Burglars Hit Movie Director’s Home, Then Deliver a Cinematic Plot Twist

When the thieves broke into the country home of a renowned film director in southern India, taking gold, silver and cash, they made a clean getaway. But days later, a small plastic bag appeared outside the house’s gates, stitched shut with thin sticks and containing something wrapped in a white handkerchief.

Inside was a medal for a prestigious national award that the director, M. Manikandan, had won in 2021 for one of his films.

With it was a brief note handwritten in Tamil, a regional language.

“Sir, please forgive us,” the note read. “Your hard work belongs to you alone.”

The burglary and partial return, with its small-town intrigue and big-hearted absurdity, could have figured in the kind of movies Mr. Manikandan and other filmmakers in India’s south make.

While Bollywood gets much attention and recognition outside the country, some of India’s most endearing and creative films come from its diverse regional cinemas, in languages such as Tamil and Malayalam.

Mr. Manikandan broke through with a film about two egg-stealing, slum-dwelling brothers with a single goal — to do whatever it took to taste pizza. The film for which he won the purloined medal, “Kadaisi Vivasayi” or “The Last Farmer,” was a commentary on the difficulties of farming in India. But its surreal twists also laid bare the absurdities of the nation’s bureaucracy.

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