‘No One Is Going To Say You Can’t Show These Things’

Guhan Senniappan, who directed the Amazon Prime Original Vella Raja, talks about the tea shop discussions that led to the series and how anime has always remained his strongest inspiration
‘No One Is Going To Say You Can’t Show These Things’

When you wrote the screenplay for Vella Raja, was it always intended to be a series?

It was meant to be a series right from the start. It's not that we decided on making a movie first and then changed it.

How did you pitch it to Dream Warrior Pictures, the producer?

Initially, my friends Lokesh Kanagaraj (Managaram) and Ashwin, who was my co-contestant in Naalaya Iyakunar and I sat together and decided on the story. When we spoke with the production company, they said it was nice and that we should also get Amazon onboard. They had a one-line idea and then we sat down and developed it into a full story.

So Amazon Prime came in after you guys started with Dream Warrior?

No, (we started) after Prime came in. We pitched the story and got it approved by Amazon Prime and only then started with the official production.

How did you conceive the idea for Vella Raja? Was there any particular inspiration or incident?

The basic scratch was told to me by Lokesh and Ashwin. They said that it was about how a few characters get entangled in a particular situation. I then gave each character a background and a story arc, and wrote them according to my perspective. That's how I came up with the screenplay.

Usually, we discuss ideas together, sitting in our regular tea shop. This idea too was something we discussed a year ago and we knew it would work best as a series. Lokesh and Ashwin then pitched it to Dream Warrior first. Feeling I would be apt for the screenplay and direction, I was later called onboard.

Did you have a lot of freedom executing what you had written?

In a way we did. For example, if we're filming a gunshot or a lot of blood splattering it is more expressive than in a movie because we can show it directly. No one is going to say "no, you can't show these things".

And finally, can you describe any particular memorable moment from the shoot of Vella Raja?

I've been watching a lot of Japanese anime right from my childhood. There is one particular scene where blood splatters on Parvathy's face. I loved making it, because for a long time I wanted to capture something like that. The eyes open, all aggressive, and suddenly there's blood on the face. Such shots show a lot of depth in the character. That moment is very close to me. I enjoyed shooting all the action scenes too. I wanted to compose it like an anime, in proper Japanese style, and I think I kind of executed it.

Do you have a favourite anime?

Naruto, obviously is number one for me. Next would be Dragon Ball Z because I've been watching it right from my childhood. When it comes to violence I love Bleach. The list keeps on going. I want to one day make something that's as good as these. Like an anime where characterisation and story arcs are unpredictable, because you might expect a character to be positive but then it turns out to be quite the opposite. This is a freedom you get in a series, unlike in a movie where you're limited by running time.

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