Director Arun Prabu Purushothaman's debut film was Aruvi (2017) starring Aditi Balan. His next film, Vaazhl, produced by Sivakarthikeyan, is releasing directly to OTT on SonyLIV on July 16. In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, Arun Prabhu talks about where the idea for Aruvi came from, his musical and movie influences, and his journey from Aruvi to Vaazhl. Edited Excerpts…
I saw Aruvi again recently. At least seventy percent of the film is still amazing. The film has dated very well. You started making the film when you were twenty five. What made you do a film like Aruvi as your first film?
I think it is an extension of my father and my mentors. It wasn't like I was going to do something entirely unrelated. Whatever I did was based on what I've learnt from them; I've given it a cinematic form.
Just to get at your influences, what is your favorite movie?
I really like Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle Of Algiers. I've seen a lot of world cinema when I was young; I used to buy DVDs from Burma bazaar. I've seen the works of many masters, like [Jean-Luc] Godard. It must have been when I was in sixth standard. I was a child artiste in serials. They used to give us money for conveyance that I wouldn't know what to do with. So, I used to go to Burma bazaar and buy movie DVDs.
I also really like [Robert] Bresson. I've seen a lot of European cinema. Both my parents are people who see movies in theatres. When I used to tell them about the foreign films that I'd seen, they'd recommend a Tamil film that would be even better. If you see all of Pedro Almodóvar's films on one side and then watch all KS Gopalakrishnan sir films, you'll see that the latter is also at a certain level. I love films like Sarada and Karpagam.
What's your sensibility with respect to music?
Music gives you a high that's greater than anything else. My mother's family is very much into music. I was always exposed to good music, especially older music. I also listen to a lot of independent musicians.
Coming to Vaazhl, I think this is very different from Aruvi, too. How was the journey?
Actually, Vaazhl was supposed to be made before Aruvi. In 2010, me and my now co-director, Yashwanth, used our best friend who was working in IT as a model for the story. It happened casually. When I narrated it to Shelley Calist (cinematographer of Aruvi), he suggested that I start looking for a producer. But it took me a year and a half to realize that I had to do another film to be able to do a film like this.
At that point, randomly, a production manager bumped into me in a tea shop and asked me if I would do a film within a budget of ten lacs. When I told him it wasn't possible, he told me that I'd never make films. I was shocked. So, I sat down and wrote Aruvi over the next 2-3 weeks.
Back when you wrote Aruvi, did you really think it would be your visiting card? It was a very different film…
I didn't think of all that when I was writing it. We as a team watch films in theatres like Devi Karumari and Rohini. So, we knew the kind of comments we'd get if we didn't get something right. I wanted to do a film with that audience in mind. Art is more for people's sake.
Could I say Aruvi is an Almodóvar film made for an audience that loves KS Gopalakrishnan's Karpagam?
When I wrote Aruvi, I was reminded of Parasakthi, in the sense that it invited everyone to a conversion. Whether one fits in society or not is something that many youngsters in third world countries have concerns about. I wanted to make a film to address such questions. More than KS Gopalakrishnan sir, the film addressed the audiences of directors like KS Ravikumar sir and Vikraman sir.