Coimbatore Auto Driver’s Journey From Prison To The Venice Film Festival Is Inspiring

A class 10 dropout, ran away from home, did time in prison, became an auto driver, started writing novels while waiting for passengers, and now a part of the Venice Film Festival for the screening of a film that is based on his first novel.

This is Combaitore’s auto driver M.Chandrakumar’s journey in a nutshell.

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Chadrakumar alias ‘Auto’ Chandran, a novelist in his spare time, penned a novel in 2006 narrating the brutality he suffered in a police lock-up in Andhra Pradesh. Little did he realise that 9 years later his work will take him to one of the best-known film festivals of the world.

What made him run away from home?

Due to a conflict with his family, he ran away from home. He slept on pavements, at bus stops, did odd jobs to earn a living. He travelled to Chennai, Madurai, Tuticorin, but it was the train journey to Hyderabad that changed his life.

“The train stopped at Vijayawada. That was the first time I clapped eyes on a river as vast as the Krishna. Smitten, I just hopped off the train to dive in.”

Apparently, he landed up in a prison for a ‘case of doubt’.

He started working as a hotel server in a village 42 km from Guntur, Andra Pradesh. In a cruel twist of fate, just when his life was sorted, he along with 3 of his friends were illegally detained by the police for nearly 13 days for a crime that he did not commit.

The horrifying 13-day experience inside the police lock-up influenced him to write his first novel ‘Lock Up’ after he was released.

Life in prison exposed Chandran to a whole new world. The 160-page novel described the atrocities meted out by the police on the prisoners.

He returned to Coimbatore in 1984 and published the novel in 2006. Few months later, the book received the ‘Best Document of Human Rights’ by a Human Rights Body headed by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer.

Produced by Dhanush, his novel inspired Tamil director Vetrimaaran to make a movie ‘Visaranai’ and it will be premiered at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival.

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Not only is ‘Visaranai’ the only Tamil film among the 20 movies selected from a total of 2000 movies from 120 countries worldwide, but also it is the first Tamil film to be ever premiered at the reputed film festival.

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On the other hand, Chandrakumar does what he does best. He writes.

If you ever bump into his auto-rickshaw, you will find a bag. A bag stuffed with books and manuscripts behind his seat. 🙂


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