Edited excerpts from an interview between Baradwaj Rangan and Karthik Naren:
When you did D16 at the ripe age of 21, what was your state of mind? Was it with the intention to make a mark in the industry?
Looking back, I am not sure what my mindset was then, but I had the hunger for sure. I think my mind was all over the place. I wanted filmmaking as a career. I'm not sure where my mind was but I'm glad it all worked out for the best.
What is your current state of mind?
Initially it was difficult. Especially since Naragasooran is at a standstill. It's in a standstill after the Censor cut and so on and there is only a point until which a director can handle delays. Beyond a point, it has become like the stages of grief and am currently at the acceptance stage. Now I have accepted that this is the fate of the film and we are definitely working at releasing it this year. Hopefully it will be out in 2021.
We were in the assumption that theatres will be back to full form after Master, but now we are in a different situation. What are your thoughts now?
The lockdown has been difficult for the entire world, especially when it comes to films. I think we were hit the most. Because in this industry we require a crowd to both watch the film as well as make the film. Lots of projects were on hold and if not for the pandemic, D43 (Dhanush's 43 film directed by Karthik) would have released last year in October. As a filmmaker, it is difficult for me to just keep saying that I am working on a different project. Even my parents keep asking me what the status is of these films.
After your first film, director Vetri Maaran gave you a piece of advice, telling you not to make another film, asking you to travel and learn more about cinema. At that point you said everyone has their own journey, and that you respect what he says, but you have your own journey. How do you look at that advice now?
It's similar to the kind of advice we get from our principal during school or college. We wonder what kind of advice that is and we will want to just rebel. But when we experience it and realise it later, we always go back thinking we should have taken that advice. Vetri Maaran sir's advice is like that for me. If given a chance, now I will definitely take it. To be very honest, I think I realised it after the release of Mafia.
Have you seen Naragasooran recently? And now that you have the time, do you tinker with the movie?
Yes, I watched it recently and no, I drew that line long back. I don't think it's healthy for a filmmaker to indulge his film too much. Otherwise, with every viewing something might pop up. I locked the film long back and now I just watch it as an audience.
You have a film that was released and was a hit. A film that's made, but hasn't released yet and a film that released and didn't do well. You have been through all three. What keeps you going? Is it just love for cinema?
Yes, kind of. It's definitely my love for cinema. Because even now, when people send me texts about how much they like D16, those are the moments I live for. It's usually said that people should always prioritize things and cinema is always my top priority.
What kind of Karthick Naren can we expect in the Navarasa episode?
I think the purest, 100% of me. The script of this episode, was planned as a feature film three years ago. I pitched it to my direction team after D16, and they loved it. I felt it wasn't the right time to make it, because I personally believe that a script will demand time for itself.
I knew at that point that it would be difficult to convince a producer to fund this film. So when Mani sir approached me regarding Navarasa, I asked him if the 'Wonder' rasa is still available, as this was the only script I had in mind.
Right now, production is shut, theatres are shut. What is Karthick Naren doing?
Karthick Naren is playing a lot of PS5 games right now, (laughs). Am also writing and watching a lot of content. I recently finished Shameless, on Amazon Prime Video which I thought was phenomenal and the character called Frank Gallagher, just blew my mind. I have never seen a character that is so reckless and who doesn't give a damn about anything, yet be so emotionally grounded. I loved The Disciple, and I watched Breaking Bad only during the lockdown. So now I am just watching everything that was on my wishlist.