Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam - The Malayalam movie

Today (28-Nov-2015) I watched Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam directed by my close friend Ranjith Sankar at Innovative multiplex, Marathahalli in Bangalore. Ranjith has made an honest attempt to bring an issue like stammering to the public domain though the movie. The newspaper and online media had shown me as the writer of the story. The titles of the movie told that it was based on my life. Let me clarify that my life was an inspiration for the movie but it is neither my biography nor a story written by me. The credit for the story and a major credit for the script should actually go to Abhayakumar Kanthi Bhavan ( he worked on the script along with Ranjith) who was a friend and former colleague of mine in NeST Information Technologies.

I am a stammerer and am a member of TISA (The Indian Stammering Association) which incidentally gets a mention in the movie too. TISA exhorts its members to accept themselves as stammerers and to remove the shame of stammering from their minds and to work on their communication skills. The concepts of voluntary stammering, bouncing etc are related to that which again are mentioned in the movie. In a bid to accept themselves as stammerers and to come out of their shell, TISA asked their members to write about their experiences about stammering and I also wrote mine. This happened on 21-Oct-2009. Those who want to read it, can access the write up 'ssstammering and my life' at TISA website here http://stammer.in/articles/38-cat-stuttering-related/222-ssstammering-and-my-life.html.

My relationship with Ranjith goes back to 2001 when I joined NeST Information Technologies. Both of us worked as quality engineers in that company. Then he was a renowned script writer of Tele serials and was an aspiring movie maker. We used to sit in the same cubicle and he used to tell that he would make a movie based on me. May be, he saw some eccentricities in me like stammering and sleeping in the trains. He told he would make the hero of his movie a stammerer. I didn’t agree to it as most of the movies treat stammerers as fools and making the hero a stammerer, in a movie, for no reason didn’t make any sense to me. Later Passenger happened which he told was based on my habit of sleeping in the train. I was happy that he didn’t make the hero a stammerer and that he acknowledged me. Later he made a mark as one of the pioneers of new generation movie and I am proud of him.

In the meantime, the movie, The Kings speech was released and I had a chat with him at that time. He asked me whether stammering was such a big issue. At that time I had moved out of NeST and was working in HCL in Bangalore. I told him it indeed was an issue and sent him the link of the write up which was mentioned earlier. He read it and told that he would have made a movie out of it had King’s Speech been not released. If he made a movie on it, people would blame him of copying King’s Speech. He shared the write up with Abhay who was a budding writer and the next day Abhay called me and told that he wanted to write a script based on the write up. King’s speech was based on stammering, but it didn’t mean that there could not be another story on stammering ! I agreed and asked him to go ahead. The only condition from my side was that the movie should deal with the subject of stammering and should give a ray of hope for those who stammer.

He discussed with me the troubles faced by a stammerer and he developed a story and script based on that. The story was about a person who was struggling in his life due to stammering. The struggles of the stammerer were based on my life. The other part in which his wedding gets cancelled, he gets married to the speech therapist who was responsible for that etc were his additions which were approved by me.

One day, he called me and told that he had a chat with Ranjith and that they decided to collaborate to make this. I was happy because I knew both of them and Ranjith is a person who knew me well. They worked together on the script. Ranjith used to call me very frequently to know more about stammering, the techniques like bouncing, TISA, SHG etc. He refined and modified whatever was initially written by Abhay though the storyline remained the same. Later when they decided to do the movie, Ranjith who was the producer, decided to give the credit of the story to me as it was the write up by me which was the initial spark for the movie. Abhay also agreed and my name appeared in the movie.

Ranjith has done a good job in refining and improving the script, writing the dialogues and directing and producing the movie along with Jayasurya. This is a feel good movie and has succeeded in spreading awareness about stammering. Thank you very much Abhay, Ranjith and Jayasurya. When the shooting of the movie was about to start in Bangalore, I met Jayasurya. He asked me some questions to know more about me and I was impressed. I was sure that he would do justice to the role and he didn’t disappoint me. Not only he but all the other actors of the movie also have done a great job. Kudos to all.

There were some rude shocks too in store for me. I was shocked to see the character shown as farting in some of the scenes like the one in which he faints and that of his engagement. I was never aware of it. I contacted Abhay and he told he had not written that. I contacted Ranjith and he told it was only in two scenes and that he also felt it was unnecessary when he saw it. I really could not understand what benefit it brought to the movie other than making him a joker. I never expected this which was really unnecessary and uncalled for. I am really unhappy that such a thing was shown in a movie in which my name was used. Let me tell all who read this that there is no relationship between stammering and farting and that it should have been avoided in the movie. If this was brought in to give some comic relief in an otherwise serious movie, I should tell that it diluted the subject and that it was more of a vulgarity. Please don’t be misled by these scenes.

The character of Vijay Babu was conceived as one who would give the protagonist the realisation that nobody is perfect. I am not sure whether the movie succeeded in that. Similarly the scenes related to SHG also didn’t succeed in conveying what it really is. The conductor of Mary Matha bus was more like a butcher. I don’t know whether there would be a bus conductor like that!
This movie succeeds in giving motivation to the people suffering from disabilities to come up in life. It asks them to accept the disability and do whatever is required to manage that. When it comes to stammering, accept yourself as a stammerer and work on your communication skill. Don’t fight with that but try to be comfortable with that. Don’t be ashamed of that. If possible, laugh at it. Yes, this movie succeeds in conveying these messages, though it disappointed me in some other areas which I mentioned above!

(originally written on 28-Nov-2015 in facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sudheendran.avittathur/posts/10208195919120087)