Karthik Dial Seytha Yenn is Karthik and Jessie’s Story And Should Be Seen Like That: Gautham Vasudev Menon

Director Gautham Vasudev Menon talks to Baradwaj Rangan about the mixed opinion that his recently released short received and the challenges of shooting amidst the lockdown.
Karthik Dial Seytha Yenn is Karthik and Jessie’s Story And Should Be Seen Like That: Gautham Vasudev Menon

Those who watched Karthik Dial Seytha Yenn are divided into two segments. One, who really got it and empathised with the situation and the other who thought of it as emotional infidelity to Jessie's husband Roy Abraham. How do you see that turning out? 

If Roy is with her at this point in time, which is a reveal later on in the film, she'd probably tell him that Karthik had called her. Roy would either be very interested in the conversation or he'd simply ask her if she handled the situation well and leave it at that. This is what life is all about, right? Two people can get into this conversation only if they are in that space. Karthik and Jessie are in that space but not everyone can do that. This isn't a lesson telling everyone to go and call their ex. It is Karthik and Jessie's story and should be seen like that. Like all my other works, I am aware that there will be an audience who love it, hate it or those who are on the line. I remember reading a review of Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya, which said that it was like watching paint dry on the wall. But, eventually, the movie had a cult following. All of this doesn't matter. It is just the journey of a filmmaker and there is bound to be discussions, acceptance and rejection surrounding it. I know there's a discussion, and it is good. 

To answer your question specifically, the intention was to portray a conversation between two people during this lockdown, and also it is one moment from a feature film. I am not supporting this, but why can't two people be in this said space of mind? We've had Arjun Reddy too and we've seen the type of person he is. For Karthik, like he mentions, at the end of it, he feels good after talking to Jessie and that's all what he is looking for. 

In Anurag Kashyap's Manmarziyan, Taapsee's character sleeps with her ex-boyfriend after getting married but there was nothing said about that. Is this conversation happening because you're working in Tamil cinema and are you expected to be careful? 

I honestly don't care. Simbu told me that it's all paid memes. But mixed reviews are really good. Legendary filmmakers have told me that mixed reviews are good and it only means that people are discussing the film. I think that's great. I did a 12-minute short and not a blockbuster such as Sarkar or Bigil, but the fact that you called me to talk about it is a big deal for me.

The last time we spoke, you said that you're making VTV 2 and now you say that this short is a scene from the film. At what point did you decide to make this short from that script? 

I am generally at home even without a lockdown, but there are times when you face an existential crisis. With talks about whether theatres will open up and us getting calls from Amazon and Netflix, I wrote a series of conversations. One was between Satyadev and Victor, there was one that I wrote between two people sitting across a desk. But I can't ask Ajith or anyone else to act in it, because they might think that I am using their fame. So I needed two people who wouldn't think twice or bat an eyelid before saying yes. Simbu and Trisha didn't hesitate at all. They weren't sure on how to pull off remote shooting, but agreed. I sent the edit to Rahman Sir and he immediately replied saying the idea is great. 

From all the other conversations that I'd written, this is the one I liked the most. When people watch the feature later, they would understand its context as well.

When Trisha hangs up and the camera lingers on her face, there is a bit of moment there? What is that moment about?

This could be a bit of a spoiler because the feature film is built on that moment and a moment before this scene. Imagine a situation where Roy is not with her for six months and he's walked away from her life for a particular reason, and it is not Karthik at all. She is in that space, but doesn't want to tell this to Karthik. She talks to him about how she had settled into this life with Roy, but not about her current scenario. This is also why there is a slight hesitation when Karthik asks her how Roy is. This is just a sneak peek into what the film could be.

Do you think it's possible to make a feature with the lockdown scenario when the actors, director and others involved are all in other places?

Nothing is impossible, but this is very tough. These are times when you realise that you need every support. Every shot had to be recorded and sent to them. We can do it, sure. We were very sceptical about the digital revolution but once it happened, we grabbed the opportunity. Likewise, in this scenario, people may not like the idea of working with fewer people. Having said that, this can be done, but it took much longer than usual. 

Suppose a scene takes two days to shoot on a live set, what is the equivalent here?

I had to look at every shot, every frame and the location, and that took one full day and then two full days of shoot with the artistes. This would have taken just half a day had we all been in the same place.

What are your upcoming projects? 

There's about 10 days of shoot left for Joshua Imai Pol Kaakha and shooting will resume as soon as we're able to. Likewise, Dhruva Natchathiram is currently in post production and it will see a big theatrical release before the end of the year. Apart from that, there's an opportunity to work with Suriya and Kamal Sir and I am writing for them.

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