Busan: Tamil-language ‘Radio Set’ a First for Festival

Chennai-based writer/director Hari Viswanath began his film journey in 2012 with the Tamil-language short “Idukkan (Sufferings)” that premiered at Cannes and won best short at the Norway Tamil Film Festival. His follow up short “Pesum Virus (Talking Virus),” again in Tamil, also played at Cannes’ Short Film Corner. His feature debut “Radiopetti (Radio Set),” also in Tamil, is in competition in the Busan New Currents strand, where it will have its world premiere Oct. 3.

“I’m happy to know that this is the only Indian film and the first Tamil film to be selected in competition this year. And getting a world premiere at such a prestigious film festival is extremely exciting and rewarding to our entire team,” says Viswanath.

Viswanath got the idea for “Radiopetti” while chatting to a friend, where a discussion about hearing aids led to them reminiscing about their grandfathers. “That’s where I recollected the memories of my grandfather with his radio set. The idea sparked,” says Viswanath. “Apart from this, I used to see an old man on the road, who is partially deaf and alone, like he is isolated. I used to wonder what made him alienated and why? All these questions and memories turned into a script that is “Radiopetti.”

Set in the picturesque South Indian coastal state and former French colony Puducherry (previously Pondicherry), “Radiopetti” is the story of an endearing old man who finds solace in his past while listening to musical melodies of his younger days on his vintage radio set. Circumstances lead to the loss of the radio but he continues to hear the music all too well to the point where his friends and family question his sanity.

Viswanath convinced two of his friends to come on board as investors, got some loans, and put up the rest of the $300,000 budget himself. He produced via his Harry Toonz Studio outfit. Experienced crew members include British composer Richard Ford (television’s “Paris — City of Dreams”) and production designer Suresh Selvarajan (“Krrish 3”). Viswanath decided to go with an unknown cast because, “First of all, the story gave the gut feeling to go with an unknown cast, and secondly we didn’t have the budget to go with established stars.”

The filmmaker is in discussions with independent distributors in Portugal, Poland, France and Japan for the film’s release. For Asia, Viswanath says, “We hope to use the Busan Film Festival selection to expand international markets for Tamil films. We are trying maximum to capitalise the Busan market too for distribution.”

For India, Viswanath is waiting for the Busan buzz to spread before approaching buyers.

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