Anand Shankar, the director of Iru Mugan and Arima Nambi, has already proved how adept he is at setting up elaborate action set pieces. But his third film NOTA, which releases this week, is a full-fledged political drama without a single action scene in it. The director explains how he writes action and why similar scenes in most Indian films fail to pack a punch. Excerpts from an interview:
Both Arima Nambi and Iru Mugan have more or less been action films. Why do you feel some of the action scenes in our films feel so unimaginative when compared to Hollywood?
I think it's a combination of factors. If you break it down and watch a good Hollywood action scene you see how quickly and how easily they topple or blast a car. The whole thing happens in a second or two.
But here, when people spend big money, we slow things down. We pull the cameras back for a wider shot and then insist on showing the cars topple in 48 frames per second. It then becomes 10 seconds long just to show we have spent a lot of money on it.
But that's the problem. You just have to be bold. It's a lot of the producer's money blown up in a second, but that's when it's really exciting.
Very few people spend time storyboarding action scenes. Even creating pre-visualizations is fairly new. All the work is done in the last minute…at times, entire fight scenes are choreographed on the spot on set.
In my case, I sit down with the action director and we plan right down to the last punch. Then you start involving other departments like the art directors so they can contribute with props and the setting. A lot of elements have to come together for it to look good.
You have to write an action scene with the same effort that goes into writing the hero's character.