Director KV Anand who has made Kaappaan

The last time we spoke, you described how you struggle to write punch lines, and the process of shooting them. Was it easier with Kaappaan?

Not at all. I know I make big commercial films, but I have never used a 48-frames-per-second shot to highlight a hero or to shoot a punch dialogue. If there is a need for such a dialogue, it has to come from the script and not from the hero or the character he plays. Of course, I do use slow motion shots but that’s only to register a particular effect, especially during action scenes. I’m of the opinion that cinema needs a certain amount of realism no matter what…the exceptions are, of course, during action scenes and songs. There needs to be a level of believability in everything you attempt in commercial cinema.

A still from KV Anand's Ayan
A still from KV Anand’s Ayan

Can you give me an example of that?

Sure. In Ayan, the action scenes itself could have been exaggerated, but not the very premise on which the film is based. So, when I need to explain the drug smuggling process, I need to be very accurate and precise about what smugglers do to avoid sniffer dogs. Similarly, in Kana Kandein, Srikanth needs to describe the Nobel Prize and the process of water delineation because he’s trying to get a PHD in that.

You’ve spoken earlier about how your stint as a photojournalist has contributed to the films you continue to make. Even the idea for this film, I suppose, was a result of a news item or an article you read.

Kaappaan is a film steeped in current affairs, especially what we’re seeing in Tamil Nadu, and India too as a whole, but it is not a political film. I read an article about the Special Protection Group (SPG), a force that’s ready to take a bullet in the line of duty. I then had to read up about the United States Secret Service to get an idea of what happens there. It’s a film that needed a lot more research than my other films.

Suriya in KV Anand's Kaappaan
Suriya in KV Anand’s Kaappaan

You’ve made films about conjoined twins (Maattraan), the evil practices of a godman and wayward politicians (Ko) and even the business of international smuggling (Ayan). Don’t you think these ideas would have worked just as well in the documentary format?

If I were to make a movie just about the SPG, it could have suited the documentary format. But, we need to make that into a story. We then add an interesting conflict with enough scope for suspense and drama. So, my writer and I decided on what we needed to add and remove from all the stories we gathered. At the end of the day, whatever be the idea, it has to entertain.

Are there additions you need to make because a serious subject is being made into a commercial film?

Yes, naturally. The film needs to have a heroine, because we cannot have songs without her. See, when you’re making a documentary or a small film, your target audience is very clearly defined. You know the kind of people who are going to watch your movie. But, when the film exceeds a certain budget, it has to have something for everyone.

Srikanth iand Gopika n KV Anand's Kana Kandein
Srikanth iand Gopika n KV Anand’s Kana Kandein

Can you give me another example of something you added as an afterthought to meet the needs of more people?

Vivek’s comedy track in Kanaa Kandein, my first film. It’s the only film in which I have used a totally separate track that has nothing to do with the main film. My films continue to have comedians, but I try to use them differently. Even the scene where Suriya’s and Jagan’s characters go to a sex worker in Ayan was added mainly for that.

Do you see yourself only as a ‘big film’ director now?

I feel it’s easier to do a small independent film. Your main limitation when you’re making such a film is your budget. If you’re a good director, you will succeed. But, just take a look around at the directors who come into our industry making one-crore or two-crore films. If they succeed, their second film automatically becomes a 10-crore project. If that too succeeds, their budgets multiply even further. In my case, I made a film such as Anegan with a big budget because the subject was such. Kavan, which I made after that, needed a smaller budget, because it needed a lead actor who was not a superhero. Even Vishal could have not fit into that kind of character. So, we needed Vijay Sethupathi.

But, is a social message inevitable when you’re making a film that’s of a certain big budget in Tamil. Take, for instance, the films of Shankar or AR Murugadoss.

Not necessarily. Both Baahubali and Eega (Naan Ee) were big hits here. Ayan did not have a message and Kavan was a satire about television. Even Shankar, he did make a film such as Boys, which was his most realistic, most different film until then. But, the audience was not ready to accept it. I think we would have seen a very different Shankar had Boys become a bigger hit.

Do you think a director who makes bigger films must possess a different kind of skillset compared to someone who makes smaller films?

I don’t think anyone should go ask a director ‘Why are you doing these kind of films?’. The kind of films directors make is based on their experiences, the films they watch and the books they read. For instance, you can’t ask me why I have so many twists in my films. Isn’t it silly to ask Mani Ratnam why he makes films in his style? Similarly, Selvaraghavan has his own style of narration and so does Gautham Vasudev Menon. You may be able to understand filmmakers’ style after their fourth or fifth film…these films are an extension of their personalities.

Is that why you don’t include too many social messages in your films?

Yes. I don’t believe in advising people. The audience is intelligent on their own, and I don’t want to underestimate them. In fact, I’m afraid of the thought of people watching my film and shouting podhum da {that’s enough!}. Which is why, I try to make fast-paced films with quick editing, even though I would love to do a very slow film with slow cuts. Even the audience has changed so much. In fact, I don’t think a film like Cheran’s Autograph would work as well today.

Also read: Baradwaj Rangan’s Review of Suriya-starrer NGK

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