Edited excerpts from an interview between Gautham Vasudev Menon and Vishal Menon:
Let’s begin with the elephant in the room. There’s again talk about your film Ennai Noki Paayum Thotta getting delayed due to certain financial hurdles. Why does this keep happening with your films? Or is it the same case with everyone?
I don’t know if that’s the case with other films because I don’t peep into other people’s houses. I think it’s a personal thing. Because I am in the media and films are out there for the public to watch and diss, it somehow becomes their problem, which is a little unfair. If I meet someone who has been married for long, I don’t go ask them why they haven’t had children for so long. I think it’s just that. Why would someone want to know what the finances are like in my house and my company? I don’t go into someone’s construction site and ask them why their building hasn’t been completed in so long. I’m not saying this with any anger, but I find it very amusing that people want to know this.
See, I have chosen to put out some of the film’s promotional material. I have chosen to put out a couple of songs from the film and bask in that glory. If I had not, nobody would even know that such a movie was coming out. We went through a business issue, that’s all it is. Nothing else. And matters pertaining to the business of cinema…things like, ‘did we go wrong in the planning’, ‘did I go wrong somewhere,’ ‘was my team right’, ‘did we make wrong decisions’; these are not anyone else’s business and it’s unpleasant and uninspiring.
It’s not something I want youngsters to hear about when they’re coming to make films. If this is going out to the general audience who is watching this, all I have to say is that this film is coming out very soon and there’s a National Award-winning actor at its helm and there’s a beautiful girl named Megha Akash who is it and there are mind blowing songs that sort out take out my stress whenever I want to unwind. That’s all they need to know about the issues. Is the industry a great place to be in? Of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Are we passionate about making films? We’re here only for that. Are other production houses facing similar issues? I hope they’re not, but I think they are. I wouldn’t want to look into other people’s houses. I don’t watch Big Boss.
At times, do you think that if you were a director for hire, someone who only directs without getting involved in the production, you could have been more productive?
I am doing that also. But it’s a Catch 22 kind of thing. So I write my content, I go and make my film, but the industry works in such a way that if I need to make it a certain way, then I need a big star. I sign on to work with a few people, but, in that process, either they don’t understand you or you don’t understand them; and at some point, the line starts blurring and then nobody knows who is who and what’s happening. Somewhere, I’ve tried to take control only of the creative part of the film, and it’s not an ego thing. I like to have creative control over my work and I have a process as to how I go about my work—it’s not about my comfort zone or that I am lazy.
Vetrimaran sir too recently told me about how he makes his films a certain way. He tries to evolve with the script. I found some sort of a relief when he said that, because I felt like I was doing something wrong. If you want to work with me, this is my process. I think this is a great way to work. Everything is still planned and I know what I want to shoot but the last 15 to 20 minutes pan out based on what I feel about the rest of the film. When you write a book, that’s how you do it. I am here only because I’m passionate about what I do. I realised I could be great at being a director for hire when I directed a loosely based historical fiction called ‘Queen’. I wasn’t sure I could give it the feel they wanted but when people liked it and I gave it my all, I feel I can do it again. So I’m available to be hired but somewhere I get involved with the business and the money because I like to have creative control; it’s nothing else.
But when you go through these delays due to the finances, does it affect your creative process? Or, does it even affect you personally?
Yeah, it does. I’m not saying this because I don’t want people to think that I don’t care about my films getting stuck. Obviously, I am worried but people react differently to stress. I’m not somebody who exhibits that or throws tantrums. I don’t walk around punching people either, even though I’d love to. I have my own ways of doing that. I prefer to work more, create more content and I keep writing, reading, travelling, playing cricket and spending time with my family, my friends.
This was not the plan. The plan was not to release my films three years later. I wanted to get in and come out. We shot this film in 55 days but spread over 2.5 years, because of various reasons, and I will not get into that. We got stuck, there was no funding sometimes and there were issues between the hero and the producer, but that’s not to be discussed in detail because that’s what happens inside a house. There is stress, and we’re trying to sort it out using our skills as filmmakers. That’s all we’re trying to do. People who have no personal connect with me have come forward to help me out just because they’ve liked and admired my earlier work and I am thankful for that. They have agreed to do a few things and I have agreed to do a few things in return and all that is connected to making movies.
So, in your experience, how do you see it? Do you find people distancing themselves from you when things are not working out, or are more people coming up to help you?
I’ve seen both. See some people don’t get the ideology. Every association has to work out. We have to meet at the right place and time with the right people. But somewhere, along the journey, things might not work out and you have to pull out. And then egos get bruised and they try to stop you and start throwing hurdles at you. They want to see you fall. You do fall but there are other people who want to work with you. So, doors and windows are opened again. I’ve seen both. But, for everything that’s happening around, I’m responsible. Entirely.