Direction Dreams: "Transparency will rejuvenate the Tamil film industry"
says Ramnath, who has worked as an assistant director to Thiagarajan Kumararaja, Sujeeth, and Soundarya Rajinikanth, among other filmmakers
Films worked on: Kappal, Vidiyum Munn, Uttama Villain, Thoongaa Vanam, Velaiilla Pattadhari 2, Paris Paris, Butterfly, Street Lights, Petromax, Saaho, Super Deluxe, Maara
Directors worked with: Karthik G Krish, Balaji K Kumar, Ramesh Aravind, Rajesh M Selva, Soundarya Rajinikanth, Shamdat, Rohin Venkatesan, Sujeeth, Thiagarajan Kumararaja, Dhilip Kumar
Main responsibilities: Artiste coordination, set handling, prompting, and post-production
When did you realise cinema was your calling?
My fascination with the films began during my sixth and seventh grades. I would imagine myself in the shoes of the heroes. When I watched Rhythm, for example, I wanted to become a bomb disposal technician (laughs). Then, my English teacher told me how it was important to have a specific goal in life and I decided to make a career out of cinema.
What have you learned from your directors?
Ramesh Aravind sir, whom I've worked with the most, is my guru. He has played the lead in more than 100 films and has directed many films. When he is working as a director too, we have to control the crowd that wants to meet him. Despite this, he is extremely down-to-earth and easy to work with. Directors at sets are always under pressure, but he is very cool, even when working on a film like Uttama Villain starring Kamal sir, Balachander sir, and where even the junior artists are well-known stars. He also has a great sense of editing, so he shoots only what's necessary. Shamdat sir was Uttama Villain's cinematographer and when he directed the Mammootty starrer-Street Lights, I assisted him. He is known for his speed as a cameraman and that was true with direction too. And he wasn't just quick, but had clarity as well, which is commendable. Dhilip Kumar too is very calm and cool. Even in his first film, he knew how to get the exact emotion from the artistes.
What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?
I joined Uttama Villain as a script supervisor. I had the dialogues sheet with me for a scene that was shot in a mall with more than 5000 junior artists. I was coordinating something else and didn't realise that the shot was ready. Someone had to come looking for me to say that Kamal sir was waiting for me. When I went there, he scolded me for 10 minutes. Then, others like MS Bhaskar sir called and consoled me. But after that, when Thoongaa Vanam was planned, Kamal sir himself asked the makers to get me on board as the first AD. When director Rajesh sir told me this, I was on cloud nine.
What’s one area of filmmaking you had a tough time with, but are better at now?
Continuity was tough to grasp as it needs a lot of concentration. It's hard to keep a tab of which direction an actor turned and on which hand they were carrying something. I then had the idea to record the scene with phones, so we have a video reference to check if needed.
What is your take on present-day cinema?
The Tamil film industry is currently in quite a bad shape. There is no transparency business-wise. Even the producers and distributors are unaware of how much a film is making at the box office. People simply believe the numbers that certain people on Twitter share. Transparency is also lacking in other areas. I watched a film in a town where the ticket given to us said it was ₹50 but it actually cost us ₹100.
What's one change you wish to see in Tamil cinema?
Transparency, definitely. It will help set things straight in the industry. Transparency will rejuvenate the industry. With it, producers will know how much to spend on a project and offer as salaries to the star. More multiplexes coming up will help with this because corporates make sure that everything is accounted for. Information about how many tickets are sold in how many shows will be out for those in the industry to refer to. When that's known, that area's distributor will spend what's necessary instead of splurging and later facing a loss. This will have a cascading effect leading to producers knowing how much to invest in a film.
Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?
My first film will be a female-centric one and I feel Samantha would be perfect for it. It's a comedy film and I am sure she will do justice to it. She also has a market in both Tamil and Telugu industries, so it would be easy for me to pitch it in both languages.