Meeting Arun Kanth for an interview, having just watched his second film Indha Nilai Maarum is what one can call a painstakingly uncomfortable experience. The film is among the most difficult films I’ve ever had to sit through. Disjointed and amateurish, it can barely be called a proper film.
An actor disappears, and another replaces him to take the character forward. Staged like a terribly written Crazy Mohan drama (with a lot of his staple actors), Indha Nilai Maarum is neither funny nor crazy. But the awful response to the film is not something that affects its director, the ever-enterprising Arun Kanth, so much so that he’s already ready to go on floors with his next film.
Whatever be the quality of his films, the way he manages to get them made and released without any major backing is still inspirational. What he lacks in skill (as a director or writer), he more than makes up with his ability as an excellent producer. He claims his first film was profitable for him, and explains how he has figured out the business in such a way that he will keep making movies. So is he the Ed Wood of Tamil cinema or just a hustler who turned to filmmaking? You decide.
What has changed since the release of your first film Goko Mako, which you had made for around Rs. 15 lakh. Did you get a bigger budget to make your second film?
Both films were made simultaneously. I produced Goko Mako. I announced the film on February 14, 2018, and released it on February 14, 2019. I released the film on my own and I managed to do that by taking care of the pre-booking myself. That’s why we were able to get the perfect date for release. Theatres like us because we’re able to give them a booking.
How do you manage to get pre-booking without stars?
There’s no Internet booking fee when you’re booking tickets for my movies. I created my own website, so I don’t charge Rs. 30 a ticket. So, I get enough bookings to prove to the theatre that I have sold a certain number of tickets. I get a show from them on the day and the time I choose. If people do that, they can get shows from multiplexes.
Your first film was shot completely on Go-Pro cameras. Is that why you could keep the budget so low?
True, but this film is not like that. We’ve shot this on the Black Magic Ursa Cinema camera. It’s a professional camera and we wanted to do justice to it. We shot for 30 days. The DI colouring is done in such a way that it looks like an English film. If colours don’t disturb your eyes, you will love the movie.
To be frank, I have covered the expenses for my investor. Zee Music has bought my music rights for Rs. 3.2 lakh. Since it’s a new investor, I did not want to scare him. I wanted to create an investor-friendly atmosphere, so I came forward to release the film for them. I have tied up with PVR as my multiplex partner, which never happens for independent films. So, all PVR and Sathyam properties have been playing my film’s trailer for the past 10 days, on a par with the big films.
To sell as many seats, you mentioned that you had opened the bookings two months in advance, instead of two days like other films.
Most films don’t run because they only get two days to sell tickets before release. That’s why I decided to open the bookings on my site and my app two months earlier. I had a confirmed release date and I was convinced that I would release on this day. So, based on that, I opened the pre-booking and then took it to the theatres. Who doesn’t want business? So, they give me prime shows in all PVR, Sathyam and Inox screens in the State.
What about other theatres?
Every movie caters to a particular set of audience. This was made for the multiplex audience. If other theatres want the film, let them come to me.
How did Goko Mako work out financially? It did not get a lot of positive reviews.
It turned out to be profitable for me. This happened because I refused to sell the rights of the film to anyone. A movie is like your building. It should be a life-long income for you. But nobody does that. I only leased Goko Mako to OTTs. I didn’t sell it outright.
Usually, makers sell their rights to the buyer, which means that they don’t own it anymore. I refused to sell it. I have given it to Amazon for a three-year lease on a non-exclusive basis. Since it was leased to them, last week, MX Player too started playing my movie. That’s the power of independent cinema. I will lease it to SunNxt also and even Hotstar. I will sell it to hundreds of people. People will keep seeing it and I get an income directly from them. These are the small things every filmmaker should know. Usually producers get squeezed for funds at the last minute. So, they sell the rights at this point for a cheap rate. For instance, take the case of the Prashanth-Vadivelu movie Winner. If the producer had kept the rights with him, he would have been a billionaire today, because people watch the comedy in it even today.
Was it tough to get a producer for this film?
