In this episode of Deep Focus, director Selvaraghavan and Baradwaj Rangan take a trip down memory lane and explore the decade-old film Mayakam Enna and the intricate details of its making.
Edited Excerpts Below
When you were working on Mayakkam Enna, you were also considering Vishwaroopam. So what was your headspace while writing this film? Did this project have a shorter pre-production time?
We had a short time, but we are used to having a short time for pre-production. It is never a problem; it is more of a personal space. We were going in and out for Vishwaroopam. But once we were clear that it was not going to happen, we were packed into Mayakkam Enna.
We did Mayakam Enna after Aayirathil Oruvan. We spent a lot of time on Aayirathil Oruvan, so we needed a breather afterward. But the truth is there is never a breather when it comes to movies. Whether small or big, once you get used to it, it's all the same.
I feel that maybe the Dhanush character in the film is Selvaraghavan himself. He is a genius, and he is called a genius. He is a little eccentric, and people tell him that it's a little difficult to be around this person. I agree with the genius part; you have brought a different side to Tamil cinema. But are the other parts also a little bit of you?
It might be true. Whenever you make a movie, there is always a personal side of the filmmaker involved. It doesn't have to be Mayakam Enna Karthik. It could be Aayirathil Oruvan Muthu or someone else; your personal sides are a little bit involved. The personal side is not entirely there, but then it is also not completely out of it. The Selvaraghavan hero or leading character that is closest to me would be Mayakam Enna's Karthik.
This is a very interesting film with two narrative threads. Each of them could have become its own movie. One is "I am in love with my best friend's girlfriend—that's a dramatic love story thread." Another one is I want to be a photographer and the journey and hurdles. How did that combination of the two storylines come about?
It is about life, and life is not about a single thing. A struggling photographer won't have just that side of it; he will also have a personal life. So when it comes to making a little complicated character, there are more realistic people like Karthik Swaminathan. You need to analyse every part of his life, his professional side and struggle, his personal side, and his friends.
It doesn't have to be single-sided. I think nowhere in the cinema, worldwide, they never focused on one side of the protagonist. So when I started writing it, I wondered why we needed a breeze on the other side—some girl met him, they fell in love and were singing songs. It just doesn't make any sense.
Some people have a tough life, whether romantic or something else. What I wanted to convey is all shades of his struggle towards photography, even his personal side. When you analyse a photograph, there are lots of shades to it. I want that kind of photograph to be his life when he takes it forward; that's a part of everything as his character.
Why particularly wildlife photography?
I wanted to analyse what has not been done. Photography is something that is rarely done in Tamil cinema. The maximum I have heard of is wedding photography. I am fascinated and can identify with wildlife photography. All my life, I have wanted to become a wildlife photographer, apart from a filmmaker. I think everybody has that—take a camera and go somewhere in the jungle and wait for a lion to knock on the door and click a picture.
I know it's not that simple. But wildlife photography is close to being yourself, and you can find yourself close to nature. So I wondered when I was making a movie about a photographer, what is that one thing that will be very close to his personal side. He is going to struggle, and he is going to be cheated in his professional life. So at least, on one side, he should feel bliss, which gives him the strength to tackle all the other problems.
There is a line in the film—'forest la photo edutha kadavul pakkathula irukura maari iruku' (When I capture pictures in a forest, it feels like God is with/near me). Is that the reason the leaf kind of falls from heaven and settles on his face? Did you have that in mind, or was that just a coincidence?
When you like and do a profession, something happens. When you like your profession, whether you are a filmmaker or working in a software company, some experience happens, and it makes you feel that every day is taking you closer to what you really like to do.
Since he is a wildlife photographer, we wondered what is the best he could do. A falling leaf might sound simple to you, but it is like a blessing coming from up above for him. So a little bit of thought process went into that.
I found the interval point very interesting. It is a very soft, lovely interval point. That's the first time Yamini and Karthik smile at each other, and it's his failure and low point for him. Then, just after that, there is another powerful moment where Karthik confronts Madhesh and says it's not fair, and that man says bugger off and sends him away. How do you decide this is the right fit to break the movie? Is it just instinct or something else?
More than instinct, I think it is a very beautiful moment happening in their lives. Karthik knows he has never had such a support system in life, and that magical night, he realises that 'this girl with whom I am not supposed to fall in love might be the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with'.
That girl also realises that she wants to be with this guy for sure. So this is how the process went on. That's why he drops everything and runs away because it is scary. That kind of moment where he realises this is a girl, then he loves his best friend also. So he decides to run away rather than get more engaged in the case. Even though it is beautiful, it is scary. With rain, there are many other elements. There is no one around, and it's raining, the vehicle got punctured, it is like the Universe tries to help them.