More than two decades have passed, his film “Koozhangal“just caused a sensation in India but also abroad under the title”Pebbles“(pebbles) including in Hollywood where he is competing for the Oscar for best international feature film next year.
However, the young 32-year-old filmmaker did not expect such recognition and especially wanted to organize screenings of “Pebbles“in the villages of the southern state of Tamil Nadu where he filmed it.
Coming from a disadvantaged background, he was inspired by the tragedies that occurred within his own family and his environment, in the old city of Madurai.
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– “Tell about these torments“-
“This kind of life turned into a movie“, he told AFP, speaking in Tamil.
Nine years old when his father died, he immediately had to go to work, deprived of an education to help his family.
“The cinema allows me to talk about my pain“, he confides.
He grew up living on odd jobs that took him elsewhere. He was once a worker in a textile factory in Tiruppur. “Many lives fell apart before my eyes“he said.
“Some got married very young, went through a multitude of hardships“, he continues,”all this remained in me, with the desire to tell about these torments“.
The dream of becoming a director persisted and, convinced that education would help make it a reality, he wanted to enroll in a school. But he had missed the boat because “too old“.
He then moved to the state capital, Chennai (former Madras), where he trained alone in cinema watching films in the DVD store that employed him.
Then he ended up getting assistant positions on short film shoots and in the theater.
“My real life experience taught me how to be tough and helped me make this movie, (…) prepared me for it“, he assures us.
– “Simple, honest stories“-
PS Vinothraj was thinking about what he wanted to tell in the cinema, looking for an idea for a feature film when his sister crossed the threshold of the family house, in tears, he recalls.
She had been kicked out of the marital home by her husband and had reached this point after having walked 13 kilometers, her two-year-old child in her arms, under a blazing sun.
“I felt pain and wondered why real life was such an ordeal“, he said again,”then I realized that I was working in the cinema, it was my tool“.
Thereby “Pebbles“tells the story of an alcoholic, violent man and his young son, in the harshness and aridity of Tamil Nadu, in search of the mother who left them.
The title comes from a Tamil word for pebbles that peasants put in their mouths to fight thirst.
Indian critics applauded a “masterpiece“and greeted a”sensational start (…) visceral and powerful“.
At the Rotterdam International Film Festival, “Pebbles“was awarded a Tiger Award, the jury considering that the art”seemingly simple and humble“from the beginner was a”pure cinema lesson“.
He said “very proud“, as of his selection at the Oscars, adding that such support is having an effect on him”of a big party“.
PS Vinothraj joins the emerging movement of Tamil directors like himself from underprivileged backgrounds, who dare to deal with social inequalities and stage characters battered by life.
“I don’t speak English, am not educated, I learned everything on the way to existence“, he explains,”the film is the metaphor“.
His next project found material in another family situation. The main thing for him, he assures us, is to continue shooting “simple, honest, life stories“.
strs-grk / lth / mlb
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Cinema to “talk about my pain,” says Oscar-nominated author of “Pebbles”