Priyadarshan: I wanted to make a Tamil film; not a Malayalam remake
The director opens up about the recently-released Nimir, which marks his return to Tamil cinema after a decade
Priyadarshan is back in Tamil cinema with Udhayanidhi-starrer Nimir after the award-winning Kanchivaram (2007). He chats with Cinema Express about realistic stories and how he’s constantly tried to keep himself relevant over the years.
Nimir vs Maheshinte Prathikaaram
People say I’ve attempted a faithful remake, but I’d say it’s a sincere adaptation. The original was a lot more different--be it the backdrop or characters. When the producer of both the films (Santhosh T Kuruvilla) suggested that I do this in Tamil, I wasn’t sure. Then slowly, I got Samuthirakani, who’s also written the dialogues, and veteran director J Mahendran on board.
I wanted the audience to see a Tamil film, not a Malayalam remake. With the help of my technicians and actors, I incorporated elements I knew would work here. For instance, a village backdrop, the Bigg Boss Tamil connection, Ganja Karuppu comedy track and so on. After seeing Nimir, KV Anand told me he saw a ‘visual film’ after a long time.
To me, visuals are as important as the dialogues. As for comparisons between Fahadh Faasil and Udhayanidhi Stalin, they’re two different people. I can’t cast Sivakarthikeyan for such a film, because audiences won’t accept if he gets beaten up.
Whenever I made remakes, they flopped. Most of them have been failed because of the regional divide. I know for a fact that Tamil audiences don’t have as much patience as Malayalam audiences. In the North, it’s worse. (Laughs)
The rise of young filmmakers
In the last four years, I didn’t do many films except Oppam, which was a hit. It’s nice to see young filmmakers doing brilliant work here, and that gives me a sense of fear. I also need to keep myself updated, and so, consciously mingle with the young crowd. I ask them what works for today’s audience and write accordingly. Directors in Tamil cinema have also motivated young filmmakers in Kerala like Dileesh Pothan. I appreciate everyone irrespective of their age.
Realisation of dreams
When I came to Chennai, I found two directors to be inspiring--Bharathiraaja and J Mahendran. When I saw their films, I used to ask myself what I was doing. In fact, I tried assisting Mahendran in 1982, but wasn’t allowed to enter his house. (Laughs). I took it as a challenge, and look, finally, I made him act in my film!
I’ve directed over 90 films, but now, looking back, I doubt if I could make those films now. Those times were different. We never had internet or online critics. Today, we may have started aping the west, but the truth is, we’re still conservative. There’s an Indian inside all of us. But we like to see a foreign style of cinema. For instance, Keralites accept Tamil films. They like Suriya and Vijay. But, if Mohan Lal does what they do, they won’t like it.
Lessons over the years
I feel I shouldn’t have done certain films in my career. I also still think I could have done every film of mine better except Kanchivaram. You see, a story is after all a lie. I need to tell it in a convincing way to make things feel believable. I’ve also learned that there’s no such thing as a success formula. I would have done a successful film, but if I try the idea again for my next film, it’d be a flop. My films are of two kinds: ones that I do for the craft, and the draft (money). At this stage, I don’t do films for money.
Love of comedy
I think the child in me enjoys watching comedies. Many people ask me how I direct comedies despite looking so serious. All my films have a subtle sense of humour. In Malayalam, humour comes easy because I write my own scripts. Here, I have to depend on a writer because I am not fluent in Tamil.
A state full of ideas
Tamil Nadu is rich in culture and heritage, and there are loads of stories rooted here. In Kerala, that’s not the case. There are no villages in Kerala, unlike in Tamil Nadu. What I used to see in Kerala 40 years ago still exists in Tamil Nadu.
Inspiration vs plagiarism
You watch many films, and naturally, you get inspired. But you need to give due credit when you come up with a film. That’s where the original screenplay comes into the play. Show me one film in India, which is new, and has an idea that isn’t there in the Mahabharata. Renowned filmmakers like MT Vasudevan Nair and Adoor Gopalakrishnan have faced similar criticism.
Regional cinema vs Bollywood
Bollywood makes films for entertainment; regional cinema has more culture to it. I am not complaining because I do films there. Indian cinema is universally-accepted, but when we take our films internationally, sometimes it doesn’t work because we don’t have enough agencies to make the process easier. It’s better than what it was previously though.
Amitabh Bachchan and I have worked together on almost 25 commercials, but a feature film has not happened yet.
Two to tango
Favourite filmmakers: Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Favourite Tamil films in recent times: Aruvi, Angadi Theru, Goli Soda