Afflicted with Retinoblastoma, a cancer of the retina, my eye had to be removed so the cancer wouldn’t spread. I was only three-and-a-half years old at this time and I began to endure taunts for being the only kid in the neighbourhood with a gaping socket in the face. And I hail from a lower-middle-class family that couldn’t afford to send me to a convent school. My father was struggling to make ends meet, and these frustrations would find their way to us. I would get beaten up for the smallest of things. The only time I used to have fun is when I went out to play, though afterwards, I were scared to return home. I am the kind of kid who stole money to buy a Hero pen, and when I got scared that I would be found out and beaten up by my father, I boarded a train to Guwahati (without a ticket, naturally). It was not a very pleasant childhood but I don’t have anything to complain because every human being is a composite of two opposing forces, angels and demons.
After some years, my family shifted to a colony in KK Nagar, and these experiences informed the happenings in 7G Rainbow Colony. And as I spent a lot of time near Saidapet, I absorbed the life and the lingo of gangsters, and these exposures helped shape Pudhupettai.
When it comes to writing, Ideas can come from anywhere. When I’m in the shower, when I’m walking. It clicks in the brain. When you get ideas, always make a note of it. Because you tend to forget. Instinctive ideas are gold. So one shouldn’t keep it for later. Make a note then and there because screenplay writing is the toughest job in the world. You always crucify ideas to see if they will hold. They come from a thought process and tend to be original. Even if its not great, something original I feel will always have a value.
And I write my stories in the screenplay format, including how the camera moves. It’s a screenplay and not a stage play so it’s usually 120 pages, with plot points and everything. Writing is all encompassing in that sense. I even forget my family and my food when I’m writing. When you’re so immersed, you cant think about the audience. I don’t follow the public, if its good people will watch it.
I give my heart and soul to the film i am making and when it doesn’t work, it hurts. But I move on because a filmmaker’s life is like that. See when it rains, you are delighted for a few seconds, and then the practical side of it takes over, worrying about getting wet and catching a cold. I am trying to live my life in those few seconds. There’s no point in getting scared. You do what you want to do, and as long as you like what you’re doing, people will relate to it.
Dear selva (age 14)
The world is laughing at you about the way you look, because of your handicap, the lack of an eye. Where ever you go people stare at you or mock you. Every night you cry about it. Sometimes ask God “why me? Why did you take my eye?” But don’t worry selva. In exactly 10 years you will write and direct a blockbuster hit that will change your life forever. The same world will keep looking at you but not with mocking derision but with respect and admiration. In the next ten years you will make movies that will go down in tamizh cinema history as trend setting cult classics. People will call you a “genius”. When people look at you now, they don’t see that eye that has haunted you for so much of your young life. They see a man who made a difference to their lives with his movies. So dear boy. Be brave. If God takes something precious from you he will give it back to you in abundance. So cheer up. Smile for photographs (I’m not able to find a single one of you smiling) because in the years to come there will be many pictures being taken of you!
Director Selvaraghavan (age 45)