© 2009 Santhana Films / Brian McKenzie / Screen Australia

The Five Stories

After four years and four separate trips, the fruit of the filmmaker’s labour is an extraordinary quintet of stories set in Tamil Nadu in Southern India.


This story follows the tribulations of Arumugam, an elderly man who scrapes a living in the city with his street-side ironing shack. His life is unbalanced after his son elopes with a girl from a higher caste. Nonetheless, he enjoys philosophising about his unfulfilled potential and the cruel hand of fate.


Introducing Kannan Perumal, a younger man who approaches the world of work rather more casually. Living with an alcoholic father and a mother who constantly puts him down, Kannan plots a way to escape by stashing his earnings away in a clandestine savings account managed by a financially savvy aunt.


We track down Moni Ramachandran, a television repairman returning to work after a long illness. His immense calm in a series of face-offs with disgruntled customers and constant power blackouts is nothing less than inspirational.


We meet a diligent coconut gatherer, R. Kaliya Perumal, who runs a stall by the railway crossing; a livelihood that’s threatened by the disintegration of his bicycle. He must negotiate labyrinthine retail outlets and compete with frenzied fellow shoppers to get parts necessary to mend the ancient but precious machine.


A fascinating microcosm of stall holders and street vendors is explored in colourful and chaotic Thayar Sahib Street. Pigeon-lover Prakash Mohan sleeps in the back of his delivery cart to escape his claustrophobic home and pushy mother Murugama. He shares his tiny street ‘office’ with a hardware merchant, a firewood merchant, a phone card salesman, a seamstress, a second-hand furniture dealer, a metal fabricator, an Imam and a grief stricken news agent whose wife left him when the going got tough. While everyone keeps an eye on everyone else’s business, there’s a strong subtext of emotional alienation.