Thamizh Talkies: The Selvaraghavan factor
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
For me, the most exciting film is one that is watched for its director. World over, the credit of 'director' is most coveted; it brings in both awards and returns. But again, world over, it’s the actors who are top-billed talents when it comes to assessing a feature film’s business. The film is sold on their names. The director's name is second in line. I’ve always wondered why this is.
Of course, there are exceptions -- both in the west and here. Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, K Balachander, Bharathiraja, Mani Ratnam -- the last name being dominant in the last two decades, with actors becoming a combination factor. That’s how cinema should be assessed because it is primarily a writer’s and director’s medium. Actors are tools for a writer/director to bring to life their vision, their story. But the love for actors in the motion picture industry from audiences across the globe, is so intense that they are the first 'stars' who shine on the red carpet. It is because their faces are what we see, their emotions are what we feel. We root first for the actors or to put it more specifically, we root for the characters we identify with, but the lines between the character we love and the actor we admire blur off-screen. This is, in a way, the achievement of many talents coming together to create moments of crescendo for that character.
Writer, director, cinematographer, costume designers, makeup artistes, lighting technicians, production designer, music director, editor... they all have to come together to elevate every frame in a film, every single actor’s performance. It is the director who unites all these forces to sell the scene best to you. While techniques can be taught in film schools, bringing life to words or performances can only happen if the minds are all in sync with the director's vision. Some actors are described as 'a director's delight' simply because they are able to get that sync with the filmmaker.
Selvaraghavan recently described Suriya thus. Their upcoming movie NGK is perhaps the biggest film to come out this year. Big -- in terms of the first time combination of the director and actor, and also in terms of the project's scale. I liked the trailer and look forward to the first day first show -- only to see what magic Selvaraghavan has been able to bring to the performance of a seasoned actor like Suriya.
The best actors shine in the hands of the best directors. Nayagan is my all-time favourite. Of course, there are many more films to cite as examples of the director-actor combination that have proven to be both dynamite at the box office and as a complete work of art.
Of this year’s releases, the film I will give as an example of an actor shining in a director’s hands is Petta. What’s yours?