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OTTplay Awards 2022: Know Your Winners: Pa Ranjith bags the Filmmaker of the Decade

Pa Ranjith, whose latest release was Natchathiram Nagargirathu, completed 10 years in the film industry.

OTTplay Awards 2022: Know Your Winners: Pa Ranjith bags the Filmmaker of the Decade
Pa Ranjith
  • S Subhakeerthana

Last Updated: 09.08 AM, Sep 16, 2022

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At the OTTplay Awards 2022, Pa Ranjith received the Filmmaker of the Decade honour. The director began his speech by uttering the slogan "Jai Bhim," which expresses one's loyalty to Dr BR Ambedkar's principles. Ranjith noted that he disseminates Ambedkar's ideas through the art/medium he's familiar with, cinema.

“Thanks for believing in me (Team Sarpatta Parambarai). In India, movies are more than just a form of entertainment. I ascribe to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. He always believed that the ultimate goal of human existence should be the cultivation of the mind. I accomplish it via creating art,” Ranjith said.

The conflict between the two boxing camps was the focus of Sarpatta Parambarai. The movie takes place in north Chennai in the 1970s when boxing was a popular sport. It documented the tumultuous political environment of Tamil Nadu in addition to the thriving boxing culture of Madras.

Sarpatta Parambarai earned positive reviews for its strong narrative strands, accurate political undertone, and social commentary, besides boxing sequences, which were among the best-choreographed fights ever made in Tamil cinema history. What further makes this one unique, is the way the culture of North Madras in the 70s, has been portrayed.

Sarpatta Parambarai features Arya, John Kokken, Shabeer Kallarakkal, Dushara Vijayan, Pasupathy, Anupama Kumar and Sanchana Natarajan.

The film was released as an Amazon Prime Video exclusive, owing to the Pandemic. 

About the winner

Pa Ranjith is the first commercially-successful Dalit filmmaker in India. He has established a thriving cultural centre in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu intending to empower the Dalit population, historically referred to as "untouchables," by drawing inspiration from Black artists from the American civil rights movement. Among his almost a dozen projects are a publishing house for young Dalit poets and authors, an anti-caste band, and a YouTube channel exhibiting Dalit culture and cuisine.

Director Ranjith entered the Tamil film industry in 2012 with the film Attakathi. He is known for making films like Kabali and Kaala, which talk about caste politics in society.

Ranjith produced Mari Selvaraj’s Pariyerum Perumal, which was about caste discrimination and violence against Dalits.

When asked about bringing alive the Dalit voice on screen, Ranjith had told, "I brought my life, my experiences, and the things I had seen and known growing up. My stories are set in settings that are known to me. I pick scenes from every movie that remind me of my upbringing. Despite differences in caste, ethnicity, language, and religion, downtrodden people around the world are connected by class."

Ranjith says that caste has grown to be so significant that it follows us from conception to final disposition. "The word 'Dalit' was a part of my upbringing, which has had a big impact on me. I saw international movies that explored the relationship between politics and society, and it was these movies that provided me inspiration for my writing."

The filmmaker always found that in cinema Dalits played smaller roles. "I looked for my place in the cinema. I observed that Dalits were character actors rather than leaders or sub-leads. When someone else shared their perspective on our way of life and culture, I reasoned, why shouldn't I make movies and express my story through the protagonist? All of us have casteist roots, and everything is viewed as a business."

Accolades

There are probably just a small number of persons like Pa Ranjith who have prioritised expanding possibilities for others while working toward their goals. So first of all, the director has carved out a place in cinema for dialogue about equality and Ambedkarite philosophy. Second, he has given people hope—not just those who want to work in the film industry, but also those trying to survive in a cruel, unjust world. Third, the director has confidently taken the less travelled path in his endeavours. Because of the influence, art has, in his opinion, politics must coexist with art. Furthermore, why not use your artistic talent to improve the world?

Upcoming projects

At the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, Ranjith presented the first-look poster for Vettuvam. His other projects include a collaboration with Kamal Haasan and a historical drama starring Vikram that is situated in the Karnataka region's Kolar Gold Fields.

Ranjith will make his filmmaking debut in Hindi with a biopic of tribal chief Birsa Munda. The director previously stated that he saw Birsa Munda as a "pan-Indian script, analogous to the story of world leaders who have struggled against oppressors." The movie is anticipated to be produced on a massive scale.

On helming a film in a different language, he added, “The thoughts and feelings in the story transcend the language barrier, so I don't think it poses a significant obstacle."

The team spent a significant amount of time travelling throughout Bengal and Jharkhand to follow Birsa's life. "The action drama will be shot at previously undiscovered locales and will bring to the big screen green landscapes and deep jungles," the statement to the press read.

Ranjith's Neelam Productions is supporting movies that are being directed by other independent and upcoming filmmakers including Athiyan Athirai (Irandam Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu-fame), Akiran Moses, and Lenin Bharathi (Merku Thodarchi Malai-fame).

Lenin's movie will focus on the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, whereas Akiran's movie will be about a fight between two gangs that turned violent following a minor occurrence. On the other hand, Athiyan's movie will explore the struggles of young people looking for work in the public sector.

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