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Friday February 24, 2012

Going with the flow

ONE look at Gheetha Ammasee and you will think she is a cheerful, bubbly character. But beneath the jovial facade lies a woman of mettle.

Known to many as Punnagai Poo Gheetha, this fiery lass has been a radio jockey with THR Raaga, the local Tamil radio station, since it was launched in 2001.

‘The cinema world is definitely not an easy place to survive,’ says Gheetha Ammasee.

She established herself in the Malaysian entertainment scene through show business, hosting events and stints on television.

“Before joining THR Raaga, I started off as a host on Ntv7 on a show called Rhythm And Raaga. Later I branched out doing hosting jobs before opening my own advertising company called SG,” added Gheetha who is in her mid-30s.

Getting into the business world was new to the Taiping-born Gheetha but she was determined to make it work. A great believer in that everything has to go with the flow, she embraced the first opportunity she had to produce telemovies. She worked behind the scenes looking for satisfaction but at the back of her mind she wanted something bigger.

“While these thoughts were running through my mind, director Vishnuvardhan, a family friend from India, approached me for some ideas for his new movies Arinthum Ariyamalum (AA) and Paatiyal.

“After listening to the storylines of both movies, I told him to go with the former since he was still new in the industry. He accepted my suggestion and that’s when I realised that since I already have a footing in the Malaysian entertainment industry, I should expand to India.”

Understanding the need to learn from scratch, she travelled to India, conducted research, studied the fine art of producing and the best way to invest her money.

“The cinema world is definitely not an easy place to survive. I only started SG Films in Malaysia when I believed I had done all my research. We then released AA worldwide in 2004.”

Her first venture was not an easy one. Distributors didn’t have faith in a foreign investor, let alone a woman. Gheetha was forced to release the movie on her own until film-goers spread the word about the movie.

Only then did the distributors make a counter-offer for the movie and to Gheetha’s delight, the movie played for 175 days, a huge deal in the cinema industry.

The success of the movie did not stop there: she was accorded the honour of being the “first female Tamil movie producer to have produced a Tamil movie in India” in the Malaysian Book Of Records.

The hero of the movie AA, blue-eyed Arya, received the award for the Best Newcomer while the song Thee Pidikka by Yuvan Shankar Raja was voted the Best Song of 2004.

Happy with her success, she produced the comedy hit Kundakka Mandakka in 2005, a movie that did not need much investment and was easy to sell. The movie featured two of Tamil cinema’s famous names: Parthiban and comedy king Vadivelu.

“I used this movie as a platform to introduce five Malaysians actors: Mageson Thandavamoorthy, Arul D’Silva Lim, Kamalam Panjacharam, Sammem and Om Gunavathy Vadivelu. It has always been my plan to feature Malaysian talent and I was able to do so through Kundakka Mandakka,” she added.

Following that, she produced Vishnuvardhan’s Paatiyal, starring leading actors Arya and Bharath alongside Padmapriya and Pooja, that same year. The film centred around two young men working as hired hitmen for notorious Dons.

Overwhelmed by the amount of work, travelling and time spent on producing, Gheetha took a break from the Indian movie industry. She shifted focus to her businesses here in Malaysia and her radio DJ job.

Last year, she broke out of her reverie when she was offered to produce a touching story on transgenders. The movie Narthagi not only earned her success as a producer but gave her a satisfaction she had not felt with her other movies.

“It was a purely personal satisfaction. My Facebook wall and Twitter were abuzz with grateful messages. So many people from the transgender community thanked me for the movie. I realised then the value of my movie,” Gheetha said.

Determined to produce more of such productions, she embarked on another movie called Oru Nadigayin Vakumoolam (The Confession Of An Actress) that is playing here now. Gheetha believes that the movie reflects some of the trials and tribulations many actresses today face in the daunting world of Kollywood cinema.

Although many would argue that the theme revolves around the hit Hindi movie Dirty Picture, Gheetha is quick to remind everyone that Dirty Picture is a biopic of famed South Indian sex siren Silk Smitha, while her movie is a cumulative story that speaks about the Indian cinema as a whole.

True to her determination to include Malaysians in Indian productions, she roped in THR Raaga radio jockey Anantha to sing a number in Oru Nadigayin Vaakumolam called Mundram Jamem alongside India’s famous singer Anuradha Sriram. The song is currently enjoying a wide following on air.

She also took the calculated step and played a major role of a journalist that required a seven-day shoot, a first for her.

“If my friends had not encouraged me to try it, I would have been happy to work behind the scenes. My passion does not revolve around acting,” she said.

When asked if she would someday consider an acting career, Gheetha said it would depend on the story and the role.

For now she is content working behind the microphone, talking to her listeners and producing movies that are worth watching.

Oru Nadigayin Vakumoolam is now playing in local cinemas.