A big problem with Indian cinema is the concept of intermission: Sreekar Prasad
The National Award-winning editor talks to us about his career, editing techniques and choices
Sreekar Prasad's office, guarded by his super-friendly dog named Ixi, is bustling with action as his assistants work on his several projects. Amidst all this is the calm-looking editor, whose childlike enthusiasm belies the fact that he has more than 500 films in 15 languages and eight National Awards to his credit.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Let's start with a cliched question. How has the journey been?
Very hectic (laughs). Only when someone asks me about the projects, do I realise what I've done. But, over the years, I've met different people, and have been exposed to different languages and cultures, so it has also been a pleasurable journey.
What are the factors that go into your choice of films?
One factor is the filmmaker. Working with a director is about having the same wavelength and believing in the same sort of cinema. Another is the body of work I want to leave behind. To this end, I look for different stories, and when I find such films, I accept them irrespective of money or the scale of the project.
The recent works of your frequent collaborators, Mani Ratnam and AR Murugadoss, are quite different from their previous films. How does this impact your collaborations with them?
Actually, that's what interests me about working with them. That's also why I do different languages, which give me different stories.
How does editing differ for different genres and languages?
There aren't any set protocols and each film and genre decides the pace. For example, a film like Tolet, which is a serious drama and a festival film, will be slow as it showcases the stark reality. But for an action sequence, say in Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, you amp up the pace by using faster cuts.
As far as different languages are concerned, the trick is to learn the language. Over the years I've learnt the various languages I've worked on. After working on over 100 films in Malayalam, I can understand the language very well. Despite the different cultures, the sentiments we Indians share are common, so it's easy to relate.
How do you handle disagreements with filmmakers?
As a technician, my job is to contribute to the film. To do this, based on my experience, I give my opinion which leads to a discussion. If you want to make good cinema, you have to take ego out of the equation. If I have an opinion and the filmmaker doesn't agree, I will have to have the humility that maybe he's right. At the end of it, the question isn't who is right, but what's right for the film.
You edited out the Paalam song in Kaththi. Are songs soft targets if a film lags?
Songs have been part and parcel of Indian cinema for a long time, but their relevance has come down. Nowadays, there are films without songs and the audience accept them too. That said, as long as they don't affect the flow of the film, and if they convey the story, I have no issues with songs. For example, a love track might not be the highlight of a film, but to establish the relationship, a montage song will come in handy.
Reviews often speak about how the editing could've been crisper, and they compare first and second halves of a film. What's your take on this?
A big problem with Indian cinema is the concept of intermission. As it interrupts the story, there should be a bang right before the interval. The second half has to live up to the first half's bang, and this gets tricky.
Critics also speak about the runtime with reference to editing, and I don't understand it. If a scene doesn't work it could be because of editing, but if a film doesn't it's because of the story and screenplay, and not just due to editing alone.
Do you think editing is a thankless job?
(Laughs) If the audience doesn't notice the editing, it's a success. All technicians should be recognised equally, but that hasn't always been the case. This is changing, but some award functions still don't acknowledge editors or sound engineers as these aren't glamorous categories.
You seem to have an amazing lineup of projects.
I've got Sarkar, which releases next week. Then there's Hrithik Roshan's Super 30, which is done and might be out in January. I've also got Saaho, which is in half-way done, and Chiranjeevi's period film, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy.
Favourite Director: Mani Ratnam
Favourite upcoming editor: Govind for 96
Toughest film you've worked on: Mohanlal-starrer Vanaprastham
Your favourite works: Kaminey, Aayutha Ezhuthu, Kannathil Muthamittal
A hero you like to see onscreen: Always Rajinikanth