Direction Dreams: Cinema will never die
...says AR Amalraj, who worked as an assistant director for filmmakers like Karu Pazhaniappan, Ezhil, Kannan, Susienthiran, Sanjay Bharathi, Sudhar
In conversation with AR Amalraj
Films worked on: Sivappathigaram, Pirivom Santhippom, Mandhira Punnagai, Jayam Kondan, Paayum Puli, Kennedy Club, Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale, Thittam Poattu Thirudura Kootam, Gautham Karthik-Parthiban untitled film
Directors worked with: Karu Pazhaniappan, Ezhil, Kannan, Susienthiran, Sanjay Bharathi, Sudhar
Main responsibilities: Scripting, Costumes and post-production
When did you realise cinema was your calling?
My parents used to be teachers, and after school, I would wait for them in the library. As I didn’t have anyone to guide me on what I should read, I would read whatever I could get my hands on. This helped me improve my creative skills. Also, I remember watching making videos of films—particularly, the making of Veera and seeing Rajini sir do a particular reaction when the camera was on, and switching to being his regular self when the shot was off. This transition from acting to normalcy attracted me to the world of filmmaking. Books like Balakumaran's Palsuvai and Sujatha's Kanavu Thozhirchaalai were eyeopeners and spoke to me about the various aspects of filmmaking in detail. In between, I got the chance to meet Vikram sir who advised me to come to Chennai, get a job, and search for film chances during my free time. I took that advice and came to Chennai where I worked in a hotel before I got into the film industry.
What have you learned from your directors?
Karu Pazhaniappan sir gave a lot of freedom to his ADs; it helped me gain a lot of confidence. Susienthiran takes everything positively and doesn’t ever sulk. When he’s in a difficult situation, he focuses his energies on trying to make things better. He too trusts his ADs a lot; it made me feel more responsible about my duties. I also worked with Sanjay Bharathi and Sudhar in their first films; their confidence was awe-inspiring. Ezhil sir too frees us to make decisions.
What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?
While shooting for Pirivom Santhippom, we reshot a scene with Sneha. I gave her the costumes that would match the continuity from the previous scene and Sneha wasn’t sure if I had got it right. She asked the director to double-check. Back during the day, we weren’t in the habit of taking photos on the phone to check for continuity errors. So, I had to bring a laptop to show Karu Pazhaniappan sir that everything was perfect. He told me that I should be confident of what I was doing, regardless of the profile of the actor in question. It helped.
What is your take on present-day cinema?
The film industry is in a good state right now. People thought OTT would disrupt the theatres, but the big-screen experience remains unmatched. We cannot see films like Baahubali and Mersal on the small screen. However, a Dharala Prabhu or Mandela can be enjoyed even on a mobile phone. That's why we see many posts talking about how great Sarpatta Parambarai would have been in theatres. Cinema will never die; it will keep getting updated. Today, one can make a film for a budget from Rs. 1 lakh to 500 crore as there are platforms for all types of films.
What's a change you wish to see in Tamil cinema?
The transition from being a newbie in the industry to becoming a debutant director is a tough one and the process of survival is difficult. That phase varies in duration from one individual to another and if there are any ways to support such people, it would be really helpful to those who come into the industry.
Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?
For my dream project, I would love to have Suriya as the lead. It's a story that I wrote even before Kaakha Kaakha, and as he's someone who can fit into any story. I think he would be the best choice.