When People See My Film And Appreciate Me As A Director, It Is Because Of The Writer In Me: Karthik Subbaraj

Karthik Subbaraj, one of the earliest who migrated from short films to features and made a success of it, paved the path for the many who followed. From Pizza to his last release Petta and his current project, Dhanush-starrer Jagame Thandhiram, the buzz about his work is ongoing. Excerpts from an interview: 

Different generations have different inspirations. If you take the 70s, Balu Mahendra Sir talks a lot about Satyajit Ray, Rudraiah took inspiration from many French new wave techniques. So, when we talk of your influences outside India, what or who influenced you?

When I started watching those films, initially, I had a lot of difficulty. I had just started making short films at the time when a friend of mine suggested certain types of films to watch for influence. Not knowing where to start, I asked him to suggest a film and the first recommendation was The Shawshank Redemption.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch the film entirely. I don’t know why I stopped watching the film twice or thrice, mid-way. But one particular day, I managed to watch the entire film in a single sitting and was blown away.  I had already seen English films such as  Titanic, Jurassic Park and Terminator, but this was the first time I learnt to appreciate a film for its storytelling. After this, I started watching a series of films and loved Clint Eastwood as a filmmaker more than as an actor. I can’t narrow it down to a single aspect but he influenced me a lot. 

Then, of course, there was Quentin Tarantino and his raw style of filmmaking. His style was brilliant. Then were the Coen brothers and a few other directors here and there.

The intermission card in Jigarthanda…what was that?

That was Tarantino’s style, of course. The way the story progressed with the music, the ups and downs, the build-up with the music, it was all heavily influenced by Tarantino. For my generation of filmmakers, Tarantino has been a huge influence. Alphonse, my editor, is a huge fan of Tarantino. He edited a lot of my short films, and I am struck by the resemblance to Tarantino’s films in the way he cuts and stitches shots. So, it was my editor who brought in cuts that made me feel proud of the work I did. The yellow background with the huge yellow text, the cuts, the edit pattern was brought in by him.

Would you say you are a stronger writer or a director?

I enjoy the writing process a lot because there is no external pressure. As a director, I tend to have more pressure. So, when people see my film and appreciate me as a director, it is because of the writer in me. In those pressure situations, the writer will come out and find a solution. There is a lot of improvisation that takes place on the set, and the writer in me helps take those creative calls.

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