Editor's note: This article was originally published on September 18, 2013. TamilCulture is pleased to share that “A Gun & A Ring” will be playing at Cineplex Cinemas at Scarborough Town Centre and Colossus Vaughan Cinemas, starting on Friday September 5th. The team behind the film has been working diligently with Cineplex to arrange to have it released through their box-office system in Toronto and invites you to catch it on the big screen! The film will run for a minimum of a week, and longer depending on its reception.
After his award winning feature film, 1999, Lenin M. Sivam returns with A Gun & A Ring. The film, which is premiering in Toronto on September 28th, is already receiving much recognition. This past June, the film was screened at the 16th Shanghai International Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Goblet Award. The film was also screened at the 37th Montreal World Film Festival in August.
TamilCulture: What is the film about?
Lenin M. Sivam: A Gun & A Ring explores the emotional burden Tamil Canadians bear as they re-build their lives in an adopted land while fighting off their past framed by violence, death and war in Sri Lanka. Random acts prove to be fateful coincidences that lead to deadly consequences for some yet hopeful beginnings for others.
TC: Where did the inspiration for “A Gun & A Ring” come from?
LMS: From my name to where I am now, is a direct result of what has happened to the Tamils in Sri Lanka over the past 30 years. The civil war has always been a part and parcel of my conscience and experiences. The end of the civil war in 2009 took an emotional toll on me as it did on many Tamils living outside of Sri Lanka. I started writing the script for this film right after watching the controversial British documentary "Sri Lanka's Killing Fields". "A Gun & A Ring" is my attempt, difficult as it may be to watch for some, to show the impact of the war and its bloody end on the Tamil Canadian diaspora.
TC: What differentiates this film from your previous films?
LMS: In terms of the story and the content, the overarching theme is the same for my previous film 1999 and A Gun & A Ring. Both look deep into the harsh realities faced by Tamils in Toronto, which is a subject that is very close to my heart. However, 1999 was much smaller budget film with a much smaller crew. It was shot in weekends without any experienced professionals – both the cast and the crew. A Gun & A Ring on the other hand is a much bigger production with over 70 people contributing to its production. It was much more organized and we used top of the line equipment and we followed a more conventional approach to filmmaking where each function had a department and its own crew and project managers.
TC: Can you tell us about the cast and characters of the film?
LMS: Thenuka Kantharajah, a trained actress from Germany, plays the role of Aby, a courageous war survivor who arrives in Canada looking for a new start only to find that she has been abandoned by her fiancé at the airport. I found her to be very dedicated to her craft - often finding her listening to the British documentary on her iPod between takes.
Mahendran Baskar, a well known television actor from France, plays the role of Gnanam, a troubled young man battling many inner demons who tries to confront his dark past which he randomly runs into again in Toronto. His easygoing nature hides a principled work ethic.
Shelly Anthony, who is currently studying at the New School for Drama and Acting in New York City,makes his debut in this film. He plays the role of Aathi, a closeted gay teen who blames his tradition-bound father for his lover's suicide and is unable to control his emotions much longer. I found Shelly to be an emotive actor - he carried much of his character in his large, expressive eyes.
Kandasamy Gangatharan, a well known radio broadcaster in Toronto, plays the role of Ariyam, a hardworking immigrant who attempts to deal with his son's suicide until his past shows up at his front door giving him an opportunity to release his pent up anger and frustration over his new life in Canada.
Jon Berrie is an actor, songwriter and singer who plays the role of John, a passionate detective who questions his integrity after making a wrong call when pursuing a dangerous suspect. I found Jon to be passion personified - he insisted on studying just about everything about Sri Lanka and the issues explored in the film.
TC: Can you tell us about your experience working on this film?
LMS: This was by far the most ambitious project I’ve ever undertaken. There are 6 stories with close to 30 characters and about 52 locations in this film. We only had two weeks to shoot the film. It was a very hectic and stressful shooting; everything that we thought would go wrong went wrong and everything that we thought wouldn’t go wrong also went wrong. Except for a very few, everyone volunteered their times and they all worked for 16 to 18 hours every day for the two weeks. At the end, no one quit in the middle. All stuck it to the end; we stayed on schedule and within budget. I was acting as a trouble-shooter, negotiator, and a mediator more often than a director during this gruelling schedule. I think I now have the confidence that I can take on a bigger project and I’d say my people skills have markedly improved.
TC: Your film was nominated for a Golden Goblet Award at the Shanghai International Film Festival and was recently selected for the Montreal World Film Festival. What do you make of the recognition your film is receiving? How does it feel?
LMS: My producer,Vishnu Muralee, and I were shocked and thrilled to receive an invitation from SIFF! At first, I thought it was a mistake. It took me a while to accept that our film was nominated for the coveted Golden Goblet Award. But after seeing the overwhelmingly positive reaction of the audience to the film in Shanghai, I knew we have made something special. Festival goers respond to the filmmaker’s passion, vision and the message very well, irrespective of the film’s budget and the production value. I think that's what's happening to "A Gun & A Ring” and I see these festival invitations as an affirmation of that. I am pretty pleased with our journey so far and excited about what the future holds for the movie.
TC: Do you have any new projects in the works right now?
LMS: I have already finished two scripts. One is called "GOD" and the other is called "Black July". I am currently writing a third script.