Thupparivaalan, Mysskin's stylised take on Sherlock Holmes, got a reboot when its sequel Thupparivaalan 2 was announced by actor-producer Vishal. Shooting commenced in the UK in November 2019. Vishal and Mysskin had also spoken about how they would work together repeatedly. Vishal, in an interview to The Hindu, even joked that he's "bought the rights for Mysskin's brain". When fans of the franchise were hoping for a first look or a single track, ominous reports suggested that Vishal might replace Mysskin as the film's director. Things did not look so elementary anymore.
The Times of India reported that Vishal made this decision because he couldn't accommodate Mysskin's request "for additional budget" of Rs 40 crore. Mysskin was reported to have responded with deadpan sarcasm that he had actually "asked for 400 crores".
On March 11, Vishal confirmed on Twitter that he is taking over as director of the sequel. He also provided details in his statement as to why — from his perspective — his hand was forced. Justifying his need to go public, the actor said he was putting it out there only to ensure "nobody falls prey" to the director again.
As a producer, what Vishal has done might be a prudent move that secures his investment. Considering that Thupparivaalan was planned as a series, if the second film fails to work commercially, it might plunge the entire franchise into an identity crisis. From the audience perspective, Thupparivaalan was a hit that satisfied fans of both Mysskin and Vishal, and the new film runs the risk of satisfying nobody.
It's not a question of Vishal's capability as a director. Before making his debut as actor in Chellamae, Vishal was an assistant director, notably with Arjun. One always expected him to direct a film, at some point. But, when he is picking up Mysskin's unfinished work, what kind of a film will he end up making? It seems unfair that he has to debut as director under such circumstances.
Arguably, Mysskin is one of our most idiosyncratic directors. It is not just about the way he shoots his films. It also extends to the music, edit patterns, and sound design in his films. In Thupparivaalan, a short scene depicting the methods of a subway pickpocket gang is shot with a nervous energy that, perhaps, comes even from the way the supporting actors move, or how they lounge about. This is not to say that someone like Vishal will not be able to create a similar scene. The question is whether he can take over from Mysskin, and still get the rest of the film to feel the same. Perhaps, the combination would be a pleasant surprise.
Conflict between a director and producer, and directors getting replaced is not new. In My Days with Baasha, director Suresh Krissna recounts that he replaced the original director of Annamalai (Vasanth) a few days before filming began. Sajeev Pillai was ousted out of Mamangam after one schedule; the film was reshot from scratch by M Padmakumar. In a more extreme case, director Bala's Varma, the remake of Arjun Reddy, was scrapped, and Gireesaaya's version Adithya Varma hit the screens.
In a generic star-vehicle like Annamalai, such replacement was, perhaps, not much of a problem. Thupparivaalan, on the other hand, was a director's film. Where does Vishal even begin? Does he interpret the rest of the film based on his own sensibility, or does he try to make the film Mysskin would have? Specifically, would Vishal be tempted to insert shots of moving feet like Mysskin, or would he consciously avoid the risk of making a film that will look like a parody? Would he have the freedom to do what he wants or would he be fighting Mysskin's shadow? And, even if Vishal acquits himself honourably, there is the risk of Mysskin getting the credit for it.
Why are directors being replaced? Is it because of lack of planning? In his statement, Vishal notes that the director spent Rs 15 lakh per day in the UK to shoot for a mere four hours. Were plans and contingencies not discussed prior to an overseas shoot?
Vishal also asks if it is not within the producer's right to request additional night shoots to save costs. Is this a fair demand from a producer? Or, a case of creative curtailment where the director is not being allowed to work in his style? Are producers naively trusting established directors to spend optimally, only to later point fingers at them when they go over-budget?
Vishal alleges that Mysskin arbitrarily withdrew from the film, even when funds were available to complete it. So, was it just a case of two egos that had become too big for one film? Will Vishal be able to present a unified film, or would the audience be solving its own minor whodunnits during the film, guessing which director visualised which scene?