Tamil film Azhagarsamiyin Kuthirai, directed by Suseenthiran and produced by P. Madan, bagged the Swarna Kamal (Golden Lotus award) for best popular film providing wholesome entertainment. This simple tale of two Azhagarsamiyis (village deities) whose horses go missing is Suseenthiran's third film. Set in a rural milieu, the film scored with its story, a cocktail of love, comedy, drama, suspense spiked with Illayaraja's mesmerising music. Appu Kutty, who played the protagonist in the film, received the Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus award) for best supporting actor.
Suseenthiran, who hails from a village in Pazhani, came to Chennai with celluloid dreams, and it took him 12 years before he donned the director's cap. His maiden film, Venilla Kabadi Kuzhu, and his second venture, Naan Mahaan Alla, received rave reviews.
"I am honoured and happy for Appu Kutty," Suseenthiran said. "Initially, when I met a couple of producers, they did not approve of casting Appu Kutty as the protagonist. Thanks to producer Madan, who granted me complete freedom, I roped him in to make this film."
Appu Kutty struggled for 17 years in the industry before he hit the bullseye this year.
"I could not believe it," he said. Reminiscing about the film, where he shares a close bond with a horse, he said: "Prior to shooting, I spent two months with the horse and was involved in its daily care. That helped me understand my character well. It was hard to part with the horse once the shooting was over."
Another Tamil film, Aaranya Kandam, produced by S.P.B. Charan and directed by T. Kumararaja, bagged the Indira Gandhi Award for best debut film of a director. This gangster flick stood out for its realistic portrayal and slick narration and brought home a Rajat Kamal to its two editors, Praveen K. L. and N. B. Srikanth, for best editing.
Kumararaja dabbled in photography and made a couple of commercials before directing Aaranya Kandam. On the award, he said, "There are many films made every year. Few people get recognised and a lot of people don't get awards. This year I happened to be on the list. That does not mean I was better than the others."
He worked with Jackie Shroff, who plays a don in the film. "For Jackie's role, I had approached several actors but they had issues with the character. Following a friend's suggestion, I got in touch with him and he immediately agreed. Jackie was the kindest person on the sets. Despite being a senior actor, he listened to the cues that I asked him to do and performed."
Praveen and Srikanth have worked together on 31 films, winning the Tamil Nadu state award for best editing in 2008 for Saroja.
Of the director, Praveen says, "Kumar is a perfectionist. I remember while working on the rooster fight scenes, we presented the final copy to him after 25 versions. Ten days later, he called us for a meeting. At his office, we met a person. He was a referee for rooster fights. And he felt that in the sequence of scenes that we had presented, a particular movement of one of the roosters was just not right. So we had to rework that."
Another film, Vaagai Sooda Vaa, bagged the Rajat Kamal for best feature film in Tamil. Produced by S. Muruganandham and directed by A. Sarkunam, this period film set in the Sixties hinges on a cute love story besides raising questions on child labour and the vanishing species of sparrows.
An ecstatic Sarkunam, who penned the script of the film says, "The idea for the story was triggered by a news report on child labour that I stumbled upon online."
In the non-feature section, the Revathy-directed film, Red Building Where The Sun Sets, won a Rajat Kamal for best film on family welfare.