I told him that I wanted to make a film my way. I did not want to make a clichéd film. Removing the cooling glass is the entire script these days. Whoever does it first is the original. What I’ve used in this film is what I’ve seen in my life. An artist never paints thinking of the guy who will enter the exhibition hall. He makes what he wants to make. A movie is what a director wants to show. Not what the audience wants to see. I don’t like to release trailers because people will know everything. Filmmakers have killed the art with trailers. What will happen in the future is that trailers will become two minutes, and the film, just a second long.
Do you think Indha Nilai Maarum has a chance of becoming profitable?
Filmmakers and producers should learn that a film takes six months to make, six months to plan the release and six months to make the money too. The population of Tamil Nadu is 7 crore. The footfall in theatres is less than five percent. All awards are based on just 5 percent of the people who go to theatres. The sample size is just too small. Theatres think people come only for the big stars. But that’s wrong. Find out from the 95 people who are not coming to the theatre. These are the people who are bored of the same faces and stories. These people are my market. Cinema is the only business where the seller does not know his customer. That’s why promotion costs are so high. This movie is a zero-promotion movie. So, we’ll break even easily.
There was a lot of criticism for Goko Mako and its making. How will you face all that again for Indha Nilai Maarum?
Who cares ya? That’s their problem, not my problem. My investor is happy. The sample size is just the three percent who have seen it. There are 97 people who have not seen it. Slowly people will watch. Out of 10 people who watched Goko Mako, didn’t one person like it? Which means that 10,000 people will like it if 100,000 people watch it. Of the 7 crore Tamilians, if 70 lakh people like my movie, I will slowly, in five years, make Rs. 70 lakh, even if I get just Rs. 1 per person watching it. Goko Mako cost only Rs. 15 lakh. So I’m a 700 percent successful businessman. I just need to be patient. I will make 100 films, and all of them will become assets.
You have already moved on to your next film, right?
Yes. My next film is starting in 10 days. I’m making an English film this time.
Isn’t it called Operation Jujupi?
I have that script. I also have another script for a film called Rivette. I will finalise which film I will make only a day before the shoot. Two scripts will always be ready. I will make an English film and also make it simultaneously in Tamil. To get 20 theatres in Tamil Nadu is difficult, but there are many States in India. So, even if I get one theatre in each State, I still get a bigger release. And if you make a film in English, you can sell your rights in 100s of countries. Even if each country pays you Rs. one lakh, you can become a crorepati.
Are you producing your next film?
Yes I’m producing my next film. I make films based on the bank loan sanctioned taking into account my financial worth. It’s all about the content and the available resources. It’s not about the budget. I’m a very fast filmmaker. I finished my first film within 12 days, second within 32 days. I’ll finish my next within 30 days. I am making a movie that is worth Rs 12 lakh but it will look like it was made for 12 crore. It’s just intelligent filmmaking. I don’t care about what the audience will say because I make the movie for myself.
You needn’t even release the movie then. You can just make it and keep it home?
It’s not like that. I’ll keep posting the movie everywhere. If you come, you like it and you buy it.
But movies don’t work like that. You pay for them and then watch…
The audience is paying for it, but they have to be willing to take the risk that they’re taking a roller coaster ride. It is like gambling. They have to spend for the entertainment, even if you lose the money.
Which means that if you’re producing the film, you don’t care even if no one else watches it?
I have a home theatre. And I will play it for people who come home. Of the 7 crore people, only 1 percent watch it. 1 percent is enough for me. As long as I pay back my loans, I will keep making movies.
So, you just want to keep making movies?
Exactly. I don’t care about your reviews or what people think. They might hate my movies now. Later, they will say it is okay. They will become my fans after they learn that this is my signature. I will keep making movies. The audience is very judgmental when watching a newcomer’s film. When you come to watch my movie, come for leisure. Don’t come to judge me. If you’re a busy guy, take care of your busy work. Don’t come for my movie. Just because the viewer’s wife has asked him to buy dosa maavu and come home, I cannot make the movie go fast.
Are you afraid there will come a time when you can no longer make movies?
Chuck it. Movies are made from the brain, not money. In the climax of Goko Mako I said, “Enjoying your work is called success.” That’s all I want.