Excerpts from a conversation between Mahesh Narayanan and Baradwaj Rangan.
Did you ever think it was possible to do the entire airport scene in c u soon using just one camera?
I can do it in one camera, but I needed to shoot it in a real airport. If I had the liberty to go to Dubai and shoot, I would’ve done it like a one-camera thing. But, I was shooting an airport in a hotel in Kochi with a 40-member crew. I don’t have that many juniors here. So, I used the hotel. Where the running starts from the lobby, the escalators… all of those were at Hyatt. For the last set of boarding gates, I went to a hospital called Aster Medcity. Both are founded by people from the Middle East, so they constructed it in such a way that it resembles what you find there. In Kerala, you find a lot of buildings in that zone. So, I was fortunate enough to shoot in those places because it was the lockdown period and nobody was there. If I could have shot the film in non-lockdown times and travel to the UAE, I would’ve used only the front camera. For example, when Jimmy is running, I could have got everything in the background.
Why did you want music in this film? I felt the whole conceit of cameras is that you’re being as natural as possible. You’re only showing what is the “truth”. Music, as a very fundamental principle, manipulates the emotions of viewers. So, it is going beyond the truth and saying “Here is truth+happiness or truth+sadness or truth+this is a funny scene” Why did you want that layer?
I’ll quote from your book on Mani Ratnam Sir, the preface of which is written by AR Rahman. He has mentioned that for an album like Bombay, to sell a song like ‘Kannalanae’, he needed a ‘Humma Humma’. It’s as simple as that. It was an eye-opener.
I could have played this film without music. I could have used only real sounds from the computer. I could actually do Kevin’s Spotify thing or Jimmy’s iTunes, or use Anu’s phone. But I needed to play it a bit cinematic. What Mani sir explains is very true. We need to tune our audience. Since I’m trying a new format, I was not sure if people would understand it well. They need to focus on the text, focus on the screen, focus on the content…so I needed a proper script for people to travel with. So even with music director Gopi Sundar, I was telling him this. Even with Take Off, I know you had the same problems. I had problems with him playing the big cellos. For the festival cut, we reduced it. I accepted your observations. If you look at Take Off, which was shown in IFFI or in New York or Los Angeles, the music is minimal. I’ve taken an entire different mix there. So here what happens is, I always sit with Gopi. He watches my timeline, observes where it is dropping, where you need to emphasize. We go through that. And we actually write a script there… like what is the point of communication. Sometimes, I know that it is loud. Sometimes, it moves away from the film, like a gun being fired and you’re giving it sound. It is too much, I know that. But still, for a regular audience to follow the story and forget the form and go with the story, I needed it. That’s the only reason.