I have a dream: Mysskin
The director, whose Thupparivaalan released yesterday, has a freeflowing chat with CE where he talks about how he conceives films and his homage to Arthur Conan Doyle
Mysskin is a dreamer… literally. He’s scribbled all the dreams he’s had into his journal, along with their respective Jungian interpretations. He says everybody can recall their dreams, if they tried. “And if they didn’t wake up looking at their cellphones,” he says, his eyebrows rising from under his trademark shades in disapproval. It was a dream that helped him negotiate a writer’s block — he calls it an impasse — after the release of Nandhalala in 2010. “I dreamt about this old, middle-class woman being sentenced to life imprisonment in a court,” he says, spelling out each word carefully, as though he were in the middle of that dream now. “I wondered if she was standing there perhaps because her daughter had been raped and murdered, and she had dealt with the perpetrators.” That, of course, would become the story of his next, Yuddham Sei.
During the making of Thupparivaalan, again, he had a dream. This time, it was about a haunting song. He met the film’s composer Arrol Corelli the following morning and sang the tune to him. And now, the song, Ivan Thupparivalan, is part of the album, and sung my Mysskin himself. “I have to be aware of every moment, every sound, every fragrance. I’m constrained only by the limited hours of a day. I have two eyes, but a hundred cameras constantly recording everything,” he says, sounding almost like Sherlock Holmes—or his Tamil counterpart, Kaniyan Poongundran, the hero of his latest release, Thupparivaalan. “When a person likes someone, it’s because they harbour a part of that person in them somewhere. Much like Kaniyan, my mind too is constantly registering information around me. The way a person laughs, the number of times a shirt sleeve is folded…”
Arthur Conan Doyle, the inventor of Sherlock Holmes, was a big influence in Mysskin’s life. “That’s why I have a dedication card for the author and the detective right at the beginning of Thupparivaalan,” he says, and quickly clarifies that the story is original. “Sherlock Holmes and Watson are archetypes, and I’ve tried to adapt various facets of their characters including the homo-erotic undertones of their relationship, and Holmes’ evident misogyny.” When adapting such international characters, regional directors usually talk about rewriting them to suit ‘local sensibilities’. “It’s the most idiotic expression,” dismisses Mysskin. “Tamils are primordial people, and among the greatest listeners of a story.” He cites the appreciation meted out to his previous film, Pisaasu, as a pointer of Tamil audiences’ understanding of deep themes. “Jesus Christ asks you to turn the other cheek. But I took the story of Pisaasu one step further. What if a dead woman isn’t just forgiving of her killer, but actually ends up in love with him? Does she then not become greater than Christ himself?” he asks.
He is, however, careful to point out that Thupparivaalan is not a typical Mysskin film. “It won’t be a problem for my audiences. They will still realise that this is a product of my madness,” he smiles. But it isn’t a Vishal film either. Mysskin then drops a revelation. “I have not seen a single film of Vishal’s so far,” he says, and laughs heartily. “He keeps urging me to, but I guess my lack of exposure has helped me shape him into exactly what the film needs. His fans will be pleasantly surprised.” He is mindful that this is the first ever time he’s working with a star. “Of all the Tamil heroes, I’ve found Vishal the most peculiar and fascinating. He’s tall, dark, and there’s something aggressive about his appearance. I could not have pitched the idea of Holmes to any other actor.”
Deciding to adapt Holmes was far easier than executing it. “Sherlock could get away with an overcoat, thanks to the London weather, but Kaniyan cannot pull it off. So he wears a cotton shirt, sports scarves that I handpicked… And as for the hat, I needed that,” he says. The name of the character itself was a matter of much deliberation. “I didn’t want him to be named Ramesh or Suresh. I considered Bharathi, but after much thought, I decided to name him after the Sangam philosopher, Kaniyan Poongunranar.”
There’s been much speculation over the roles of the other members of the cast, including Bhagyaraj, Vinay and Andrea. “Andrea plays a femme fatale. Bhagyaraj plays an evil old man. Vinay is the villain,” reveals Mysskin candidly. “I don’t even mind sharing with you the full script. The film is more about the how than the what.”
Should the film be received well, Mysskin plans to turn this into a detective franchise. But knowing him, it could all well hinge on the next dream he has.