Mari Selvaraj turned director with Pa Ranjith’s production Pariyerum Perumal. One thing common to both Ranjith and Mari is their common collaborator, composer Santhosh Narayanan. In a conversation with Baradwaj Rangan, Mari and Santhosh speak about their latest Karnan, starring Dhanush. Excerpts.
What’s the difference between Pariyerum Perumal’s Mari Selvaraj and Karnan’s Mari Selvaraj?
Mari Selvaraj: A stronger Mari Selvaraj. While doing Pariyerum Perumal, I used to double-guess my decisions for some shots — would they suit the film or not? This feeling was there during and after the film’s shooting, My assistants would want to know why I took certain decisions. I did what I felt was good for the film, but I was a bit afraid till the film released in theatres.
Now, I don’t feel so, because Dhanush Sir and Santhosh Narayanan Sir are like my weapons. It’s like we’re all heading for a fight together. The reason is that they trust and appreciate the decisions I make. In fact, Dhanush Sir said: “You don’t have to make decisions because it is me; decide like you did with Pariyerum Perumal.” We followed this throughout the shooting and it was useful. I’ve never seen someone who trusts me completely like him.
During the shoot of Pariyerum Perumal, Ranjit anna [Pa Ranjith] used to push me saying, “Don’t care about what anyone says, do it.” So when someone who’s right next to me encouraged me, I felt stronger.
What kind of difference do you see in Mari Selvaraj?
Santhosh Narayanan: He hasn’t changed, but he’s always been strong. I was aware of what’s happening when he was working on Pariyerum Perumal, and ever since I watched the film, I kept calling people to speak about it. I celebrated it. This happens with new filmmakers. His format is new and he’s done very well in Karnan too.
Every music director has some strengths, and you’ve only worked with Santhosh Narayanan, Mari Selvaraj. What do you think he brings to the film beyond the music and re-recording? Is there something that surpassed your expectation of the collaboration?
Mari Selvaraj: He uses his music score for the success of the film and to move it forward, and he says to not be too afraid after that. He uses music to fill gaps in emotions or shots and enhances them. When I realise I’ve made a mistake after a shot, I know I can overcome it with the music. Be it ‘Karuppi’ or ‘Naan Yaar’. For ‘Naan Yaar’, I thought I would shoot it when possible, but he transformed it completely and opened a new platform. People connected with the way we intended. The same thing happened with Karnan, I told him I want music as part of the script so that the film is musical.
We reduced dialogues and gave it a musical treatment with folk music. We wanted it to be culturally and emotionally impactful. The moment I told him I want him for the film, he came out of something important and started working on it. With the budget I had, I could create magic, but what transformed it was the music and the opening shot. If there is no music, a person might accept it, but to make a movie acceptable to everyone, music is a must.