Five days after Psycho released in theatres, director Mysskin talks about the practical considerations of political correctness, and how he packaged a psychological thriller with subtext. He also deconstructs crucial characters in the film. He talks about how there are reverberations of the killer’s character in Gautham, how Rachel represents fundamentalist religion, and how there is potentially a psychopath and also a compassionate person hidden in all of us. Excerpts…
Has there been a case where you had to tone down something in your film because it would otherwise get an ‘A’ certificate?
Firstly, all our life, we are toned down by others — parents, society, teachers. I have held 72 jobs in my life. This is my 73rd. Now, I have the freedom to not tone it down. This is the place where I can be naked, truthful to myself. When society walks in a certain direction, a writer walks in the opposite direction. People generally want to brush things under a carpet; a writer wants to reveal them. People tell me that I choose dark themes. But, even a child comes out of darkness. We narrate stories to our children when they are falling asleep in the dark. So, my responsibility is to find gems that are hidden in the dark. That is my duty towards the audience. I have to be vociferous and vehement. I have to be bold.
When you are making a psychological thriller, there are people who come to the theatre expecting just that, without being aware of your entire body of work. Did you have to make the film a self-sustaining psychological thriller first, and then add the subtext?
No decent writer would worry about all that. He will not worry about whether it is going to be accepted, whether it will injure audience sensibilities, whether it will be logical or not. I am a seasoned scriptwriter. When I do the rewriting, I know where people will react positively or negatively. I know certain ideas will go against the sensibility of the audience, against the norms of the audience. I definitely stick to them, especially in those places, because writing has to disturb people, wake them up. We are all enjoying a big dogmatic slumber. I want to make viewers enquire into things they usually don’t.
When you were making a film about a dangerous mind and getting the audience to sympathise with him, were you worried about political correctness?
Any story has a moral, even Aesop’s fables. This movie analyses and speaks about a moral that might be shocking to the audience: forgiving a killer. In the two-hour space of watching a film, you are not bound by logic. I created the psycho character and his suffering out of my whim and fancy… he is someone so gentle to his victim, he feels bad about killing her. And to her, he is a child, even if society disagrees with her. After being in his shoes for two hours, the viewer would be able to imagine that if this man had had a good mother or a lover, he might not have become a psychopath. It is enough if people understand that.
The filmmaking process is about becoming a small child and then growing up. It is not an intellectual exercise. A theatre is a spiritual gym where you exercise your heart muscles so that you can love more. This movie is not an intellectual exercise. I’m asking you to look into your heart and see the huge ocean of compassion inside yourself. Please see how beautiful you are, how noble you are.