Karthik Subbaraj On Disney+Hotstar’s Triples: Any Good Series Needs Good Writing And A Good First Episode

The director, known for his films that brim with quirkiness and dark humour, speaks about why he wanted to present Triples under his Stone Bench banner, OTT reach during the pandemic-induced lockdown, and more.
Karthik Subbaraj On Disney+Hotstar’s Triples: Any Good Series Needs Good Writing And A Good First Episode

"Comedy is something that everybody loves to watch. The idea of Triples is not too complicated and is told in an enjoyable format. I found it interesting," Karthik Subbaraj tells Baradwaj Rangan in an interview. Excerpts from their conversation.   

When the project came to you, what made you want to present this project under Stone Bench? 

When we decided to do shows and webseries at Stone Bench, we started listening to a lot of ideas and scripts. Kalyan is the producer of Tripling and he said that there is a very interesting script written by Balaji. Typically, with web series, we usually get dark subjects. I too love watching shows such as Narcos, but comedy is something that everybody loves to watch. 

This idea was not too complicated and was told in an enjoyable format, and I found it interesting. The line involves three people and a love triangle, but it is very interestingly written. When we look at Crazy Mohan sir's dramas and movies, the plot is simple, but the way it is written, the actor's performances and the dialogues make them enjoyable. Triples is in such a space and we felt that we should do it. 

What are your favourite comedy films? 

Thillu Mullu, Panchatanthiram and The Hangover. These are my all-time favourites and I repeatedly watch them. Even the day before yesterday, I watched The Hangover and 10 days ago, I watched Thillu Mullu.

There is dark humour in your films, but you haven't done an out-and-out comedy. Have you tried writing one? 

No, I haven't. This is probably also why I liked the script of Triples. Maybe, I should try doing one as well.

What's your opinion about OTT penetration? Is it still an upper class, upper middle class phenomena or has the reach increased because there has been no cinema content in the past year? 

I think OTT penetration has increased, and it's a healthy thing. The number of people viewing Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar has increased in the recent past, because of Corona. Even after opening theatres, I think this will definitely be seen as a good change. Apart from theatrical films, I think viewership for content such as web series and shows like Triples will definitely increase. People are also ready to subscribe to OTTs and that is a healthy thing. 

After releasing your films, have you watched any of them on OTTs or the small screen?

I saw Miracle from Putham Pudhu Kaalai and it was a completely new experience for me. Because, with a theatrical release, we watch the first show with the audience and it's an anxious experience. Here, I was not very anxious but excited to know what the audience would feel about the film as a whole and my movie too — we wouldn't know their reactions immediately, though. After the movie was released, I was looking online for tweets, and my film is the last one. I saw people discussing the first few films and I slept off. I learnt about the feedback only the next day, and this was a new experience. With production, Penguin was a very thrilling experience because we released it directly on OTT and it was interesting to see people's reactions.

You've done short films, feature films and web and OTT series. Can any subject be treated in any of these three formats? For example, can Miracle be a feature film or can a dense screenplay like Jigarthanda turn into a short film?

Miracle was written as a 20-minute content, but when we were shooting the film, we really enjoyed the comedy between Bobby and Sarath, and we even discussed if we could make a feature film with their characters. But a film like Jigarthanda cannot be made into a short film. For some short films, you might find a point where you can extend it. 

During the edit of all my films, I've felt that we could have done it as a series, because it is hard to bring it to the length of 2 hours 30 minutes. During Jigarthanda, I had not begun watching any series, but Santhosh used to tell me that I could adapt it into a series. I have still not written any script for it, but have felt that a few films could have been made into a two- or three-part series. I watched The Hateful Eight in the theatre, but after that, the makers released its four-episode series, and watching it was superb. I think I should try something like that for a big feature film, where after its theatrical release, we release a four-episodic series. Bejoy Nambiar tried this format with Taish.

Before OTT, there would be a maximum of five films releasing a week, and you could stagger it and watch. These days, if you have subscribed to four to five platforms, there is so much content out there that it takes you a while to decide what to watch. If the content you produce needs to stand out, what should be the first thing to do? 

For me, the first thing is the idea that comes with the trailer and the first episode. For any series, the key point is the first episode. I have stopped watching a few series in spite of good reviews because I did not feel like proceeding after 40 minutes. Once you get into the story, even if it is bad, you will finish it. So, I think the main catch is the first episode and this is very challenging too. As a writer, I feel it is very challenging to write a series, because you need to take the characters' arcs through those eight episodes of 40 minutes each, which is nearly six hours of content. With Triples, the way Balaji has written the script keeping the comedy intact till the end is very nice. I think any good series needs good writing and a good first episode. 

Charukesh [Triples' director] has worked with me on Petta and he told me that the first episode has worked out really well and has many 'LOL' moments in it.

Can you mention five shows you like on OTT and why?

For me, Narcos comes first. Everybody kept talking about Game of Thrones and I felt that it was probably an over buildup. I finally watched it during the lockdown and the way they shot it is out of the world. I then watched Breaking Bad, which is awesome. I recently watched Mirzapur and loved it and then Scam 92.

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