CHENNAI: Barack Obama may not be aware of it but he is making his movie debut with a Tamil film.
Obama is the hero of a fictional village in Tamil Nadu and has two songs based on him. His presence is shown in the movie via cutouts and posters.
Journalist-turned-filmmaker Janaki Viswanathan's medium budget movie 'Om Obama' is the story of Kedarpalayam village and the relationship the hamlet believes it shares with Obama.
"The village believes that it has contributed to Obama becoming President and he in turn bailed them out of an economic crisis. There are lot of sub plots including romance and grass roots politics," Viswanathan said.
She had been working on a story set in a village and was looking for a larger backdrop to set it against at a time when recession had set in. She saw an article on the internet about the crisis in the Tirupur export garments industry.
"There was a belief that there would be an upward turn if Obama became president. Thought it interesting and appropriate..hence the Obama angle.
"Kedarpalayam is representative of a typical Tamil village, a Malgudi (famous author late R K Narayan's fictional village) of sorts. Obama is the hero of the village and hence I suppose the film. He is present through the film although not in a physical sense."
Asked why the filmmaker used 'Om' , she said the article on the internet had comment by a local in Tirupur who said shops and businesses should have their placards reading 'Om Obama' rather than 'Om Labhum'(profit)... "seemed both appropriate and attractive and hence we made use of it."
Shooting began in April. "The film is ready and we hope to release it before the end of the year."
She had not used a Obama look alike. "You will understand why when you watch the film.So, Obama is shown only via posters, cutouts etc.. The US consulate was very helpful in terms of providing us with some stock footage and even identifying a couple of actors for the film."
Viswanathan said the whole shoot was interesting. "We camped out in a village..lived there for close to a month..we believed that living amongst the people would help us reflect their realities better. We were witness to the day-to-day drama that goes in their lives in terms of inter personal and communtiy level relationships.
"It is a slice of rural life with an element of satire. It's got all the elements that are found in a mainstream film..the mix is different. We have four songs including two based on Obama. There is also an Urdu song, the first time ever in Tamil films, I think."
There is one song where the villagers invite Obama to come and dance with them and another praising Obama much like the intro song for the hero in Tamil cinema!, she said.
Paul J (Paul Jacob), who has done a couple of films earlier and several ad jingles, is the music composer.
Viswanathan has written the story and screenplay of the film which is being targeted at the festival circuit. It will also have English sub-titles.
"But we are also looking to releasing it commercially in the country."
"Om Obama" is her third movie, the other two being the national award-winning 'Kutti' and 'Kanavu Meipada Vendum'.