Location Diaries: Arvind Swami, the director
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week, it is from Roudhram, a segment from Netflix's Navarasa
Shooting for the Roudhram segment from the upcoming anthology Navarasa, directed by Arvind Swami, was a learning experience for actor Riythvika. "As an actor-turned-director, Arvind sir was able to relate to his cast with more sensitivity. The way he drew performances from us was refreshing and I learned a lot from his process," says the actor. "Being a nineties kid, I am a huge fan of him. So when I got a call for this role, I couldn't believe it. Even as he was explaining my portions in his baritone, thoughts of Roja and Bombay were running parallelly in my mind."
Riythvika recalls how different his way of working was. "Due to the pandemic, Arvind sir did script readings via Zoom calls. Though he had sent me the script earlier, he told me not to memorize the lines as he didn't want me to have any preconceived ideas. Instead, he would read the script aloud and guide me to the exact expressions and intonations required. When I enacted my lines, he would read the other actor's dialogues. In a way, it felt like I was actually acting with my screen idol," says a laughing Riythvika.
Arvind also conducted an online workshop before filming commenced. "As an actor himself, he was able to give us detailed explanations for the smallest things. It helped us understand our roles better. During breaks, he shared his experiences of working with Mani Ratnam sir which were very inspirational to hear." On the sets, Riythvika found him to be considerate as a person and confident as a director. "He would enquire if my cop costume was comfortable enough for me to perform in. He was kind to everyone, complimenting after a good shot and encouraging us if we were worried about a scene. During breaks, I observed that he and cameraman Santosh Sivan sir would only talk only about cinema. There was no small talk. I also noticed how they never used their mobiles on the sets. That's when I realised how distracting a mobile could actually be. This way, the atmosphere on sets was always only about cinema," she adds.
Filming in live sync sound was a new experience for Riythvika. "On the first day, wearing a mic, I was muttering nervously to myself until I heard the director say, “Relax Riythvika”. That's when I realised that he could hear me from far away."
Riythvika was thrilled when Arvind assured her that they would work again when he directs his next. When he added that Navarasa co-producer Mani Ratnam had liked her work in the film, it was the icing on the cake. "With AR Rahman composing music, Mani Ratnam producing, Arvind Swami directing, and Santhosh Sivan shooting, Navarasa's Roudhram was an unforgettable experience," she signs off.