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Exclusive! Aswin Raam: I was confident of Adhi pulling off the challenging characters in Anbarivu

The young director talks about his latest release which started streaming on Disney+ Hotstar a few hours ago

Thinkal Menon
Jan 07, 2022
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Aswin Raam

Debutant filmmaker Aswin Raam is elated about the initial response to Anbarivu, which dropped on Disney+ Hotstar earlier today. The movie, which stars Hiphop Tamizha Adhi in dual roles, is a family drama set against the backdrop of a village. Napolean, Saikumar, Vidaarth and Asha Sharath among others play pivotal roles in the movie which has been produced by Sathya Jyothi Films.

In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, the director talks about the decision to opt direct-to-OTT release for his directorial debut, working with the ensemble cast in the film, treading the familiar path, choosing Adhi to play the protagonist and more...

When did you decide to release the movie directly online?

The decision was made a few months ago after the Delta variant of COVID-19 witnessed a decline. We had started the movie with a plan to release it in theatres during Pongal. With more big films announced for the festival and the possibility of a new variant made us think twice about releasing the film in movie halls. From the beginning, our intention was to enable the movie get a wider reach. Finally, we sold it off to Disney+ Hotstar. Now, we feel it was the right decision.

Were you slightly disappointed when you got to know that the film is skipping theatrical release?

It is indeed the dream of every debut director to watch his film on the big screen. But the decision was made by all of us together. I was slightly dejected, so was the producer. But when you look things in a different way, it is difficult these days for a debutant to bag a movie offer. I got the opportunity to work for a big budget film with a leading production house like Sathya Jyothi Films. It is a dream debut for me. So, I felt I couldn't have asked for more. In the current uncertain scenario, going the OTT way was the best decision we made.  

Anbarivu is a family festival entertainer based on two estranged twin brothers and a family getting united. We have come across several films in the past which have dealt with this story. What made you choose this done-to-death storyline for your debut project?

It is true that several movies have been made in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and even in Hollywood, with the plot revolving around estranged twins and them coming together in the end. But I think the fascination we have for look-alike twins or the curiousity surrounding their lives make stories around them always intriguing.

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Of late, there is an influx of village-based family drama in Tamil which is high on emotions. Do you think such movies are considered as minimum guarantee projects by filmmakers especially when they are released during festivals?

We are currently living in a time period where there is no minimum guarantee for human life. I wanted to make a film straight from my heart. I believe in the power of true emotions; it always works, no matter what. Despite all of us moving forward with latest technology and other inventions, what keeps us humbled and united as a species is love and emotions.

The movie features many seasoned actors. How did you manage to rope them all in?

After the script was ready, the production house asked me about the actors who I had in my mind for the characters we had created. The first person I had thought of after writing the grandfather character was Napolean sir. Being in the US, he was a little skeptical about coming down here and shooting for the film, considering the threat from pandemic. But he agreed to act and was happy to sport a look which he had never attempted before. 

Vidaarth anna was surprised when I approached him for the shrewd politician's role. I wanted someone who doesn't have the traits of a regular antagonist. Though he had expressed concerns over taking up a negative role, he got convinced later. Saikumar sir and Asha ma'am, too, were elated to be part of the cast as they felt their characters were written quite differently from the ones they have essayed before.  

The film touches upon casteism and discrimination, but not in a full-fledged manner. Was it a purposeful decision to tone down portraying the social evils, given the carefree nature of the movie?

My idea was not to point out just casteism, but discrimination in all forms. Through the movie, I intended to spread the popular Tamil saying Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir (To us all towns are our own, everyone is our kin). I don't know how each person who watches the film is going to acknowledge this inclusive concept. But I will be happy if they feel there is a takeaway from the film.

Adhi has a boy-next-door image, but it seemed like some of the scenes were executed in a way mass heroes are portrayed. Were you apprehensive about the audience accepting it?

I wanted to give a challenge to Adhi. After watching the popular music video Takkaru Takkaru, I knew he would pull it off. I was also confident of pushing him to get the best out of him.

Anbarivu was compared to a few films, especially Vel, when its trailer was out. Was that anticipated while you were shooting for the project?

Not at all. We developed a story which we had in our mind. From the initial response we received, I did not come across audience commenting on the similarity Anbarivu shares with any another film.

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