What made you choose cinema?
Cinema was always in my mind. I can’t point out a special incident or a day that led me into films.
Who were the main influences in your life/film making?
From my childhood days, I had a fascination for film maker Sibi Malayil’s movies. I remember the movie ‘Devadhoothan’ especially, which in a way triggered my interest in cinema. When I was in college, around 2002-2003, I had a passion for Tamil movies, partucularly Selvaraghavan Movies like 7G Rainbow Colony. I must admit that I was crazy about those movies. Then, slowly, I started watching world movies and took to studying cinema seriously. All these factors cumulatively made cinema, my passion, my dream and my profession. It is difficult for me to pin point a few names as influences in my life. Many have influenced me including my parents and friends.
“I have seen many good movies screened initially in vacant theaters because of lack of promotion. I don’t want this to happen to my movies.”
You chose a subject like ‘Thaneer Mathan Dinangal’ for your debut. Was this a well thought out move? What are your favourite genres to explore in future?
Why I chose a subject like Thaneer Mathan Dinangal is actually a question I can’t answer or one for which I don’t have an answer. It was not premeditated. I chose a simple subject that doesn’t require a star while most others plan movies with stars in it. Maybe I am accustomed to these kinds of subjects. Not just this movie, even my short films do deal with subjects I am familiar with. I am able to portray subjects like this with ease as I feel very much within my comfort zone. Naturally I enjoy doing these subjects than planning a big movie . I appreciate the efforts taken by other young film makers who plan movies with stars, but I would like to focus on what I consider I am good at . Film making is a vast area and I have to learn many things, watch many genres and styles. I am in that learning curve. But, for now, I would prefer to stick on with my safe zone.
What is your philosophy of life?
I don’t follow any particular philosophy in my life. I am just a normal person besieged by fear, insecurities and anxieties. I would say I am almost like Jaison in my movie (the main protagonist). I am him. My motto in life is to stay happy always. There should be no worries or tension. I try to stay happy and peaceful always doing things I love and remain as simple as possible. Just go with the flow – that is my attitude or philosophy if you ask me for it.
What are your plans for future and how do you visualize your future?
Until now, I haven’t drawn up any major plans for the future. I don’t plan for my movies too. I don’t like the idea of doing movies continuously, one after another. I would rather wait for the right script before thinking seriously about a film.. ‘Thaneer Mathan’ happened quickly because the script was ready for it and it was with us for a while. So when the offer came my way, everything else happened quickly. Getting the script ready is a time consuming process for me. But once the script is ready, the rest can happen quickly.
How do you handle a script and how is your film-making process?
This is my first movie and I haven’t assisted anyone earlier. So I was shooting in a linear pattern as long as I could. I have heard that usually movies go into a non-linear filmmaking process where the shooting happens within the comforts with regard to the location, lighting etc. I tried to do it differently in a certain pattern where I shot simple, small scenes first and then got into the shoot of important scenes. Maybe it’s not the right way, but I go with it.
“As luck would have it, we had never seen a hockey stick in our college days, or else we would have used it as a weapon simulating our cinematic hero!”
Do you consider movie promotion strategies essential to its success or do you feel that word of mouth publicity alone can create a blockbuster?
Promotion is always necessary because we need to push the audience to the theater on the very first day. I have seen many good movies screened initially in vacant theaters because of lack of promotion. I don’t want this to happen to my movies. Therefore, we do conscious promotions. In “Thanneer Mathan” we never advertised that it will be the best movie of the year, but we marketed as it is. Fortunately, the song and trailer went viral, but it never created the hype as in some other cases. But I must admit that only a small percentage of people watch the first-day first show lured by posters, trailers or song. The majority of movie goers decide to watch a movie, after hearing the responses of the ones who have already watched it. These are the people who will sustain the movie and make it a commercial success.
Jomon T John, the renowned cinematographer produced this movie. How did that happen?
Jomon had watched my short film ‘Mookuthi’ and that film impressed him. Through my friend Vineeth Viswam, I got introduced to Shameer and through him to Jomon. They liked our script and agreed to do the film. Later Shebin Backer too came on board. It was a simple and straight path – short film took me to the feature film.
How doing short films helped you mature as a director? How would you comment on your experiences as a first time director?
Doing short films helped in lot many ways. The process of filmmaking is the same in a full length feature film too. A feature film is placed at a different plane altogether. It is meant for a bigger market and wider audience. The setup, the money involved and the associated responsibilities – all are much higher in comparison to short films. As for the short film, if I want to shoot on a particular day, I will; if I am not in the mood, I can postpone the shoot. But in a full length movie, I don’t have the freedom to decide everything on my own. There are other professionals involved. Their time is important and valuable too. So the internal dynamics require a much higher discipline standard to be followed. Everything will have to be planned impeccably.
Every artist involved will be given a copy of the day’s shooting script. So, the shoot procedure for the feature film was far more systematic than that of a short film. Also, the full length movie is a time bomb. Not only the time lag will affect artists, it will also lead to cost overruns. Therefore, it is imperative that we achieve economies of scale in all aspects of movie making. This is a big difference when you compare with the processes involved in a short film.
“Maybe I am accustomed to these kinds of subjects. Not just this movie, even my short films do deal with subjects I am familiar with. I am able to portray subjects like this with ease as I feel very much within my comfort zone.”
What will you say to aspiring filmmakers out there?
I am not a great personality to give advice. In fact, I too am a beginner. I never expected my movie to make such waves. We knew that people will acknowledge it as something new and worth watching and we had complete faith in our movie as a genuine cinematic effort. That’s all. All I have to tell the aspiring filmmakers is that you should have full belief in your talent and then work hard to translate that on celluloid without thinking too much about external influences. There will be people to discourage you. If you believe in your work and if you find the right people to be with you, it can never go wrong.
Do you believe in using art as a medium for social change?
Cinema has a very strong influence on our lives. That doesn’t settle down to the movie dialogues or songs. There are people who live life as if their life itself is a movie! They hallucinate that they are the heroes of their life-movie. Even during my college days, we used to fight among ourselves for no reason just because in the cinema we watched the hero in college fighting with his college-mates for no reason! As luck would have it, we had never seen a hockey stick in our college days, or else we would have used it as a weapon simulating our cinematic hero! When we breakup or feel desperate, we friends stand staring at the sea for hours. We then feel that the struggles in our life come to an end at that moment . We also console ourselves that the more struggles we face, the better it is for us because that is what we watch in movies. We believe stubbornly that our life will have a happy ending. Most people hate reality. So they try to project themselves into cinematic frame. It is natural as it the most influential medium. So the answer to your question is a definite yes. Cinema can be used as a medium for social change but it should not be used only as a medium for social change.
What do you think about our platform which supports and encourages aspiring talents all across the country?
It’s a great idea because it will give more opportunities for talent to blossom. It will certainly lead to good output in every field. It will be a good idea to give a platform for every talent irrespective of their current rating or stature. I know many highly talented young people who never get an opportunity to showcase their talent. So I think an initiative like yours which provides a platform for the budding talents is a great idea.