable knowledge about our society, I have always wondered what my life would have been, had I had as such insight as a 20-year-old. Mithran, the protagonist of Thani Oruvan, is a younger, extroverted version of myself. His solitude is important because it helps him accumulate his anger about the system and channel it productively. The badge of a police officer is only a tool for him to achieve his end goal. This idea of a proactive, reclusive protagonist… I have been thinking about it for at least a decade.
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For the remainder of this column (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), visit https://www.cinemaexpress.com/stories/interviews/2020/sep/06/mohan-raja-mithran-was-stronger-crafter-wilier-than-siddharth-abhimanyu-in-thani-oruvan-20132.html