Direction Dreams: We've almost broken the five songs, three fights formula

...says assistant director Nilesh Krishnaa, who has worked in films like Darling, 2.0, Indian 2, in this edition of Direction Dreams
Direction Dreams: We've almost broken the five songs, three fights formula

Films worked on: Darling, Enakku Innoru Per Irukku, 2.0, Indian 2

Directors worked with: Sam Anton, Shankar

Main responsibilities: Costumes, clap, edit report, artiste co-ordination crowd management and script discussion

In conversation with: Nilesh Krishnaa

When did you realise cinema was your calling?

Right from childhood, films have been the topic of discussion among my friends. I've always been a huge fan of Rajini sir and Shankar sir and they're the primary reason for my career choice. When I told my family, they weren't happy, but my father supported me and convinced them all. After finishing school and arriving in Chennai, I wanted to join a director as an assistant. I tried to meet K Bhagyaraj sir, but he was busy. Later, I got to know that when he enters the office in the morning, he would spend a moment praying in front of a photo of MGR, and that whoever is around then would be called in for a private chat. So, I made sure to be there one day. He called me in and I ended up narrating for two hours a story I'd written during my school days. He patiently listened to it and advised me to study Viscom. I did as he suggested, and in my first year, I made a short film, which was screened at AVM. I wanted Bhagyaraj sir to be there, so I went back, refreshed his memory about our previous meeting and invited him. He made it to the screening, and so began my career.

What have you learned from your directors?

Shankar sir and Sam Anton believe in different ideologies and have different filmmaking styles. Sam's spontaneity amazes me; he improvises in an instant if he doesn't have the props for the scene he planned. Shankar sir, on the other hand, says we have to make compromises but the end product should not look like we've made any compromises. I learnt to work fast from Sam and to be patient from Shankar sir. We finished Darling in a month's time, while 2.0 took 242 days. Shankar sir's planning and preparation for a scene is stupendous. Even an extra's dialogue is something he practises in different variations till he is convinced. He believes that every word can make a difference to a scene. The efforts he puts in is huge and the way he manages time is something I'm still trying to master.

What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?

We shot 2.0 in 3D, and I still remember Rajini sir's childlike enthusiasm when we watched evil Chitti's first scene on the monitor after shooting it. As his fan, it was surreal to see him like that and my eyes welled up.  
One day, after preparing for a scene, I was informed that Rajini sir wasn't feeling well and had left the sets. We were shocked when we were told he was being taken to the hospital. Suddenly, he came out of nowhere, laughing at our reaction. He plays a lot of such pranks on the sets.

We celebrated my birthday on the sets of 2.0 with Shankar sir and Rajini sir on either side of me. I had a hard time deciding who to give the first slice of cake to. Shankar sir forced me to give it to Rajini sir. (smiles) 

What’s one area of filmmaking you had a tough time with, but are better at now?

It took me a while to understand how important the location and backdrop is for a scene. Every single element in a shot plays a role in making that scene better. For example, Shankar sir wanted a posh-looking house that would look like a cellphone shop owner's home for a scene. When we finally found one after a lot of searching, Shankar sir felt it looked too posh. He explained that the story demanded a house a cellphone shop owner would have, not something that a mobile service provider would have. When working on ads, I learnt the importance of these minute touches.

What is your take on present-day cinema?

The audience has become more conscious about what they want to see in a film. People are now annoyed when they see commercial elements, like a bar song, in a script that doesn't require them. This gives us the confidence to focus on just the content of the film. I think we've almost broken the five songs, three fights formula.

What's one change you wish to see in Tamil cinema?

People notice a lot in films these days. So we have to worry about many aspects we didn't pay heed to before. Even a small picture of Vinayagar or Jesus in a corner of a frame can be misunderstood in many ways. People are 'decoding' things that the makers wouldn't have put in consciously. We have to be cautious about even the colour of a shirt a character wears. We have to be on our toes to make sure we don't offend anyone. I hope this changes because it restricts creative freedom.

Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?

Down the lane, if I scale up enough to direct a Rajini film, that would be my dream project. It's every filmmaker's dream to work with their idol and I am trying to equip myself to reach that position. 

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