Everyone in Madurai is passionate about cinema: CV Kumar
The producer-director opens up about his upcoming film Gangs of Madras, a gangster drama, is expected to hit the screens soon
Ever since the Tamil film industry moved away from studio culture to individual production houses, there has been a drop in the number of influential producers. But, over the past decade, if there is one production house which can stake claim to being a game-changer in our cinema, it is CV Kumar's Thirukumaran Entertainment. Directors like Pa Ranjith, Karthik Subbaraj, Nalan Kumarasamy, Mundasupatti Ramkumar, Indru Netru Naalai-fame Ravikumar, and composer Santhosh Narayanan, have all made their debuts under the aegis of Kumar.
"You see, I am from Madurai, and every Madurakaaran is passionate about cinema. I didn't want to make run-of-the-mill films. All these stories engaged me, and the filmmakers were willing to work within my boundaries," says the producer, who adds that though he might have provided the proverbial break to a number of path-breaking actors, filmmakers, and technicians, he doesn't think anyone is indebted to him. "I back films that are made under a particular budget. Many people who made their first films under Thirukumaran Entertainment are now earning a lot more. But business is different from friendship, and it is unfair to ask them to reduce their salary or expect me to spend more on my film," says Kumar, who turned director with the Sundeep Kishan-starrer Maayavan in 2017.
He attributes the decision to take up directorial duties after five years as a full-time producer, to the reason that made him turn producer in the first place: a love for challenges. "I never had directorial dreams. I was getting bored with being involved only in the production side, so I wanted to try something new," he says.
However, he does come well-equipped to helm a film, considering his background in photography and scriptwriting. "While my first film was based on a script by Nalan, my next, Gangs of Madras, is my own script, inspired by newspaper articles and anecdotes from people I know. It is a gangster film, a revenge drama of sorts, told from a woman's perspective. It is about a couple that gets caught in the crossfire between two warring drug gangs," says Kumar, who believes that his film is completely different from Kolamavu Kokila and the web series, Vella Raja, which also dealt with the drug trade in the city.
Listing out 'raw violence' and 'realistic treatment' as some of the factors that differentiate his film from these other projects, Kumar firmly believes that the detailing in the film will help it stand apart. "Chennai is the hub for heroin trade in the country. However, more often than not, the ones caught are petty criminals, and not the big names. Who are the ones behind this mafia? Why don't they get caught? My film deals with a lot of such unasked questions," he says.
Starring Sai Priyanka Ruth, who has played supporting roles in films like Metro, in the lead, Gangs of Madras also stars Muruga-fame Ashok, director Velu Prabhakaran, Daniel Balaji and Aadukalam Naren. About casting Priyanka as the lead, Kumar says, "We auditioned almost 100-120 people before zeroing in on her. We even tried casting some established names. However, we required someone who could convincingly pull off a role, which not just needs to be vulnerable but also smash 10 to 15 people. Our team believed Priyanka fit the bill."
Having served as both a producer and a director, does he believe in one making compromises for the other? "As a producer, I have never made any compromises. I am very clear about what I bring to the table, and it is up to the directors to take it or leave it. I don't okay a nice script that could overshoot my budget or work with a filmmaker who doesn't gel well with me and my production house. That doesn't mean I would alter the script; I just drop the idea of making it," says Kumar, who adds that he too worked under the same rules when he turned director.
For someone known for being a torchbearer of 'small' films that are high on content, Kumar, surprisingly, seems averse to the idea of entering the digital space. "While I do understand that smaller films have a tough time finding release dates and proper theatres, I prefer sticking to cinema, as we have known it," says the filmmaker, who not only awaits the release of Gangs of Madras, but is also planning the release of his next production, Titanic, starring Kalaiyarasan and Anandhi. "I will travel in parallel tracks of being both a producer and a director. I love challenges, and I find this juggling act most challenging."