Variety has secured access to an exclusive clip from Indian film “Naangal” (“This Is Us”), which has its international premiere in International Film Festival Rotterdam‘s Bright Future strand.
The film is directed by Avinash Prakash, a veteran of commercials and music videos who also directed Prime Video stand-up comedy special “Aravind SA: Madrasi Da” (2017). “Naangal” is his fiction feature debut.
Set in the late 1990s and early 2000, the film is a story of three siblings, un-identical twin boys of eight and their 12-year-old elder brother, who are forced to grow up with their strict and unreasonably proud and arrogant father who is going through a major financial and personal crisis and is separated from their mother. They live in a massive house nestled in the verdant hills of Tamil Nadu, southern India, but cannot afford water, electricity or a decent meal. The father’s frustration with the failure of his business ventures and all efforts to stay afloat forces him to shift from being a considerate parent into a militant one obsessed with controlling his children who know no other way but to obey him.
The deeply personal film is informed by Prakash’s own childhood and was born during the early days of the pandemic when he had the time to look back at his growing years and the days of reading Tintin, Asterix, Casper and Phantom comics. During his childhood years Prakash had no idea that the trauma that he and his siblings underwent wasn’t normal.
“As an adult I recognize that it isn’t normal. But in all honestly I sometimes feel those were simpler times and I had a lot of wonderment in what the world was, sometimes still yearning for those moments where time probably stood still. Saying all this, I wouldn’t want to go back to those financial hardships,” Prakash told Variety. “The underlying search for who I am and what my story is led me to wanting to understand where I came from and who my parents were. I come from a broken family, and somewhere me and my siblings have drifted away from our parents; and as I grew older I started recognizing that I behave physical and mentally like my father, a lot of times. Then I started tracing the physicality and the mental attributes; which took me to the events that happened during my childhood.”
“As a kid, everything is larger than life and it is exponential. It’s not overblown but that exponential larger than life event are true to a kid’s experience. I took this up in two folds: one a fearful hate journey towards my father and a helpless mother; this intertwining with the second fold: trying to understand my father and mother. This collision became ‘Naangal’ which is a love letter written to my father, those times, my mother, my maternal grandparents, and to those three young kids,” Prakash added.
“This is a very personal film, I am trying to find my father and mother for myself through this film. I am trying to write a love letter to them; I am telling myself and my siblings that it is okay and we have come out of it and we are okay,” Prakash said.
The film is produced by G.V.S. Raju for Kala Bhavashri Creations. The producer boarded the film based on a 30-page script submitted by Prakash, with just one proviso – he wanted to experience the honesty of what he felt when he read the screenplay.
Raju and Kala Bhavashri Creations are on board for Prakash’s next film as well, a neo-noir thriller with the working title “Memories,” set 100 years in the future, dealing with memories, its complexities, how reliable it is and whether they can be trusted. “‘Memories’ is an idea that was born out of my 96-year-old grandfather telling me a very specific passive regret, and this gave me the spark of how important memories are,” Prakash said.
“Naangal” had its world premiere at the Mumbai Film Festival in 2023 and is bound to several more festivals post Rotterdam. A streaming deal is in the offing. The cast includes Mithun V., Rithik M., Nithin D., Abdul Rafe and Prarthana Srikaanth. The film features music by Ved Shanker Sugavanam.
Watch the clip here: