"I'm a lifelong fan of Rajinikanth"
Karthik Subbaraj talks about his latest film, Mercury, its reception, and how it came to be conceived as a silent film
Director Karthik Subbaraj's latest film, Mercury, has come out to generally positive reviews, and while he couldn't savour its release in Tamil Nadu (where the strike continues), he did get his way in managing to get it released on Friday, the 13th. In Bengaluru for the film's promotions, the director discusses his latest release, a film he says he made for all kinds of audiences.
Origins of a silent film
"One of the basic rules of filmmaking is that you try to convey the story with performances, not just through dialogues. In good films, the story registers better when care is taken to reduce dialogues. I have always tried to do this in my work. I had done an eight-minute short film, a thriller with only two dialogues: one in the beginning and one in the end. I felt it was interesting, and since then I have been craving to do a feature film without dialogues. So, when I got this concept, I felt this could be made as a silent film."
"People seem to be really enjoying the film and are realising that Mercury is not targetted at audiences of specific regions. Many people I have interacted with have told me that they liked the climax a lot, and also Prabhudeva's performance. On the technical front, they are raving about the visuals and cinematography and I feel overjoyed to get such positive feedback. Though the film has been released everywhere, it is yet to be released in Tamil Nadu. I can't wait for that to happen."
Prabhudheva, the actor
"I have always wanted to work with him, but never believed I would do that in a film without song and dance. Once I was done with the script, it seemed to me that only he could fit the character. When I narrated it to him, he got excited too. He may be most popular for his dancing ability, but he's a terrific performer too."
The loudness of silence
"Mercury is a film that will show the battle between the senses. As there are no dialogues, sound becomes an integral part of the film. It required a lot of thought even during the scripting stage, and later, when fixing properties and the locations. The music had to blend with the sound. We discussed the importance of sound, and had to decide on when to go with complete silence."
"I completed my engineering in Madurai and got placed in a Bengaluru organisation. Just out of college, it was the first time I was coming out of my hometown. I lived there for five years and it's like another home for me. In fact, my filmmaking career started there. After working three years in the software company, I realised that if I need to become a filmmaker, I should let go of my job. I wanted to learn the basics and attended a one- day course at a film camp in Bengaluru, run by Sanjay Nambiar, who became my guru. I then joined a part-time course with the filmmaker on weekends. I started making short films and one of the films got into a reality show, and there has been no looking back."
"I have a lot of friends in Bengaluru, and keep watching films releasing here. I saw Rakshit Shetty's Ullidavaru Kandante and loved it. I connected with him at an awards function in Chennai. That's when we met and bonded over films. We talked about collaborating for a Kannada film and I wanted him to act in a Tamil film. When Mercury happened, and I told him it was a silent film, he was happy to help promote it. Many of my film friends have helped give Mercury a grand release and I thank them for that."
A dream come true
"I've been a lifelong fan of Rajinikanth. He watched my debut film, Pizza, and called to wish me. That was a big achievement for me. But I never thought I'd come to do a film with him. After Jigarthanda, when he was open to new directors and stories, I pitched a story that he really liked. It is a dream come true and I'm eagerly waiting to work with him. The project is at its nascent stages and the scripting work is going on."