Paava Kadhaigal: Gautham Vasudev Menon, Sudha Kongara, Vetri Maaran And Vignesh Shivan On The Netflix Anthology
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Close on the heels of Amazon Prime Video announcing its Tamil anthology Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Netflix announced its Tamil anthology, which has been in the works for some time now. Paava Kadhaigal is said to be about honour killing and is helmed by Gautham Vasudev Menon, Sudha Kongara, Vetri Maaran and Vignesh Shivan. The anthology brings together filmmakers who have showcased love in myriad ways in their feature films. It is said to explore how “love, pride and honour influence complex relationships”, according to a release by Netflix. 

The anthology is produced by Ronnie Screwvala’s RSVP Movies and Ashi Dua Sara’s Flying Unicorn Entertainment, and will release across 190 countries. 

The cast includes Anjali, Bhavani Sre, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Hari, Kalidas Jayaram, Kalki Koechlin, Padam Kumar, Prakash Raj, Sai Pallavi, Shanthnu Bhagyaraj and Simran. For Vignesh, this was an opportunity to “tell a story to a diverse audience, alongside three respected directors who believe in your story as much as you do”.   

In FC Chat Masala, the four directors speak to Anupama Chopra and Baradwaj Rangan. Excerpts from their conversation:  

Baradwaj Rangan: Let’s get started with this anthology called Paava Kadhaigal, Tales Of Sin. The buzz is that it’s based on honour killings and we’ll come to the subject later, but let’s just talk about the format. You are all feature filmmakers, how did you react when Netflix came to you and said, make a film in 30 minutes.

Vetri Maaran: For me, more than the format, it’s about making films with a few other filmmakers. We tried to do this in 2016, but it didn’t happen. As a format, this is challenging for all of us because of the way it is structured, the way it has to move, the way the characters are introduced, the way it has to end, everything is a little different from a film. If a feature film can be compared to a novella, this is a proper short story and we have to treat it that way. If possible, we bring in the O Henry factor into this short; if not, at least try to hold for the final moment. These things were challenging, and as Gautham mentioned in another interview, we need to interpret the shots too differently from feature films. In terms of content, it was very liberating, because these shorts are not essentially meant for theatrical viewing and so that did not interfere with the kind of story we wanted to tell.

Baradwaj Rangan: Gautham, what do you mean by the shots are different, did you have to rethink your whole visual vocabulary?   

Gautham Menon: What I meant was that when you make a feature film, you’re already thinking, let’s say for a sort of a lengthy shot, will the theatre hold this, will the audience be affected by this, or should I cut it short and stuff like that. You’re not actually filming something for the content, but here, you’re filming exactly for the content that you want without worrying about the mood in the theatre. I realized this when I made Queen. It was very liberating work in that sense, that’s what I meant. I don’t really look at it as a short film or half-an-hour and stuff like that. I always felt my stories sort of go asunder in half an hour. So, I really thought that this format would work for me. It’s why I have done three like this in the past three months, and we put in everything. Because of the company I am in, with filmmakers like Sudha, Vignesh and Vetri, it’s like a relay race, and you want to be in the same zone. It is very interesting work in that sense, and I am very happy to be a part of this right now.

Anupama Chopra: You talked about it as a relay race, but the truth is that, the beauty of an anthology is the way the films and the distinctive voices play off each other, right because you see one and then you go to another. But when you’re on a streaming platform people could see these as independent short films, they could watch one, stop, go to the next, did that play in your mind at all, did that impact how you told your stories?

Sudha Kongara: Frankly, I was scared as hell to do a short, after doing features. I think that if I had done that for any other medium, except for a streaming platform like this, I would’ve been even more scared, because you are looking at a some kind of a response, which is very commercial and all that, but here, I think I was just being honest to the genre that we chose and we were just doing it for that, and forget it being a relay or even as little individual capsules. I think each one of us has been very honest to what was given to us, and that I think is the beauty of the anthology we have done.

Vetri Maaran: So, when we started it, this was supposed to play as a whole film, now it is as chapters, and watching one after the other we feel is better. Every story is intense in its own way, every film is going to be a strong film that has a very strong voice. We are happy that it is going to be watched one after the other, where they have some space to watch it.

Gautham Menon: Yeah, but you are transported into that zone, right. Even if you watch a Vignesh film, under the genre, he’s got his own quirky way of narrating his story. If you watch Vetri’s film after, and you will still be left with the residue of Vetri’s film, of Vignesh’ film, which is why it is really important to still be in that space is what I thought. We’ve handled it in our own styles.

Baradwaj Rangan: So are you saying that this is best seen in a particular order, like the order it’s presented in?

Gautham Menon: We don’t know what order it’s going to come in right now.

Vetri Maran: Irrespective of the order, it will work.

Baradwaj Rangan:  So, let’s talk about the topic right. When you are talking about sin, let’s say honour killings, did any of you feel that, maybe this is a bit out of my comfort zone, maybe I’ve got to do a bit of research and kind of localise it to the best extent possible or you just say I am a fiction filmmaker, I am just going to go and create my own fictional world?

Sudha Kongara: No filmmaker gets into a film that is in their comfort zone, unless you’re very lazy, because each world’s that we get into, it’s a very vicarious pleasure of you know going there, exploring it and mastering it or trying to master it and get a product there, which is very representative, and these particular stories that we are saying, these particular things and stories where we are talking about one particular thing, it’s really not something that you can get in without research. I think all the four filmmakers have researched a lot on this. It took me six months to write it, and each of us, at the back of our heads know that this thing has been in society, so it’s not that we just went in there. I don’t know if we were really in our comfort zone.

Vetri Maaran: Originally, it was supposed to be an anthology on love stories, and they wanted to do something else, which I might not be able to do in a film that is primarily meant for theatrical release. For me, writing stories around a family, within a family, was challenging, and there are certain areas that I thought I could explore better. I was very unsure till I showed the film to a few of my friends.

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