Thadam was originally written as a black comedy: Magizh Thirumeni
The director opens up about the nuances and subtlety of his recent crime thriller, starring Arun Vijay in the lead
During a memorable scene in Thadam, Arun Vijay's character announces that he's has taken the biggest gamble of his life and placing himself as the bait. In a sense, you could say the same of filmmaking today, with the number of films vying for a release steadily increasing. Despite as much competition, Thadam has managed to hold its own, thanks largely to its unique treatment and plot twists. Magizh Thirumeni is a happy man now, given the Thadam journey which began in 2017 for him, went through many challenges, including the postponement of its release date.
Despite a clever screenplay that keeps the audience guessing, the film has cue cards in the initial portions to help you differentiate between Ezhil and Kavin, the two characters played by Arun Vijay. Magizh was worried about the risk he would take by not having them. "The audience has since told me that they were able to distinguish the characters just with their behaviour, without the help of the cues. This is a huge compliment for me, and suggests that we have succeeded as a team."
Unlike your average suspense thriller, Thadam begins with a breezy love scene. "As I was aware that the second half would be grim, I wanted the first half to be light-hearted and establish the love of Ezhil," he explains. "Whatever you see on screen is exactly what I conceived in my script. The interval was also designed to be at the point where both leads get arrested as potential suspects for murder," he says. He's also glad that his decision not to trivialise the portions in the second half has paid off. "Adding commercial elements to that portion would have derailed the film completely."
Magizh is a filmmaker who believes in the power of visual story-telling. The film's rife with Dutch angle shots and lens flares. "Every frame in my films has a purpose. I used the Dutch angle shots to show how dysfunctional and imbalanced Kavin's character is. The lens flares are to convey his inner rage," he says. "Ezhil's life, on the other hand, is smooth and planned. At the point where the stories merge, Dutch angles get used for both of them, as both their lives become conflicted."
Experienced directors usually repeat some of their tropes and patterns, but the performances, for instance, in Thadam bear little resemblance to any of Magizh's previous works. "I am a person who believes everyone has the potential to act. With ample guidance and time, anyone can deliver an impressive performance. I sit and talk with my artistes and make sure they understand why their characters behave or talk in a certain way in a scene."
Asked about the interesting characterisation of the investigation officer Malarvizhi, played by Vidya Pradeep, he says, "All of us have extreme natures within us. A character comes to life only when it has such nuances. Malar is not naive, and has a sense of justice. She is keen that the innocent don't get affected because of a wrong judgement. Nobody can deny the existence such cops."
Both in Thadaiyara Thaakka and Thadam, the main antagonists are those who perpetrate sexual crimes. "It's not just murders and sexual violence that's a crime; even psychological violence is a dreadful thing. I believe that even frightening a child into tears is an act of violence," he says. "But to be honest, till you pointed out, I didn't realise that my antagonists had a similar streak."
Magizh, who spent two months researching information for Thadam, took eight months to write this script. He's now working on a new script, but, won't confirm if it's a thriller. "I don't fix a genre when writing. For instance, I started writing Thadam as a black comedy, but the script rewrote itself as a serious thriller. I always believe a good story writes itself and picks its own genre."