Mysskin and Ram: Two visionaries and a shared vision
The two directors discuss Savarakathi, and their common love for films and literature
Tamil cinema has accepted many directors as actors. What drew you towards acting?
Mysskin: I came into the industry to direct, and that’s my priority. I acted in Nandalala (2010) and Onaayum Aattukuttiyum (2013) because I had no choice. But anybody can act. I don’t think it’s difficult. Whereas, writing and direction are. We all act in our lives, don't we?
Ram: It was Gautham Menon's idea that I act in Thanga Meenkal (2013), and for Savarakathi, Mysskin wanted me to act. I can’t say no to him. Moreover, I loved the script. I get a lot of time to read when I go to others’ sets. They give me good food. What more do I need? (smiles) In fact, you learn cinema when you collaborate with others. I am not sure if a director can act, but a writer can.
How does it work when two filmmakers who share different sensibilities collaborate?
Mysskin: We’re passionate about cinema and what we do. Ram is well-read and a sensible filmmaker. I can discuss everything with him, and it’s vice versa.
Ram: We discuss poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, cinema... Companionship is easy when you’re around 25. At 40, it’s not the same. I am glad I found Mysskin. Men of our age discuss real estate and family problems. We, meanwhile, celebrate cinema.
What about when there are differences of opinion?
Mysskin: We agree to disagree. And I appreciate when there's a different view. It’s a kind of reality check.
Ram: There’s no room for ego. But we may even fight if you put me and Mysskin in the same room. Who knows? (laughs)
Collaborations, between directors, seem more common in other industries compared to Tamil cinema.
Mysskin: The trend has changed drastically. For example, I know what Vetrimaaran is working on now. We often call each other, discuss scripts... Filmmaking has become democratic these days. It’s an exchange of ideas.
Ram: It’s been the same in the past. Just that there weren’t enough magazines, newspapers and social media reach to get people talking about all that.
Does Savarakathi make any political statement?
Mysskin: Every film makes a direct or indirect political statement. As for Savarakathi, the writing process was challenging. Comedy-a serious-a paakanum avlodhan. I get two hours to communicate; so I make sure I do the best. There should be something more than just songs and fights.
Ram: Pichai, the protagonist, is a big fat liar. There’s a reason behind why he’s the way he is. That says more about what he does and where he comes from. Undoubtedly, I feel, Savarakathi is Mysskin’s master script. It’s a simple story, which makes us think. Filmmaking, to me, is a process of self-discovery.
Let's discuss the influence of women in your lives, as you are both known for strong women characters.
Mysskin: Be it my mother, grandmother, wife or other women - they’ve inspired me. My films have never shown women in bad light. I also write powerful roles for then. That’s how they are, and that’s how it should be. In Savarakathi, Poorna’s role (Subadhra) is an embodiment of goodness and womanhood. On one side, we have Manga and Pichai, who are extreme characters. And there’s Subadhra on the other side, who’s understanding and compassionate. En character ku kaadhu kekkala... ennaa, society-kum sila nerathula kaadhu kekkama poidum. (Laughs)
Ram: I’ve always found women superior to men, and I think we should accept it. Subadhra is innocent, but no fool. I like the way her character was conceived. You know, Pichai has no issues with his wife being that way. He’s happily married. I think women have become more resilient because they deal with men on a regular basis. (Laughs)
How do you see the internet's irreverence towards filmmakers and the eagerness with which they make memes?
Mysskin: I never take them seriously because I am not on any social media platforms. I don’t do films for critics. Also, trolls don’t affect me.
Ram: Any expression is welcome. Munnadi sevuthula ezhudhinaanga, ippo Facebook, Twitter. That’s the difference. This is a democratic world. Anyone can write and express their thoughts. But the problem is, most of the critics don’t know how to review films. Critiquing, observing, reviewing and appreciating films are different things, I believe. Whenever someone says something, I think it’s no reflection of me. Criticism is a reflection on the critic.
Tamil cinema doesn’t have good critics. Avungalukku puriyalena, makkalukkum puriyalenu nenaikaranga. (Laughs)
How do you view the emerging cinema space in the age of Facebook-Amazon-Netflix-Google?
Mysskin: When I made Chithiram Pesuthadi (2006), I had more freedom as a creator. Now, it has become more rigid. People take offence to things quickly, and it’s scary. I am not blaming the Censor Board, but the system. Things change when a different political party comes to the power. But see, there are loopholes everywhere. You can censor films, but what about television, internet and social media? Also, they say, cinema is children’s medium. Don’t you think it’s ridiculous? Films are meant for adults. When they cater to kids, like My Dear Kuttichathan, it’s fine. Not otherwise.
Ram: Netflix is the best thing that has happened to mankind. Freedom of speech and expression is a hard battle these days.