Location Diaries: Ajmal for Netrikann-Crafting a comeback
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week, it is from Milind Rau's Netrikann
Returning to the big screen after a three-year sabbatical with the Nayanthara-starrer Netrikann was an enjoyable journey for actor Ajmal. The process kick-started with a look test, followed by a workshop before the action shifted to the shooting spot. "This was the first time I attended a workshop before filming. The two-day look test helped me transform into my character. A hairstylist was flown in, and filmmaker Milind Rau had several references for my overaĺl look. Post the look test, the workshop, which lasted three days, enabled me to understand the character’s mindset, body language and dialogue delivery. As I discussed my character with Milind in detail beforehand, it saved a lot of time for us during the shooting."
Despite the preparation, Ajmal was anxious when he arrived on sets for the shoot. "My character traverses several emotions over the course of the story and I had to convey many subtle variations. It was vital that I get the pitch of acting right. Being my comeback film—and with names such as Nayanthara, Milind Rau and Vignesh Shivan—I wanted to get everything perfect in front of the camera. Naturally, I was anxious for the first two days of the shoot. I was cautious not to overact or underplay my character as the slightest tonal change could have impacted the outcome," says Ajmal, adding that the team came to his rescue when he was in need of feedback. "Both Milind and producer Vignesh Shivan have a keen eye for detail, and discussions with them before certain scenes came in handy. Milind gave me a lot of freedom to improvise."
Ajmal brought one of his acting practices to further help him get under the skin of his character. "When I act, I like to give retakes with several variations each time. This helps the director choose the best of the lot on the editing table. Milind was supportive of this practice." However, Ajmal still wanted to make sure he was on the right track. "After some intense shots, I would watch the face of our cameraman RD Rajsekar sir to read what would say to his focus puller or assistants. When I heard appreciation in his voice, I would feel reassured that I had got it right!"
The film necessitated night shoots which were often tiring for Ajmal. "Nayanthara, however, was always considerate. She would enquire whether I had eaten or I needed anything, and ensured that everything was always taken care of. The warmth of the team and their focus on work made shooting for my comeback film a most enjoyable experience!"