'AR Rahman can make a song influence you on a psychological level'
...says Prabagaran AR, who has worked as an assistant director to Bakkiyaraj Kannan
Films worked on: Remo, Thumba
Directors worked with: Bakkiyaraj Kannan, Harish Ram LH
Main responsibilities: Art department and script writing
In conversation with Prabagaran AR
When did you realise cinema was your calling?
I'm a huge fan of AR Rahman and have been since I was 6. My mother, meanwhile, is a fan of Rajinikanth and my uncle had a DVD store. So cinema has always been a part of my life. When I was in my first year of college, Rahman won the Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire and that film changed my life. The story, screenplay and dialogues influenced me a lot and its theme - that anyone with a dream can achieve - was very inspiring.
What have you learned from your directors?
Bakkiyaraj Kannan is a humorous person and that humour percolates into the characters and lines he writes. Harish Ram's planning is always precise and he ensures that everything happens according to the schedule. Right from the release date to the shooting schedule, he plans it all to a T, and it has never gone wrong.
What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?
I had the opportunity to work with PC Sreeram sir while assisting on Remo. Despite being a legendary cinematographer, he would set the frame and then discuss it with his assistants. One day, he asked his assistant how a shot he had set was. The assistant said that it looked nice, but sir said it shouldn't just be nice but also different. The entire set-up was changed in minutes and now it was better than before. As I was handling the art department, I was near him. He saw me looking at what he did and advised me that we should keep experimenting with what we do even if it's something we do every day. He showed me how even props are a part of storytelling and told me I should come up with new ideas each time. It's a lesson I'll never forget.
What’s one area of filmmaking you had a tough time with, but are better at now?
I used to dread scriptwriting and dialogues, but Bakkiyaraj Kannan made sure I got over that. He used to give me scenarios to write and that was good practice for me. For everything else, we can always have others pitch in, but writing is something we have to do ourselves as only we know what we want to convey. When there are multiple characters, thinking from each of their perspectives is the only way we can write lines for them.
What is your take on present-day cinema?
In the last few years, many producers and actors have become approachable for first-time directors. Earlier, working with established actors was something that only bigger directors could do. But now, if you have a good script, established producers and actors are ready to work with you. This wasn't the case when I came into the industry.
What's one change you wish to see in the Tamil cinema?
I really wish to see songs used as a storytelling tool and not just at odd places in between the film, disrupting the flow. Songs are best when used as a device to convey a part of the story that does not have to be shown visually. Take Naa Autokaran from Baasha or Vanthenda Paalkaaran from Annamalai - they give an outline of Rajini's character without wasting time. Songs from Pasamalar showcase the bond the siblings had. Such songs have become rare these days. Only a few directors understand their importance. I hope that changes.
Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?
AR Rahman is obviously my first option (laughs). He can make a song hit you at a psychological level. He's the reason I am in this industry and I wish to work at least once with him. I'd also like to work with Santhanam. His style of humour is brilliant and how he sneaks in a counter dialogue at the most unexpected of instances shows his sense of comedy.