Edited excerpts from a conversation between Baradwaj Rangan, Anupama Chopra, Vetri Maaran, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Sudha Kongara and Vignesh Shivan:
Baradwaj Rangan: Vetri, you said something very interesting there. You're saying, love stories have been done on screen. So let's do something that might not be possible for the theatre. Why do you think these films are not possible for the theatre?
Vetri Maaran: See, it might work. But then the theatrical release set-up has a protagonist, and it should be a man who is between 25 and 40 years of age or a woman between 20 and 40 years of age. In terms of content, it is very restricted. Here, there is a lot of space for content. All films have very unlikely protagonists. Maybe my protagonist is less unlikely, but all the others have very unlikely protagonists.
Gautham Vasudev Menon: And even before the film gets to the theatre, we need a producer to fund a film like this.
Vetri Maaran: Yes. Nobody will say they are happy to fund a film like this.
Baradwaj Rangan: Gautham, for instance, is so identified with a certain kind of film. Even when he makes a Nadunisi Naaygal. People say, this is not a Gautham Menon kind of film. Does such a format help you get out there without the pressures of people expecting a Gautham Menon film?
Vetri Maaran: See, Gautham has done very aggressive films when he started out… like Khaakha Khaaka and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. The kind of violence…you wouldn't expect a youngster who grew up watching Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya to go back and discover Kaakha Kaakha and Vettaiyaadu… and say, this is the Gautham who made those films too. I associate this man to be a very romantic filmmaker. But see, he has a strong, aggressive, violent streak as well. That needs to be taken into account also.
Anupama Chopra: Vetri, when you look at the films you've made, one gets the sense that you're very much into sprawling sagas — multiple characters, multiple story threads and timelines. For you, at any point during this process, what was the biggest struggle? You said that it's like choosing to work on a short story instead of a novella. For you as an artiste, did you really have to fight to minimise your vision?
Vetri Maaran: When this idea struck me, it was about two people talking. And it becomes a very serious and precious moment that they're having this discussion. I just wanted to extend those few minutes. It could be just two or three minutes. But I wanted to extend that into a full 30 minutes. Then, it felt like I had so much time. That's how I started working in the nuances of those few minutes, how this person is thinking and how the other person is thinking and what words they use. The words they use might not be what they are actually thinking. That's how it would have been possible for me to explore and elaborate on those few minutes. And then I had to go back and add backstories to those characters for these two minutes. That's how I was able to contain it. Else, it would have been a very challenging process.
Baradwaj Rangan: We might bracket Vetri as this intense filmmaker but there's this scene with Dhanush dancing on the streets in Aadukalam. And that is easily one of the most iconic love moments of the 2000s. Because that is such a fresh take on romance.
Vetri Maaran: Dhanush also says that if I call him without any advance notice and say that I'm starting the shoot of a love story the next day, he'll leave everything else and come for the shoot the next morning. Dhanush, in fact, calls me a "Love director".