– Rinku Gupta
The film has proved to be a dark horse at the box office, with a steady run since release last week. When Dream Warrior Pictures released their Tamil film Joker, little did they imagine the humungous response it would garner from both critics and audiences alike. Directed by Raju Murugan, the film doesn’t bank on any star nor on commercial elements. In fact, it deals with the simple home truth of an issue plaguing Indian society across the country, namely, the lack of adequate toilet facilities, especially in rural areas. The hero believes that he is the President of India and thereby takes on every social ill plaguing his village and environment, in a hard hitting comical socio-political satire. The hero is called Mannar Mannan (King of Kings) and has two followers addressing him as Mr President and supporting all his novel protests against social evils. This hard hitting film which uses comedy and satire as successful tools in driving home bitter truths, is being touted on social media, as Kollywood’s answer to Aaamir Khan’s PK. Both have unusual lead characters and focus on social evils with a tinge of humour and pathos. Capitalising on the wave of support for the Joker, the producers launched a novel anti-piracy campaign. A letter from ‘The President’ Mannar Mannan, which ordered everyone who watches this movie illegally online, to deposit a sum of money in the production house’s bank account, so that these funds could be used to build toilets for the needy. Within 24 hours, thanks to this novel effort, funds came pouring into the bank account! We spoke to the young producer SR Prabhu and discovered more about the unique concept of the film and how he plans to take this social message to the next level, with perhaps a screening for the PM himself.
“We wanted to make movies with an impact on society, along with regular commercial films. So when the Joker script came to us we were thrilled. I started the project knowing the ground reality. Usually star value is needed to sell a film. But in Joker, the script was the star. We started out prepared for upto 40% loss but we were determined to back this script. We even waited for the elections to be over in TN and Kabali to release, in order to get this film its due reception. We can proudly say that Joker is getting its due from the public who have welcomed it widely and we will end up with zero loss,” beams Prabhu.
Joker Vs Pk
Ask him about the memes he’s receiving comparing Joker to Pk, both films dealing with issues in society. “PK needed a star like Aamir to make it work, while only the script is the star in Joker. So if they are comparing a 3 crore film like Joker to a 300 crore film like PK, we are very happy with the impact its created. In fact it’s not about the artist, but the issues and the way they are dealt with that have touched a chord with the people. PK spoke out against religious superstitions while Joker deals with political and socio-economic issues. At the end of the day, both films have deeply affected the masses,” he replies.
The lack of toilets in most rural homes is an issue addressed even by the Prime Minister and many on social media have been tagging the PM , asking him to see Joker. Prabhu is thrilled with the idea, “Of course we would love to have a screening for the Prime Minister. It’s great that the general public have tried to draw his attention to a film like this on social media.”
Hindi remake plans
So how does he plan to keep the momentum going? “We want to take this message to the rest of the country so we are planning for a remake in Hindi. Just dubbing will not drive home the point that well. We are on the look out for a good director and producer who are capable of carrying the essence of the film in an empathetic manner,” he says. Prabhu has also sub-titled the movie in English all across TN. “We want people of other states who live here, who have migrated for work, and who maybe facing similar problems back home, to watch the film,” he says.
Accolades have been pouring in from the film industy, with even Superstar Rajinikanth and Dhanush tweeting and heaping laurels on the film, apart from critics and the general public. The novel anti-piracy campaign letter started trending on Twitter after it was launched. The piracy issue is huge in Kollywood, and in one sweep, Joker seems to have succeeded in creating an unprecedented awareness of the issue, “We wanted to touch the conscience of the people. It has worked. We approached Raju Murugan with the idea of a letter like this and he tweaked it around and made it as a letter from the ‘President’ himself. It worked wonders, with enough funds for a toilet pouring in within 24 hours. People have tweeted that they saw the film online and so are depositing various amounts like Rs 120 or Rs 500, so as to help a toilet to be built for the needy. The next step is also to take the film to various film festivals to give it the exposure it so richly deserves,” he concludes.