Direction Dreams: 'Tamil cinema can now compete with Bollywood'
...says Satizz Vijayan, who has worked as an assistant director to Pa Ranjith in Kaala and Sarpatta Parambarai
Films worked on: Kaala, Sarpatta Parambarai
Directors worked with: Pa Ranjith
Main responsibilities: Art Department, Costume and Casting
When did you realise cinema was your calling?
It was all because of two films - Thavamai Thavamirundhu and Onbadhu Roobai Nottu - that I watched during my 12th grade. They really affected me and I wanted to get into the field right after high school. But my parents were not supportive. So, I completed my degree and worked in a few BPOs. When I realised that wasn't working out, I resigned and enrolled myself in a Visual Medium and Direction course. It took me four years to become an AD after completing that course.
What have you learned from your director?
Ranjith sir is an extremely approachable person. Anyone can walk up to him and strike up a conversation. I am not sure if that's possible with other directors. Another thing about him is how he expects us to know the script inside out and carry out our responsibilities knowing what it's adding to the overall film. He does not push anyone to do their work, but rather trusts us to perform our duties.
What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?
For Kaala, we had to capture a fight scene on top of a bridge in Mumbai. While we were able to make a set of the bridge for the actual fight sequence, we had to shoot the start and end of that sequence on the actual bridge. Even Hindi films aren't shot there as crowd management is tough. And since we were filming with Rajini sir, the crowd was beyond control and it was tough to shoot there despite getting the permissions. When someone of his stature is on location, our responsibility for his safety and security goes up multifold. Some people even tried to run us over with their cars! The weather too was unexpected - it rained till morning and then the sun shone mercilessly. I'll never forget those two days of shooting. Aside from that, we had to shoot a number of scenes featuring Rajini sir in Mumbai, such as the post-climax montages and inside Dharavi, and we were on our toes every day.
What’s one area of filmmaking you had a tough time with, but are better at now?
Writing a story is easier than converting it to a film. As cinema is a visual medium, we have to be conscious of how we frame each scene and shot division is something that took me a while to grasp. While shooting a scene, we have to be aware of how that sequences starts and ends, and we should be mentally prepared for how we're going to edit it. It's also important to know how to end a shot - whether it's a wide or a close - to ensure that the emotions of that scene are transferred to the next shot. It's a skill that can't be taught, so we have to learn it all by ourselves.
What is your take on present-day cinema?
The industry is more active than ever before. And there's a sizeable influx of new actors. Be it in terms of budget or content, we're now able to compete with Bollywood. Their reach alone is now bigger. Our market has to be made wider.
What's one change you wish to see in Tamil cinema?
It would be great if more corporates can get into the theatre business. Theatres in suburban and rural areas are more commercially oriented. They pick films based on the hero since they only have one screen. The advantage of corporates starting multiplexes is that even if they play the films of big heroes, they will be able to accommodate independent and offbeat films as well. I'd also like to see more individuals get into production. Very few individual producers are currently active, and only some of them listen to the synopsis and read the script properly.
Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?
I've written two scripts and both of them are women-fronted films. I've written them keeping Radhika ma'am and Nayanthara ma'am in mind. I don't think anyone else would fit those scripts as perfectly as them.