Direction Dreams:'SJ Suryah called me sir'
...says Rajendra Bala who has assisted Karthik Subbaraj in Jigarthanda, Iraivi and Mercury
Directors worked with- Karthik Subbaraj
Films worked on - Jigarthanda, Iraivi, Mercury
Main work with the director - Everything from casting to crowd control
Why filmmaking? How did your journey commence?
Films have always intrigued me. But the song Aaromale from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya was like a wake-up call. It pushed me to pursue my passion with more seriousness, and I made a short film about conjoined twins. But, the output only matched about 60 percent of what I had originally visualised. This, despite having people like Anthony as the editor, Girishh Gopalakrishnan of Vidiyumm Munn fame in charge of music, and PV Shankar, who recently handled the camera for Maragadhananayam, as the DOP. Then, one of my friends who had worked as the assistant cinematographer of Pizza, introduced me to the Karthik Subbaraj camp, and from then on there has been no turning back.
What’s the oddest thing you have experienced as an assistant director?
We got threatened and verbally bullied during the live shoot of Jigarthanda. Also, I wouldn't call this odd exactly, but I was amazed and never expected this -I was often addressed as Sir or Thalaivaa by many stars including SJ Suryah. It’s not just him, even Vijay Sethupathi, Bobby Simha, Karunas everyone till now has been down to earth.
What is the best thing about being an AD?
A movie is like a director’s child. The best thing about being AD is the fact that we do our best to assist in bringing forth the director's vision.
What do you like the most about Karthik Subbaraj school of filmmaking?
I love how he wants everyone to be a part of the film and involves them by asking them for suggestions. When I joined him for Jigarthanda, I was the sixth assistant, but I was given the script. Now who does that? It's not something that every director would do.
What have you learnt from him?
His eye for detail. Let me give you an example from Iraivi. In the climax sequence, Vijay Sethupathi strikes Bobby Simha with a statue. That scene has loads of subtle imagery. The statue is half man and half woman. Conscious efforts were made to make the statue resemble the shape of 8, just like the title card. The scene was shot in such a way as to highlight two plot points. One, the fact that like the statue Vijay Sethupathi will get bonded together with Anjali, but will end up with blood on his hands, just like the statue . Two, it’s the female half of the statue that ends Bobby Simha’s life showing that it is his love for Anjali that ends his life.
What’s one area of filmmaking that you are having a tough time with?
I find scripting of love potions a tad tricky.
Who’s a director you wish you could work with?
What are your future and upcoming projects?
I have finished writing the script of an action thriller.
Who’s the dream cast of your debut film?
Vijay Sethupathi. Having worked with him, I can actually write a script tailored for him, keeping in mind his body language, mannerism and working style.