In this Deep Focus episode with Baradwaj Rangan, Selvaraghavan revisits Irandam Ulagam (2013) starring Arya and Anushka and shares about its making, key learnings and his scriptwriting process.
Edited Excerpts Below:
Tell me what was your original vision that said 'I have to make this idea into a movie'.
The original idea was when you really love a person, you can travel around a universe to be with them. It's a big idea.
When you have a big idea like this, if you are writing an 800-1000 page novel, then you can go to town with it but when you have to compress it for a movie, what are the challenges?
A lot of people told me it could have been a better novel or anything like that. But I believe in the saying 'If it can be written, it can be filmed' (said by Stanley Kubrick). That's what went into my mind. It is a complicated story about two people living in two different universes.
In Aayirathil Oruvan, we struggled and struggled and the idea kind of came into the picture. But here, I want to pinpoint and show that once Shankar told, I think in 2.0, that only Shankar and his associate director are the last people standing and no one else is there.
Generally, we know how much we struggle. To be frank, talking about Irandam Ulagam, you know the idea is big and it will take time to get people on board. The director has to take the blame for other people failing in the departments. They simply say, 'I told you, but it didn't happen,' and go back to their lives. They are not going to face the music here, but the filmmaker has to face it.
Thinking about it now, in Irandam Ulagam, I was promised that the people's skin in the other world will look yellow and they will look strange. It didn't happen. All through the film, I had been working under the impression that they will look very different and they are going to look yellow and everything. When I asked what happened, they said. "I tried but it didn't work out". That person simply said this and then walked out.
Sometimes it is a big learning experience for me. When you do something, you should take everything into your hands. In Aayirathil Oruvan, I was very careful and I didn't trust anybody. I was like I wanted to do it step by step and I was there throughout, even for a little bit of VFX shot.
Here, I started to trust and I thought the VFX is their department and it's their job. Each department has its job. That's how the movie worked and I paid the price for it.
When you write a script, how do you work? Do you pass it around with the assistant, scene by scene, or do you write a full draft and then pass it to everybody and ask their opinion?
I think writing a script is a very private process. So you write it and you can't expect other people to suddenly pull in and say things. It might work, but from my experience, I don't believe in it. Because the scriptwriter kinds of puts a lot of effort and thought process. Then, you can't just read the draft and say this may be right and this may be wrong.
So much of the process goes into it and only I, the scriptwriter, knows what happened in that particular thing. When it comes to converting it, the majority of people can realize that this is how it is done. Four people can write a script together. But what I am trying to tell is these four people should be involved in the six-month process.
When you complete the script and give the draft to the assistants and seek their opinion, you are not going to get in-depth feedback. That's what I believe. But I do give it to the assistants and others for them to understand the script and story, and I am open to hearing opinions.
With Irandam Ulagam, after reading the script, people said 'If I could pull it off, then it could be done.' For instance, I want to do it in Hindi and was narrating the script to Hrithik Roshan's father and he told that 'If you can pull it off, we will definitely do it.' I think most of it we pulled it off, and it came along right. Somewhere it didn't like click.
When you look back today, you have a distance of 10 years, what are you able to look back and point out that didn't happen the way you wanted it to, anything other than the visual part?
When I did the film, I thought maybe I don't have to do it in a big set, I could do it in a small set and wrap it fast so that it would help people. I think that's what I failed in a big way. I should have stuck to my vision and it backfired.
Suppose you are going to make a movie and stand by it and work on the film, maybe you are cutting here and there, trying to minimize. No, don't do that. If you have your vision clear, go ahead and do it, whatever the cost is. Work on it and don't do something thinking it will help other people financially or wrap things up quickly.
Things don't work that way, this is what I have learnt. Stick through your vision and whatever it takes, go through it, no matter how painful it is.
The central concept of the film is that there is this one ideal person for us in terms of finding love, Is that something you believe in?
No, that movie is not about the ideal person. It is more like a fantasy. He keeps finding the same person again and again because of true love.
It is about how much you wait and go behind, like past earthquakes and all. He leaves all of his life and lives like a gipsy in Goa to try and see her again, it might happen. That is the concept of the movie. He doesn't move on and lives with the memories, it is about when you go to that extent and do not move on, maybe God might give you a glimpse of what you want, here, he gets to see her again in a different world.
You might stumble on a portal, and who knows, maybe it is possible. The film is also about that…everything is possible in this world, and what if maybe there is a parallel world where similar things are happening.