“Forty eight awards, 13 mentions and still counting,” says director Amudhavanan, overjoyed with the appreciation coming his way for Quota at the festival circuit in India and internationally. “We have also made it to the official selection at the upcoming Nepal International Film Festival from May 6 to 10. For the world panorama section, they have short listed nine films from entries received from 63 countries. Quota is one among them,” says Amudhavanan.
It was at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, that the film began its dream run. Besides winning awards at the Crown Wood International Film Festival, the Vindhya International Film Festival, Madhya Pradesh to name a few, it also featured in the official selection and special mentions at international film festivals in Venice, Japan, Canada. “What really clicked is an engaging content that asks relevant questions,” he explains.
The film showcases how a talented tribal boy misses out on an opportunity to become a gymnast because of his underprivileged background. “When director Subramania Siva (who made films like Thiruda Thirudi) saw the film, he was moved, especially with the ending. His eyes welled up and he was the one who pushed us to take the film to festivals.”
Quota was filmed at Mannarkad in Kerala and on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. “The tribal hamlet Uthukuli in Mannarkad is cut off from the bustle of the city. We went with the slow pace of the life there while filming. All the characters speak Tamil with a smattering of Malayalam. We retained a native flavour as we took the audience on a journey to this tribal hamlet.”
Though the film begins with a tribute to the tribal freedom fighter-leader Birsa Munda, it does not focus on a particular caste or tribe. The spotlight is primarily on how children from underprivileged backgrounds continue to struggle in achieving their dreams. “Children in tribal hamlets are unstoppable. They are always outdoors. They crawl on parapet walls, leap from one roof to another, and dive into lakes. A sense of balance, flexibility and agility comes naturally to them. But they need a platform to express. Are these children getting their due for their talent? is what the film sets you thinking,” says Amudhavanan.
Quota has put the actors and technicians in spotlight. Child actor Bhavaz who plays the lead got an opportunity in Master and will also be seen in the upcoming Annathey starring Rajinikanth. Actor Chella of Nakkalites fame who plays the role of father has signed up for a number of films. “It has given a boost to their careers. Our sound engineer A. Sathish Kumar, who has worked in a spate of commercial films, walked with his first award from the Bhutan Film Festival. He spent a few days at Uthukuli to understand its rhythm. His efforts paid off. Our colourist Sriram Balakrishnan was also appreciated for lending a subtle tone to the film. Music by Allan Sebastian was also highlighted.”
Amudhavanan is happy that the message “about identifying and nurturing talent that will bring laurels to the nation” has won acceptance. He adds, “On this happy note, we have started work on our next project. Auto Chandran (whose novel was made into Visaranai) plays an important role in the new film.”