What’s your equation with Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman?
“Mani is the one who motivated me to try my hand at direction. A lot of what I am, I have learnt from him working on Bombay, Guru and so many more. I think the love for trade has kept him on the top of his game for so long. AR, on the other hand, he has been consistently breaking new ground in terms of music. His adaptability in terms of advancements in musical equipment is what keeps him at the top spot even now. The best part is, he is so modest you can tell him if you are not happy with something he has worked on. He will strive to be better. He is receptive to feedback and that is pretty great for a person of his stature!”
Why the long hiatus from the last feature film?
“When I was working on Minsara Kanavu, I had a musical in mind. It sort of became this popular movie with a cult status. The next film happened because I was exploring the romantic comedy genre along the lines of the first, so the second time I was more focused. The hiatus wasn’t planned. Believe me, I tried other projects in the midst as well but something or the other kept coming up and I was too occupied to concentrate on feature films. I was also occupied with Mindscreen Film Institute and basically teaching the trade to younger filmmakers. I was trying to find myself, get a footing and now I feel like I am better equipped which is why I started working on STM now.”
How do you give depth to characters on screen, especially for women?
“I have been exposed to strong women all my life, including my paternal grandmother who raised me. She hailed from Malabar and as far back as 1920s; she had quite the education and married at the age of 32. She gave birth to my father at 36, a revolutionary move at that time. My maternal grandmother as well, was a teacher of mathematics after having studied physics. My mother and wife as well have been extraordinary and my two daughters are growing up to be quite the badasses I hoped them to be! I don’t want two dimensional characters in my movie; I want to show a variety of angles to them all.”
Your directional style is very Stanley Kubrick-esque, was that intentional?
“Everybody knows there’s no movie like 2001: A Space Odyssey but I think I was initially more influenced by Francis Ford Coppola. I do believe that just like what Stanley Kubrick did, each frame should have a holistic picture form. When I was learning the trade, photojournalism was also on the rise. Everything was visual-oriented. But to negate a frame saying it is striving to look like a painting is like defining the former is inferior and the latter is superior. That is not true. A photograph can also be a medium of expression like a painting. I think my directional style is to bring the message to the screen without much clutter but also by using every bit of the frame, negative spaces and what-not to my advantage.”