I feel we overrate love, says Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raaniyum director Ranjit Jeyakodi
The film starring Harish Kalyan and Shilpa Manjunath is releasing this Friday
Ranjit Jeyakodi’s first film, Puriyatha Puthir, was anything but your average stereotypical love story, the darkness stemming from everything from its colour palette to its music. The title of his second, Ispade Raajavum Idhaya Raaniyum (IRIR), conjures up an image breezy romance, fuelled by the intimacy of the leads in its poster, and Harish Kalyan’s own chocolate boy image. But the film’s trailer was surprisingly intense and grim. He responds with a laugh when I ask him about his fascination with ‘dark romances’. “The idea isn’t to show the dark side of love. It is more about taking love seriously, to approach it with intimacy and depth,” he says, explaining that IRIR will be about relationships and their tribulations. The idea, he says, stemmed from his skepticism of the ‘divinity’ usually attributed to love. “Aren’t we overrating love in our cinema? Don’t we try to control someone under the facade of love? Aren’t authority and love on opposite ends of the spectrum?” he questions. IRIR is the result of such questions. “The story is about people we see every day, the stories we hear and read. It’s not a ‘gloomy’ film. It will be liked by everyone.”
The seeming ‘darkness’, he explains, is evident in the film’s visual palette. “Every colour has meaning and I feel red is particularly useful. It can be used to portray any emotion with intensity and depth: Revolution, erotica, romance. The colour’s a metaphor in IRIR. The film begins with lighter shades of the colour and gets a darker palette eventually. Even in Puriyatha Puthir, I would have used orange for vengeance,” he explains. For Ranjit, it is all about capturing every moment in its truest form. He cites the example of a scene he shot in a subway. “The heroine is meant to feel claustrophobic, suffocated and overwhelmed. A chaotic subway brings that effect naturally,” he says. He isn’t one to explain too much to his actors, for fear of them becoming too conscious. “These are nuances of filmmaking every director uses. It’s about converting what is on paper on to screen,” he adds.
Tamil cinema has traditionally classified women as either the angel or the witch, the virgin or the vamp. It’s interesting to note that IRIR uses lines from a Vasumithran poem that describes women as ‘cursed angels’ and men as ‘blessed demons.’ “It is not about showing the heroine to be beautiful or giving her a violin-powered background score. For me, the affection women shower is their ‘devathai thanmai’. They do it in excess. Men are ‘blessed demons’ because they don’t deserve that love.” Ranjit’s own writing is as unapologetically honest and raw. A line from the trailer says that all lovers think they are mature, but in reality, they are all silly. It all comes from introspection, he says. “Don’t you think there is some sense to it? Every relationship seems good when there are no complications. Real maturity surfaces only when there is a problem. Love isn’t mature; people need to be,” he says. He views spurned love turning into vengeance to be a real problem. He questions the doubts that plague us when a relationship ends. “There is truth in the moments spent until the conflict and also truth in expressing you don’t like someone anymore. But when someone can’t handle that, you have to ask if it is love in the first place,” he says.
Ranjit laughs when I point out that all of this seem to come from a private space. “Adha muzhumaya velipaduthara alavuku naa moodanum kidayathu, moradanum kidayathu. I think about 25 per cent of Gautham (Harish Kalyan’s character in IRIR) is me. Ranjit doesn’t go to extremes, Gautham does.” He believes one can only write what bothers them. “The same event could have happened to someone else as well, but when you think about it, the writing process begins. I search for a new perspective in it,” he says. “I may be judged for being a machine who mines everything for ideas, but it gives a lot of meaning. The characters have to write themselves; it is not Ranjit writing them.”
A voracious reader, Ranjit’s fondness for Tamil literature got him choosing another Vasumitra poem that he thought really belonged in the world IRIR is set in. “Oru siru kal urulalil, samam izhanthu poi vidugirathu, ootrilirundhu vegu thooram vandhuvita nadhi. Relationships are like that. A glance, a word, or a small seed of doubt can turn the tables. With a few lines, poetry has the potential to convey what novels do,” he says.
Questioning the status quo seems to be an important part of Ranjit’s creative process. I ask him how he chose Harish Kalyan to play the conflicted Gautham, and whether his chocolate-boy image didn’t conflict with all the seriousness of IRIR. “Harish was doubtful at first too. ‘Idhu enakku set aagathe’, he said. I agreed but saw it as a challenge to overcome. He agreed and trusted me,” narrates Ranjit. “I like breaking images. When someone gets boxed, I find it interesting to break it,” he signs off.