Direction Dreams: For the industry to survive, producers have to survive
...says Mukesh Sudalai, assistant director, who has worked in films like Aval Peyar Thamizharasi, Arvaan, and Kidaari
AD Name: Mukesh Sudalai
Films worked on: Aval Peyar Thamizharasi, Aravaan, Kaaviya Thalaivan, Kidaari
Directors worked with: Meera Kathiravan, Vasanthabalan, Prasath Murugesan
Main responsibilities: Costumes and scheduling
When did you realise cinema was your calling?
I loved films from when I was a kid. After studying at ITI, I started working as an apprentice in Chennai for a corporate company. After moving to better companies, I used this experience to kickstart my film career.
What have you learned from your directors?
I spent five years with Vasanthabalan sir, on Aravaan and Kaaviya Thalaivan. Verithanamaa velai seivaaru. If we manage to run alongside him, that's enough. I gathered a lot about the art of filmmaking when I was with him, especially screenplay. He is keen on doing good films. Meanwhile, Prasath Murugesan's strong zone is his dialogues. Thanks to his Kovilpatti background, his prowess over the Tamil language is brilliant. He knows what words to use for a particular meter.
What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?
Unfortunately, my memorable story does not have a happy ending. It was during the shooting of a pivotal scene for Kidaari. We needed a character to play a theatre staff. The one we zeroed on did not turn up to work on the day of the shoot and I found a girl from a nearby locality and we trained her till the shoot. A few hours before the shoot, she learned that her role had negative shades. This caused her to panic and run away from the sets — something which we got to know only a while before the shoot. We could not do anything at the last minute and had to halt the day's shoot.
What’s one area of filmmaking you had a tough time with, but are better at now?
Apart from the art, something I am still having trouble with is writing an offbeat script and finding a producer. For my story, I need a young actor with certain features and no producer was ready to invest Rs 3 crore on a fresh team. We get pushed to do scripts for heroes.
What's one thing that you think you can bring to Tamil cinema?
Those in the industry must know that the producers have to survive for the industry to survive. I am from Tuticorin and even recently, for a film, I paid Rs 250 but the ticket showed that the price is just Rs 15. How will the producer know the amount that screen made? Despite having 1,000 theatres, if a film made on Rs 2 crore cannot get it back, what's the point? A good film like Kaalidas released so late in our town and it was removed in a couple of days. Four producers from my town have made it to the industry and all of them had zero returns. So I am unable to find a producer even in my own circle.
The theatres too are ill-equipped. Tuticorin had seven theatres earlier but now, only four are left and all these are ones that were built before I was born. Ironically, these theatres sell tickets at a price higher than in Chennai malls.
Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?
My film would need someone who has to be trained for the role; so a newbie or a few films old actor would do the trick. I believe that a good technical team can make a film better. Cinematographer SR Kathir sir would be a perfect fit for my film.