H for K Hariharan
Why would I write about a director who has just one prominent movie? Is he that important? If the film is so important, so is the director. K Hariharan’s dad was the vice-president of Eastman Kodak in India, and he had cinematographers visiting his house for consultations with his father. He remembers that Charulatha’s storyboard discussions happened at his home and he used to listen to them as a kid.
After finishing his graduation in Commerce, he joined FTII, Pune and his classmates include Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Kundan Shah, Saeed Mirza and Dibakar Ghosh. Hariharan formed Yukt Film Co-Operative along with three other directors (Mani Kaul, Saeed Mirza, Kamal Swaroop), four cinematographers (Binod Pradhan, Manmohan Singh, Virendra Saini and Rajesh Joshi), four sound recordists, three editors and one actor (Om Puri). They made an experimental Marathi movie titled Ghanshiram Kotwal (based on a Marathi play written by Vijay Tendulkar). The movie was chosen as an official selection for Berlin Film Festival in 1978. In an interview with Sudhish Kamath, he says that he had a halo over his head when he visited Berlin Film Festival as a young director. The movie was also screened at Edinburgh and Valladolid film festivals.
V Shantaram, then director of Children’s Film Society, asked him to make a children’s movie. That marked his entry into Tamil movie world. I could not find much information about the children’s film, Wanted Thangaraj (1979). “Palai” Shanmugam, a criminal lawyer from Tirunelveli, approached him to make a documentary on Subramania Bharathi. They dropped the idea after they realised that it would not be comfortable to discuss all the facets of the person and people would not be pleased about it. They decided to make a movie out of a criminal case attended by Palai Shanmugam himself as he was the labour union president of India Cements Factory in Thalaiyuthu. The story became Ezhavathu Manithan and guess what, all the songs in the movie were Bharathiyar poems. The film also gave us one of the best actors of Tamil Cinema – Raghuvaran.
Break-out movie: Ezhavathu Manithan
Anand (debut role of Raghuvaran), an Engineer joins the Dharmaraja Cement Factory at Ezhavathupuram (fictional name to avoid issues), and he realises that the owner Gunasekhara Perumal (Ramamurthy) is ill-treating his workers and also polluting the environment through smoke emissions from the plant. He creates a social movement along with his co-workers and villagers. After a struggle they eliminate the terrible management, take over the factory and run it as a co-operative with less pollution.
Ezhavathu Manithan was the first movie to talk openly about industrial pollution in Tamil cinema. Mind you, it was made in 1982, and as I said earlier in the series, the 80s directors were bold enough touch these controversial subjects and the audience were receptive. Arun Mozhi wrote the story and he and Somasundareshwar penned the dialogues. The fiery dialogues, realistic screenplay and above all strong content that analysed industrial pollution threadbare. The sad truth is that no other movie talked about the power of labour unions, affirmative action and the importance of collective responsibility like Ezhavathu Manithan.
The audience received the movie with open minds, and it became popular among workers. It ran for 100 days and was a commercial success. Ezhavathu Manithan won the National Award for Best Tamil Language Film and was screened at the International Film Festival in 1983. It was also nominated for the Golden Prize at the Moscow Film Festival. The movie title comes from an adage that you need a seventh man to lead a group of six.
K Hariharan directed two more movies from Children’s Film Society, Crocodile Boy (1986) and Dubashi (1999). He also made Current (1991) starring Om Puri and Deepti Naval, that talked about the plight of farmers. He also made series like “Take a break with Hugh and Colleen Gantzer”, Understanding Cinema and series on Bhakti poets, Maale Manivanna. He teaches cinema in various universities in the US and currently the director of LV Prasad TV and Film Academy, Chennai.
The music for Ezhavathu Manithan is credited to L Vaithi Lakshmanan. There is another movie titled, Lottery Ticket credited to the same person. But most websites have credited L Vaidhyanathan as the music composer for Ezhavathu Manithan. There are no other brothers to L Vaidhyanathan apart from L Shankar and L Subramaniam. Is it a pseudonym for L Vaidhyanathan?