Nelson Dilipkumar: Comparison with Breaking Bad is the highest compliment
The director's Kolamaavu Kokila that released last Friday has been lauded for its portrayal of women
Nelson Dilipkumar studied Visual Communication because his dad told him, "Nalla padikkara payyan dhaan engineering padipaan; nee idhaye padi (laughs)." His love for photography slowly morphed into love for cinema. Before taking up Kolamavu Kokila, Nelson was helming the weekend episodes of Bigg Boss Tamil Season 1. "I am bound contractually not to talk about it though." Technically speaking, Kolamavu Kokila isn't his first film. "I started out in this industry a long time back, and had the opportunity to work with Simbu in Vallavan. But that didn't work out, and we became friends. We were able to collaborate on Vettai Mannan, but halfway through, we couldn't continue it." Nelson is careful to indicate that the lack of progress has nothing to do with Simbu. "Even last week, he called to wish me. I had confidence in him as an artist. Things just didn't work out." He doesn't write off his working with Simbu again, however. "If the content is right and if only he can pull off such a role, then yeah, why not?"
But he did learn a lot from that experience."Cinema has multiple facets. I understood that cinema is not just the coming together of an artist and director. Kadhai solradhu kashtam, andha kadhaiya solli hero va convince panradhu kashtam, producer pudikardhu kashtam... and so on." He sees it as a task akin to a video game where you keep levelling up.
After the stop-start beginning, he was keen to make his debut with a commercially viable film. "I began work on Vettai Mannan at a very early stage. Over the years, my writing has matured. I took the bones of an idea and ran with it till Kolamaavu Kokila seemed viable. My nature is such that I look for comedy even in horrific stories." Some say that Kolamaavu Kokila is a dark comedy. He doesn't quite agree that the film is a dark comedy. "It travels across different beats including sadness, comedy, revenge etc." Of the characters in the film, he says he particularly liked writing Jacqueline's boyfriend. "All characters are exercises in duality. Let's say I get hurt. For you, it may be a joke. For my mother, it is a different emotion. Similarly, we have tried to talk about different PoV's in this film and accommodating them all was quite a challenge."
Nayanthara, he believes, is the perfect actor for the lead role in this film. "She is both a terrific performer and a commercially viable star." He was clear from the beginning that the film should be female-centric. "There is an inner strength to women that we don't have," he says. "Imagine an innocent woman who is entangled in an issue. If you make the lead a man, everything changes. A man's physicality makes the situation different. How a male handles a situation vis-a-vis a female is what we have explored."
Once the story was ready, the next stage was pitching it to Nayanthara. "She really liked it. It was an out-of-the-box idea that she found to be interesting. It is tough to judge a script like this but both of us were aligned in the way we thought of the character. And so we began work on the film." The film's cinematography has come in for much praise. "I decided to balance both commercial and artistic elements. I didn't want to make it seem too raw and truth be told, I didn't have the courage to do it with my first film. Our DoP (Sivakumar Vijayan of Irudhi Sutru-fame) understood this, and we kept it as fresh as possible tonally, without disturbing the central conceit of the story."
Nelson shares that he has great camaraderie with Anirudh, Vignesh Shivn, and Sivakarthikeyan. "It was easy to work with Ani. I would only tell him the situation and the mood, and he would do the rest. Whenever there was a clash professionally, I always deferred to his musical knowledge and his taste and given the reception the audio has received, he has been proven right," he says. "It was Vignesh Shivn's idea to promote the Gibberish song via Bijili Ramesh and Sivakarthikeyan's lyrics set the mood perfectly for Kalyaana Vayasu."
I point out that Yogi Babu, in particular, really shone in the film. "His character starts with the mood in Kalyaana Vayasu song. The problems he gets into because of his love makes up his character arc. All his comedy scenes came up organically."
He is aware of comparisons with Breaking Bad. "People who have seen both fully can attest that this film isn't too much like Breaking Bad. Kolamavu Kokila being compared to Breaking Bad is the highest compliment it can receive though."