Production Talk-'24 Hours of Anger' by TT Dhavamani

A flood of congratulations and several good reviews since its opening, 'Gurushetram' or '24 Hours of Anger' has remained steady at 8th position for 2 weeks in the Singapore box office since its opening. Can't get enough of it? Here's more.... an in-depth chat with the director TT Dhavamani about the film and what's behind it!


Synopsis

Set in contemporary Singapore, Gurushetram - 24 Hours of Anger, is a sinuously provocative, edge-of-your-seat thriller about Prakash who is brought up in a particular s
egment of the working-class Indian society lined with the wreckage of broken families and dreams. Prakash, a 17 year old teenager, losing his family, seeks shelter with his uncle Vinod, the head of a drug ring, with his mentally challenged younger brother. The two teenagers emerge as pivotal accomplices in Vinod’s clandestine drug operations.

Unbeknownst to Vinod, an adamant narcotics police superintendent is hot on their heels after receiving a string of tips offs from an anonymous informant. An earnest social counsellor tries to reach out to Prakash and his brother but meets resistance from those within and outside the law. Both the law enforcers and Vinod want a piece of Prakash and his defenseless sibling in a world fraught with peril, double-crossings and deceits. Prakash has no choice but play his final card to salvage the situation and protect his brother once and for all.


I read that you and Tze Chien have been incubating this story for a long time.

To be exact we devoted three years to the tasks of reading, researching, discussing, writing and then refining! Considering the amount of money one spends on making a movie; the amount of dedicated work one puts into making a movie; and, then the number of lives it touches and transforms … three years I believe is not really a long of time for developing a script!

Why is this story so special to you that you want to tell it in your first feature film?

Well, I strongly felt that in a race towards attaining economic security we have, without our conscious knowledge, left a generation of Singaporeans who have difficulty both competing and completing the race. Unable to cope with the pace and numerous changes they have fallen wayward out of the social context. Inevitably they are part of us and this is a story about them and thus us! What is more important than a story about us in my first feature film work?

"the street scripts the screen" - could you elaborate further?

A line I borrowed from a well know film critic that best sums up my work till far. A reflection of what we see and feel around us that eventually shape your thoughts and become part of the process of your work.

Is this really the first Singapore Tamil feature to be made in a long time, what were your predecessors?

We do not have a history of Singapore-made Tamil films. At least not in the same league as the Malay industry who has seen the golden age during P Ramlee’s era. Yet we do have a rich cultural tradition of story-telling in Singapore. The Tamil theatre has seen a collection of works that will certainly stand as testimony to this. Short story collections and local literary works have a special place in our very own history. They are my predecessors!

I am influenced by P Krishnan, a legendary writer in the Singapore Tamil literary fraternity as much as Kuo Pao Kun, the theatre practice veteran whose many works have deeply influenced in my formative years.

How is it different from other TV drama programmes which you have directed before?

I treat all work, be it theatre plays, television dramas or made for television movies and the feature films the same. Careful consideration is given to the “process”. To me the process (experimentation) which takes us, the practitioners, to the final destination or the final outcome is very important.

The difference may be the bigger platform, the medium, the budget, the bigger pool of crew and actors to manage, and of course the business sense of movie-making … something that I am still figuring out!

How long did you take to make this film from the time pre-production started?

Three months of solid pre-production was very essential for the whole process. The locations needed careful selection; the Art Direction needed careful planning; the rehearsal process needed careful attention as I was concurrently finalising the dialogues; endless discussion with the key personnel be it the Production Designer, Cinematographer, Actors and Production crew took place just to ensure the details that we wanted were worked into the story at every stage! The shoot was planned for 30 days and executed within that planned period. The editing, music, sound design, mixing, grading and final print out were all done within another 40 days.

How did you go about casting?

Casting was a joyful process as far as this feature film was concerned. Many of the actors who acted in the feature film have collaborated with me at various stages of their career. Many of them were from my acting workshops conducted long ago when I was diligently doing theatre and acting workshops for television. Many of them have done various television dramas with me. It was more like a home coming. I knew exactly the actor who is going to play the characters while I was fine tuning the script at the final stages. To a certain extent I wrote the dialogues to the tune of the actor’s breathing pattern … assembling the puzzle one by one!

What were your biggest challenges in making this film?

Film making in itself in Singapore is a big challenge! The lack of physical space for filming is a challenge! Making the budget work for the film is a challenge! Filming live sound at its best in the hustle and bustle of Singapore is a challenge! Convincing people to watch a local work is a challenge! Dealing with the press, critics, and distributors is a challenge! Understanding the concept of film business itself is a challenge! Amidst all these challenges the pure passion of telling a story sincerely and truthfully keeps one going crossing one obstacle after another...

Any interesting anecdotes to share about the production?

Although the film is classified as a Tamil movie, it is truly made by multi-cultural Singaporeans! The cinematographer is a Belgian, the co-writer, gaffer to grip to sound recordist were all Chinese, the sound designer was a Malay, the Director, Musician, Editor a Tamil, Actors boast a combination of all races!

I am very gripped and moved by the film. What kind of impact do you hope this film will have on the Singapore audience and the industry?

Channel News Asia reviewer gave it 4 pop-corn (must watch) and reviewed it as a World Class performance and add that the cinematography can rival any Hollywood Movie! It is gripping and creating sensations among the Singaporean Indians as well. Face book and emails is seeing a lot of good reviews, and the movie is quietly running successfully into its third week at the cinemas (limited screening yet we will reach 100k box office taking soon). I did not have many funds to publicise the movie except through the internet and quietly relying on word of mouth! It is working as the box office takings look good and I am hoping it engages the non-Tamil speaking Singaporeans as well soon because it is really a story about us.

With My Magic, I think a lot more Singaporeans are starting to gain interest into the lives of the Indian community here. But of course, that story was told through the eyes of a Chinese. What kind of other stories about your community do you think need to be told?

There are stories at every corner of Singapore! It has to be told honestly, sincerely, truthfully and creatively (engagingly)! It could be fiction, non-fiction; drama, comedy, thriller and whatever the genre is! The characters could belong to Indian, Chinese or Malay ethnic groups! Whatever it is, it should strike a chord with the audience! It should make them laugh, cry, think and bring them on an unforgettable journey!

These are characteristics of a good story and we should strive to do just that!

What are your views on the film industry here in Singapore?

The film industry here is trying to find its rightful place! The film makers are trying to find their feet here! The industry has not picked up the pace as it should and it requires the support of each and every individual to make it happen! There is no place for complacency nor is there place for healthy experiment. Everything has a price and until the risk takings are reduced sincere practitioners will find it hard to practice their craft!

Give us more insight to your upcoming works.

Film making has taken a toll on me and the work is not yet over till one market his film at the various venues. Currently, I have returned to my day job as a television producer … producing a programme on puppetry and Muppets! Storytelling in a different platform to a different audience!

Check out the official movie website here.

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