“What is love, without understanding?” Indian director Kaarthikeyan Kirubhakaran asks this question in his directorial debut, “His Father’s Voice,” as he explores love, bonds, relationships and hope which form an integral part of human existence. But the film, a vibrant amalgam of dance, music and drama, will also delight viewers – both Indian and American – because it manifests and celebrates Indian culture in a way rarely seen on-screen.
In the English-language film, which will have special premiere showings April 19 through April 25 at Arena Cinelounge in Hollywood, Calif., a gifted male dancer separated from his musician father in childhood must return to him to be able to dance again.
“It’s a film about a relationship between a father and son and it happens in an environment of music and dance and poetry and painting. It’s a film deeply rooted in culture. It’s a film about healing between father and son and about separations that happen within families and bonds that heal over time,” Kirubhakaran told India-West. “All around us we see families breaking up and children paying the price for dysfunctional relationship between their parents. We also see that the role that culture plays in healing those relationships and in bringing people together. We have Bharatanatyam, which is a classical dance form…people will get the feel of Indian culture and it also gives a look at the spiritual quest behind dance and music in the Indian culture. It will be a great visual experience.”
Kirubhakaran, an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, where he majored in film direction, and La Fémis in Paris, where he majored in cinematography, wrote the screenplay and is also attached as the cinematographer and co-producer.
Kirubhakaran also has a master’s degree in French and served as an executive producer on five French feature films before going solo.
“I had a seat right next to the directors of those films and it was a lot that I learnt and imbibed from my experience there,” he said.
Here’s the film’s official synopsis: “An American family, Jon, Clara, and their son Kris, live with Parvathi, Nagarajan and their daughter Valli, inside a music and dance school in Tamil Nadu. Jon is a musician, deeply inspired by Indian classical music. Kris and Valli are inseparable, learning everything from nature and from their parents. When Clara begins to be jealous of Parvathi’s influence over Jon and Kris, she begins to distance herself, eventually parting from Jon and leaving with Kris. Jon is heart-broken, finding solace only in his music. Twelve years later, Kris returns as a young dancer, with a burning need to reconnect with his father, and to heal himself of a deep trauma.”
Once there, he sees that Valli is now a beautiful and gifted dancer. The film follows the two as they embark on a new relationship. Though resentful of Parvathi and Nagarajan, for what he perceives as their role in his parents’ separation, Kris discovers in Valli’s company a truth that brings him consolation, as well as a sense of tremendous betrayal.
The star cast of the film is as diverse and unique as its subject. Kirubhakaran, who resides close to Auroville in Southern India, an international community, literally found some of the talent in his neighborhood.
“My actors come from many different nationalities. Americans, I have people from Israel, Switzerland, Austria etc.,” he said. “I worked with people who had the skill set of the characters they portrayed. It was more a call to be who they were already, than to act, and to become something else.”
Multifaceted artist Ashwini Pratap Pawar plays the role of Parvathi, while P.T. Narendran, who teaches at Kalakshetra in Kerala, plays Valli’s father, Nagarajan. The film casts American Jeremy Roske as Jon; Swiss-German Julia Koch as Clara; Sudharma Vaithiyanathan plays Valli; Asha Bhola of Gujarat plays the girl Valli; Auroville resident Sadana Sadassivam plays the child Valli; Tzur Yardeni and Yam Yardeni, who play the 7-year-old and the 12-year-old Kris, respectively, are both from Israel; and half British, half Tamil, and Australian Christopher Gurusamy portrays the role of Kris.
Kirubhakaran shared that after the premiere April 19, the team has planned a get-together at The Montalbán in Hollywood, where along with him and Pawar, producer Shankar Kiru, music composer Vedanth Bharadwaj and actors Vaithiyanathan and Narendran will be in attendance.
“We will be playing the music from the film, we will be taking questions, and it will be a great place to get a feel of the film. It’ll be a fun event,” he told India-West.