From the quirky Mundasapetti to a psychological thriller like Ratsasan, director Ram Kumar seems to like shuffling between genres. The film has received rave reviews from audiences for its realistic portrayal of a cop solving a series of murders. But in the process, Ram Kumar seems to have also touched upon several issues affecting society. In a chat with the director, we unravel the inspiration and effort that went into crafting this thriller with a message. Excerpts:
The audience has been raving about the tautness of your thriller. It's clear that a lot of careful research has gone into it. From a comedy like Mundasapetti to Ratsasan, what inspired you to make a psychological thriller?
I have always loved reading and watching thrillers. I read several books that detailed the lives of serial killers and what went into the making of their mindset. Such stories inspired me to develop the knot of this film, which is completely fictional.
There seems to be a lot of detailing, especially in the scenes that are set in cop Arun's bedroom, with all the newspaper clippings on the wall. How did you collect all that?
I like attention to detail. For one month, I put my assistant directors on the job of collecting every possible newspaper clipping on crimes and serial killers. That wall is the result of their hard work. My art director Gopi Anand too deserves credit for the way he put all that together and for how he has designed the villain's den. He had to recreate a house and then make an underground tunnel to match it with the original house we shot in.
There seems to be an underlying message in the film, especially about the safety of women and students. Was that intentional?
I wouldn't call it a message because I don't want to preach to anyone. But I wanted to create awareness about the lurking dangers women and young students face. I wanted to show that such dangers may arise from amongst familiar faces one deals with on a daily basis. It's easier for such people to gain trust and then manipulate their weaknesses to exploit victims. For this, I wanted the audience to be engrossed in the story; they needed to identify with real-looking characters and establish a connection with them. That way, the actions of those characters would impact the viewer directly.
We often read about the exploitation that goes on in educational institutions. You have brought that alive quite effectively, even touching upon the back stories of the villains. How did you conceive those scenes?
We read a lot about such incidents. Even as I was writing those scenes, it was all over the TV and newspapers. Unfortunately, I didn't have to fictionalise much. The idea was to show how such predators study their victims, learn their weaknesses and then manipulate them. They misuse the confidence girls place on them. My point was to spread this awareness amongst women, especially students, so they don't become victims. In order to create the character, I went into the smallest details like clothes, expressions, and their body language. As for the back stories, I just touched upon them briefly to show how circumstances affect a person. Even seemingly minor incidents can have far-reaching consequences.
Vishnu Vishal has transformed into the role of an ordinary, young cop. His character has resonated with the audiences. This is your second film with him. How did you get him into the skin of the character this time?
Vishnu Vishal plays a young cop, who solves a big case. Because he is an ordinary guy, just into training, his achievements and how he goes against all odds to solve the crime makes his success bigger. If his character had been written as a senior cop solving the crime, the impact wouldn't have been the same. This way, people can identify with him easily.
Vishnu Vishal did a fantastic job. Small things, like his expressions when he hesitatingly hits prisoners, his body language all through, the look in his eyes were all elements he brought in elements himself. He transformed himself into Arun.
The background music by Ghibran adds a lot to the atmosphere. He has even made a small appearance in one scene. Can you tell us about your working relationship?
Ghibran has worked very hard on this film, especially because it's a psychological thriller. He has travelled with this script for two years. When I gave him the final edit, I told him, 'I have done 50% of the film. You have to add the other 50%'. He understood completely because he knows the value background score can add to a thriller like this. I was really curious to see how it would shape up. It was perfect and I am glad the response has been positive. It was difficult for him to keep up with the mood of such a film for so long, but he gave it his all and the result is for all to experience.
You are said to be directing Dhanush in a fantasy film next. How did that come about?
The teaser of Ratsasan was ready a year ago and Vishnu Vishal happened to show it to Dhanush, who liked it a lot. He asked about me and we even met. I didn't have a story idea prepared then. I thought I would go back to him once I had something concrete. About two months ago, I met him again and told him a line about an idea. He liked it and that's how the project materialised. I will develop it in the next seven or eight months. Since it's a fantasy, it requires time. I think he will suit the role I have in mind, given his body language and acting abilities.