“When Mount Tambora, an Indonesian volcano, erupted in the 1800s, fields covered in ash, crops failed, mass starvation followed where horses and other animals could not be fed. This eventually led to the invention of the bicycle. We have to understand the story,” director Kamalakannan says of his new film. Kurangu Pedal. The film is one of three Tamil films selected for the Indian Panorama section of the 53rd International Indian Film Festival to be held in Goa from November 20-28.
“The social relevance of this machine and its impact on society are enormous. Our ancestors walked on foot or used bullock carts to get from one point to another. With the bike came the freedom to roam, roam and explore the world. It is a symbol of revolution, especially for the oppressed”, explains Kamalakannan, delighted with the selection. “It’s a great achievement. The film will now make the festival circuit in Goa, Kerala and Chennai and hopefully international film festivals as well. To be among the top 20 films as KGF, RRR and Jai Bhim is a great recognition for our team.
This film, based on the short story by Rasi Alagappan Cycleis set in the summer of 1980s. “I developed the script and screenplay with Prabahakar Shanmugam. Filmed mainly in villages of Komaraplayam, Kaikolapalayam, Kaveripatty and Ketheri near Karur, we recreated bicycle shops, essentials in the villages of the 1980s, where people could rent the bike for rent. The owners of cycle shops wielded power and had a say in the important decisions made in the village, almost like a center of power.
In Kurangu Pedal, a schoolboy wants to learn to ride a bike while his father is unable to teach him. “It’s a slice of childhood emotion and innocence, served up with nostalgia through the eyes of children. It ultimately shows what the boy gains from the experience. Children receive art in its purest form and they will enjoy this film.
“It’s important that children’s films show their innocence,” says Kamal who ran two children’s film festivals in Coimbatore and one in Erode before directing films like Madhubaanakadai and Vattam.
S Kamalakannan | Photo credit: special arrangement
The film is produced by Savitha Kamalakannan and Sumee Baskaran of Montage Productions with Sanjay Jayakumar of SRJ Productions and Katha Kelu Entertainment. Says Savitha, “At the Children’s Film Festival, we showed films made by Iranian filmmakers like Majid Majidi, Japanese masters, Satyajit Ray, and Korean films like Back home. These films are refreshing because they teach the lessons of life using small everyday incidents and emotions create instant connection. We wanted to recreate a classic for children, highlighting our sensibilities. Most Indian films made for children present them as superheroes and have an unrealistic approach.
Speaking of children, Kamalakannan says they consume visual content on mobile phones without knowing what is good and bad. “It is our responsibility to expose them to good content. There is information pollution and no one can control it. But children need to be aware of what is right and wrong in film language, whether it is pornography or religious fanaticism. The appreciation of cinema must be introduced, especially in school curricula. Although the government of Tamil Nadu has started filtering the classics from public schools, we still have a long way to go.
A still from the film | Photo credit: special arrangement
Five main characters played by children move the narrative forward. “Finding the right cast was a huge task,” Kamal recalls, as they wanted kids with good stamina as well as acting sensibility. After visiting several schools and dance centers that teach martial arts in Thiruvannamalai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Erode, they focused on five main actors from a group of 40 children at Kalaithaai Arakkattalai in Erode. “Teaching them about cinema, how to move people, talk about dialogue, do close-ups and involve them in the creative process was a challenge. They would start fighting in the middle of filming,” Kamal laughs.
“The film will take you back to your childhood,” says cinematographer Sumee Baskaran. “The rising hills, greenery and sand instantly set the tone of summer for the film, the kodai kaalam where does the story take place. Father-son feuds where the father becomes hero and villain at the same time for the son is something everyone can connect with. The camera is placed at children’s eye level in all shots, because after all, it’s their point of view.