'We changed Bigil's screenplay on the edit table'
...says Editor Ruben, in this free-wheeling chat with Cinema Express, as he spills the beans on Bigil, including on heated arguments with director Atlee
Bigil's trailer has crossed about 36 million views on YouTube, with this number increasing with each passing second. This is not unusual for promos of Vijay films, which are invariably championed by legions of his fans. However, this particular trailer seems to be lauded not just by Vijay fans. Some of the credit must go to Anthony Ruben.
The editor, who made his debut with Kanden (2011), a sought-after professional in Tamil cinema. The man behind many successful mainstream films including Mersal, Irumbu Thirai, and Viswasam, Ruben begins by shedding some light on Bigil. “The film has shaped up well. It doesn't fall under the usual commercial film category. Vijay has done justice to the roles he has played--he has done about 2 to 3 different characters in this sports film," says Ruben, careful not to give away too much.
Ahead of the Bigil trailer launch, there were demands from Vijay fans on social media to release updates about the film, pressure that Ruben says, does not affect him. "There is pressure for all the films, but it doesn’t affect my work. With movies like Bigil, I worry more about satisfying all set of audience. A star like Vijay has a huge fanbase. We have to satisfy the children too. So, ultimately, it is more about the output than concerns over time constraints.”
I ask if pandering to such a huge fan base results in editing compromises, and Ruben says, “Not all the time. There is a pattern for each genre here. Sticking to them is straightforward, but to break that and try something different, you need the acceptance of the director. Only with the director's trust can an editor deliver. Think of it as a symbiotic relationship.”
Ruben, who has edited all Atlee films so far, is convinced that the director trusts him. "He leaves everything to me. In fact, he sits with me only for the final edit. But during that session, we have plenty of arguments, and usually, end up meeting each other halfway.”
On the nature of such arguments, he says, “Mostly, we have disagreements over whether or not to have a particular scene. Sometimes, the arguments turn into heated discussions to the extent that there is pin-drop silence in the editing room. At the end of the day, we collectively take a decision that is good for the film. We are open to ideas and suggestions. For instance, we bring in assistant directors for their opinions. I think that’s our strength.”
When asked to name one director who makes his job easy, Ruben quickly says Sam Anton (Darling). “I have worked on four films with him. He does not take too much footage, and whatever he shoots usually makes it to the final cut. Working with him is always relatively easy.”
Ruben agrees that the adage 'films are made in the editing room' is true. “Often, we change the entire screenplay of a film… even the story. It happens more often than you think. Even with Bigil, it happened.”
Is editing a thankless job, as commonly suggested? “The audience doesn’t know what goes behind the making of a film, or what editing is. They only have to care about the end product on the screen. Ultimately, for an editor, it comes down to the respect and trust of the director and the crew. If those are given, I don’t think that editing is a thankless job. But I am convinced that the general audience will also learn about editing soon.”