Gautham Vasudev Menon is a part of Navarasa both as a director and an actor. The anthology film, produced by Mani Ratnam and Jayendra, drops on Netflix today. In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, he talks about how he became a part of Navarasa, working with Suriya after Vaaranam Aayiram in 2008, and drops hints about Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru, the episode he’s directed in he anthology. Edited Excerpts…
How was the Navarasa experience like?
It was Mani sir and Jayendra’s initiative and I wanted to associate myself with them. I envisioned interactions, discussions, and phone calls, and some of that did happen. I said yes straightaway. It was also for a beautiful cause and none of us took remuneration for working on the project. We were given the idea of picking an emotion and the actors and crew. When Jayendra contacted me, I said I would try Suriya who liked my narration. Once that happened, I think the other films also happened organically. After Suriya, Vijay Sethupathi came in. Once the other stories fell in place, we took it to Netflix. The rest is history actually because the entire proceedings are given away for workers in the film industry.
When you got back with Suriya after so long, were you thinking it had to be really special because of the history of your work together?
I never put the pressure on myself. For me, it was like going back home. It was comfortable and brilliant to be on the sets back with him. We did a reading of the script and a couple of online sessions before that. We talked a lot and laughed before the shooting. Even during the shoot there was a slight Covid scenario at his home and it was a bit tense. In spite of that, a lot of effort went into every line and expression. My episode is a musical with 4-5 songs. He trained to play the piano and guitar for a bit. It was like going back home from work for me.
When I told him that, he also told me that it was the best set experience he’d had in a very long time. I didn’t take the pressure of making a Kaakha Kaakha again because this is a very conversational film. But maybe, something on the lines of Vaaranam Aaryiam, just in terms of the mood. It’s about two people who meet and connect. We’re making a film about love or attraction — shringara — and we wanted the audience to feel that emotion.
From frame one, I wanted the audience to feel the attraction they see on screen. That’s why I was very keen that PC [Sreeram] sir work on the film. It’s about an evening of conversation filled with a lot of music. Later, we find out whether they end up together or not.