Direction Dreams: 'A medium for reaching actors is necessary here'
...says Saravanan SSB, the assistant director, who has worked in films like Manjapai, Chandi Veeran, and Kalavani 2
In conversation with: Saravanan SSB
Films worked on: Manjapai, Chandi Veeran, Kalavani 2
Directors worked with: Ragavan, Sargunam
Main responsibilities: Story discussion, scheduling, artiste co-ordination, art department and ensuring continuity
When did you realise cinema was your calling?
In a way, I can say that AR Murugadoss sir's work inspired me to get to this industry. The hospital scene in Ramana disturbed me a lot and how someone can bring such a scene to screen intrigued me. As Vijayakanth sir's character worked at National College, I chose National College in Trichy despite getting offers in other colleges. Only after going there, I realised that both the colleges are totally different (laughs). I came to Chennai to become a cinematographer, but those in the industry didn't want to take me under their wing as I neither had a Visual Communications degree nor did I complete a course in any institute. Those courses were expensive affairs. Then I figured out that it was direction that I was keen in doing but Murugadoss sir was not taking any assistants back then, so I had to search elsewhere.
What have you learned from your directors?
Ragavan sir's dedication towards the craft is awe-inspiring. He taught me the basics of filmmaking. Sargunam sir taught us how we should be true to ourselves and accept mistakes graciously.
What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?
While shooting for Chandi Veeran, the camera had to focus on a character with a tree's branch being out of focus. Since another branch was interrupting the scene, Sargunam sir wanted it to be removed. Out of enthusiasm, I climbed the tree and broke many branches including the one needed for the scene. Then he calmly schooled me on how there are people to do such jobs and I should just make sure that it's done properly.
What’s one area of filmmaking you had a tough time with, but are better at now?
Writing a script is an art on its own. We have to absorb a character thoroughly to understand what kind of writing it requires. A director might supervise a lot of aspects of filmmaking, but writing is something more personal.
Have you ever been starstruck?
For the climax sequence of Manjapai, Rajkiran sir had to act like a delirious old man, and he actually went sleepless for two days so he can have puffed eyes. He would be in his character even in the sets and because of that, the rest of us will be in the same mood as that of the scene.
What's one thing that should change in Tamil cinema?
It's hard for an assistant director to reach out to stars. Even if we get a producer, they would ask us to get the dates of the artist. To meet the actor's manager itself takes months, but someone with the right contacts can skip through these processes. We are then pushed back in the list. A medium for reaching them is necessary and would be very helpful.
Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?
Jayam Ravi sir would be apt for my story and he is very welcoming of debutant directors as we had seen in Adanga Maru and Comali.