You approached producers with the bound script of Adho Andha Paravai Pola. Why is this writer-driven model so rare in Tamil cinema today?
Usually, it’s the director who writes here. That has been the model for the last few decades. Also, many writers weren’t confident that what they had written would be visualised correctly. That isn’t really a challenge if you find a director who can do a better job than you.
Take any profession. You have a particular skill, and you stick to that. I don’t want to direct, because I won’t be able to dedicate myself to it. Writing is a huge task by itself. The director has the immense responsibility of making sure that the writing comes out well on screen. Music directors, editors, and other technicians have their own specific roles.
The writer-director model exists in Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi, and even in Hindi. It is catching up in Tamil now. But, the model probably started here with Kalaignar Karunanidhi. We are not new to it.
Was it difficult finding a producer for the film?
A friend of mine was an executive producer for several studios. He introduced me to producer Jones, who was associated with Shalom Studios, right from films such as Mynaa. He was looking to produce a film within a small budget. He liked the fact that Adho Andha Paravai Pola was a story about a woman in a jungle. The fact that the film had action in a jungle probably resonated with him because he had worked in Mynaa. It is rare to see a female-oriented action film in Tamil. There are a few examples, but we wanted to do the kind of powerful action you see in Indonesian and Thai films.
He asked me if I wanted to direct. I didn’t want to do something that wasn’t my forte, and burn the producer’s money.
After that, the film was stuck in development hell for almost four years…
Since there is no male protagonist, we wanted to cast a prominent female actor. Amala Paul was one of our first preferences, but she wasn’t doing films at that point (in 2016). We approached other actors, who also wanted to do the film, but there was a commercial disconnect. We even discussed profit-sharing models, but nothing worked out. It took a while to get the perfect team.
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.
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.