STOP10 Sep 2017: 'Muthal Vanakkam' by N Mohamed Yahssir

Muthal Vanakkam (First Greetings) is a Teacher's Day Telemovie by the internationally talented multi hyphenate writer - director - producer - entrepreneur N Mohamed Yahssir, filmed entirely in 5k, and focuses on Ms Maya's relationship with her student, Revathi - told from various perspectives.

Ever since the tragic deaths of Revathi's parents, she works part-time to support herself and her grandfather. She tries to cope with her studies, work stress and peer pressure at school but will she get to balance it all? Miss Maya steps in and goes the extra mile to help her student in Muthal Vanakkam.

Current busy filming a tv series, SINdie had the opportunity to catch Yahssir amid his busy schedule for a few questions.

What prompted the idea for the movie to focus on the teacher - student relationship?

Actually, my friend, Ganesh came up with this concept for Mother's day and we agreed that teachers are like another parents to us and we thought that this needs to be highlighted.

What there perhaps a teacher that inspired you in your life?

There have been many teachers who have inspired me over my schooling years from my primary to poly years. In Poly, my lecturer Tommy helped with my course fees. However, it is mainly my tuition teacher, Geetha who really inspired me. When I was performing poorly, she motivated me by bringing me out and kindling my interest in the language.

With all the achievements that you have accomplished working in film - what prompted the telling of this particular story? 

I think there are so many teachers out there. Other than the time spent at home, while growing up a majority of our time is spent in school where they are like our second parents from discipling us, to guiding us to teaching us. Teachers do more than teach and a majority of them go beyond their duty to make sure that their students not only excel in their studies but in their lives too. But maybe they are not given enough recognition and they are easily blamed as well. So we felt their stories needed to be highlighted.

To err on the more geeky side - what was the motivation behind using 5K ?

I always want to be in touch with the latest technology. We recently shot a TVC with RED weapon in 8k. By doing that, I was prepping myself for the feature that I will doing soon - that we would be well equipped.

Are there any particular anecdotes that you can share from filming? Perhaps any funny incidents?

There were many but one that stood out was working with Grijisha. She had difficulty trying to cry. As such I was spending some time trying to get her to feel for the role. The process was intense and she finally started tearing. However she was laughing at the same time. I got very puzzled and questioned why. She said she will laugh when she cries. We had to start all over again.

What are your hopes that audiences will take away from the telemovie?

I hope that audience will be able to appreciate their teachers more. Some do not like their teachers so they come down hard on them. But ultimately in a way, we are who we are due to our teachers.

As someone who has achieved so much in this industry - what keeps you motivated?

I love the quote from Rocky Balboa - Every Champion was once a contender that refused to give up. I never see myself as someone who has achieved a lot. If I had that mentality, I would never be able to improve. So I always ask myself what is lacking in my current piece and how can I improve in the next. I will also never deny that I am not demotivated at times. There are times when I am down, but ultimately I am in the industry because of my passion and that always keeps me going.

Is making a telemovie today any different from when you first started?

I do not think much of the difference as we still put in the same effort, but rather that the way we make it is different in the sense that it is with better technology that we are using now.

Any advice for someone starting in the industry today? 

I think it is to always keep an open mind and to continue to keep the passion burning. There will be many obstacles and moments where you will be demotivated, but just strive on.

Mudhal Vanakkam was first broadcast yesterday on 31 August, 9pm on Vasantham. You can now watch it on Toggle or simply watch it here (below).

To find out more about what's brewing in Millenia Motion Pictures, (Yahssir's production company), you can visit their Facebook page here.

Interview by Ivan Choong

For the full list of September 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.

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