The cultural allure of India is on display in the new film His Father’s Voice, directed and written by Kaarthikeyan Kirubhakaran. The plot centers on Kris (Christopher Gurusamy), a talented young dancer, who returns to India 12 years after being separated from his father during his parents’ divorce. In addition to trying to reconnect with his father, he also revives his relationship with his childhood companion Valli who has grown to be a beautiful young woman and talented dancer as well. The relationship between the dancers is complicated by the fact that Kris blames Valli’s parents for his own parents’ divorce.

Throughout the movie, there are a number of references to the Indian epic The Ramayana, as well as a dance sequence recreating the epic.

ScreenPicks posed some questions to Kaarthikeyan Kirubhakaran about His Father’s Voice. The film marked his feature directorial debut.

What inspired the story for His Father’s Voice and what themes is the movie exploring?

Kirubhakaran: The story of the film is born from the angst of a father’s separation from his children, and the healing power of art, music, and dance. When you read the epics, of whatever country, or, continent, the stories contained therein speak of our inability to love, causing pain to ourselves, and to others.

For my story, which is as contemporary, as it is ancient, I chose to explore, as a parallel to the life of the characters, the last episode in the Indian epic Ramayana. There is a scene where Rama, his Queen Sita, and his brother Lakshmana, are looking at paintings that describe their life, up until that moment. Paintings that bring up for them, long forgotten emotions. Their characters are revealed by their responses to those paintings. We, like them, and, like the characters in this film, are shaped by what we see. We shape the world by how we choose to see it as well. This in itself is an important theme of the movie.

Are there other filmmakers whom you admire? Have you been influenced by both Hollywood and Bollywood films?

Kirubhakaran: I am an alumnus of two film schools, the FTII in India, and the FEMIS, in Paris. Both schools are quite extraordinary, in the exposure they give their students, to masterpieces of cinematic excellence, from all over the world. And since then, I have had the good fortune to be the Executive Producer for some very talented Directors. It would be unfair to name only a few drops when you have soaked in that rain. I would like to leave it to my audience of film connoisseurs, to see if they are able to see the influences of other filmmakers in my work.

Why do you think The Ramayana is still so central to Indian culture? Do you think that the epic is relevant to other cultures as well?

Kirubhakaran: All epics are relevant to all cultures. Because they transcend time and the space in which they were created. The Ramayana, besides being an extraordinary epic, is also a sacred text. Rama is a living breathing deity, worshiped in temples, and whose life, as described in The Ramayana, is taken to be a model of virtue, for the ordinary man, to aspire towards. But then, today, it is time to focus our attention a little more, on the story of Sita, Rama’s Queen, who is the daughter of the Earth Goddess. It is only with Sita, that we arrive at a deeper understanding of how we need to live. She is in harmony with her environment, and full of forgiveness, for all the wrongs that have been done to her.

Can you describe how the dance scenes were created? Were they created using traditional Indian dance movement and choreography?

Kirubhakaran: My actors are classically trained dancers, able to choreograph their own movement, Inspired by the context, text, lyrics, and the music, they explored movements in Bharatanatyam. The camera followed suit, allowing itself to be guided by the choreography. Bharatanatyam is a classical Indian dance form, with a rich vocabulary for narrative content.

Is there anything, in general, you would like to tell audiences about His Father’s Voice?

Kirubhakaran: This film will take you on a delightful trip into the cultural heart of India, to experience the spiritual quest behind its exuberant art, music, and dance.

Would you like to share with us what your future projects are?

Kirubhakaran: Yes indeed. It is a story of siblings, each belonging to a different religion, separated, though born of the same mother, and each defying by their actions, the prejudices that divide us all.