You had Adho Andha Paravai Pola’s script ready and a producer on board. You had spoken to actors who had expressed interest, but yet, finding a director was difficult…
Yes, for two reasons. Some of my very close friends who were willing to direct the film had a few constraints. Lokesh Kanagaraj had signed a two-film deal with SR Prabhu. A few other directors had similar practical issues. Certain others, people whom I didn’t know directly, felt the script was too small in scale for their ambitions. Many also had problems with the fact that the protagonist was female. Today, after Aruvi, this is not really a problem. But, in 2016, there were no such benchmarks.
Do you think directors also have ownership issues, that if they make a film with someone else’s source material, it is somehow lesser?
Yes, some people I met did say that. New directors openly told me that they’d prefer working on their own script for their first film. A few told me they did not want to work in this genre, which is fair. But some even felt that making a film using someone else’s script was as good as doing a remake. A few told me that they weren’t able to visualise my content, because they hadn’t had a chance to think things through right from the beginning.
Can we see more of the director-for-hire model in our cinema?
Cinema is still perceived as a creative activity. The studio model fell apart because creative people didn’t want to work for hire. In most Tamil films, the director is the second-highest paid person. With that kind of respect for the role, it is difficult to find a director for hire here. But, that model has opened up in the OTT world. You have one showrunner, and even a different director for each episode.
Do you think that we might go back to that phase of star scriptwriters or dialogue writers?
Yes, younger directors are more open about acknowledging the writers associated with them. Once scriptwriters get due recognition, you will see a situation like in Kerala, where there are several prominent scriptwriters such as Shyam Pushkaran or Dileesh Nair.
Even in films where the director takes credit for the story and screenplay, few people realise that an entire team contributes. With the recent Hero in Tamil and War in Hindi, this seems to be changing. Writers are being credited…
This is common in Hindi. In Tamil, PS Mithran, Lokesh Kanakaraj and a few others have been acknowledging writers. KV Anand began this from his first film by crediting writer duo Suresh-Balakrishnan (Subha). That was one-off. Now, it’s catching up. Younger directors want to give credit to their writers.
Earlier, a director would, one day, use a writer to generate five options for a scene. The next day, he might use a different writer for another scene. A writer was used as an idea generator. From the point of view of directors, this is sometimes understandable, because they don’t want scripts that are overwritten. Typical writers are used to writing novels or articles, with a lot of literary description. A script, instead of being just 200 pages, then becomes 600 pages. That is why you need a screenwriter, someone who can write for the screen.