KV Anand: I thought Suriya would run away from the industry during Nerukku Ner
The director talks about his latest release Kaappaan, which sees him collaborating with Suriya for the third time
Kaappaan sees KV Anand collaborating with Suriya for the third time after Ayan and Maatraan. At the time of this conversation, he was busy adding final touches to the film that has come out to mixed reviews. "The Telugu version (Bandobast) is being released simultaneously; so the work is more this time,” he said. Despite his packed schedule, the director made time for a conversation with us, in which he spoke about the inspiration for his films, his making process, and of course, the Suriya factor.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Your films typically focus on the profession of your protagonist. How is it in Kaappaan?
After Indira Gandhi's assassination, the Special Protection Group (SPG) was formed in the late 80s, and is on par with the United States Secret Service. Though there have been several films on it in Hollywood, films in India have not been made about it. Writer Pattukkottai Prabakar and I were discussing a story about this topic from 2011. I don’t start with the plot. I start with a backdrop and then explore stories within it.
As a photojournalist, I have shot photos of more than 10 Chief Ministers of India—not during meetings, but in their personal cabins. I also pick backdrops from newspaper stories I come across. The idea of Kaappaan was something we have had for quite some time now; we registered the script in 2012.
Tell us about the research you undertook for the film.
We went to Delhi to meet Vijay Kumar (retired IPS officer and the Director-General of Central Reserve Police Force). He gave us insights into the SPG. We also researched the background of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval who was also a part of RAW. His days as a spy in Pakistan inspired that part in our script. We take research quite seriously. While writing Ayan, we researched a lot about the possibility of Customs officers recruiting a criminal. I remember people making fun of the film’s climax. As I make commercial films, I take liberties with action sequences and songs. But I never do something impossible with the story.
You were the cinematographer of Suriya's first film, Nerukku Ner. How do you see his evolution as an actor?
I thought he would run away from the industry during Nerukku Ner. He was innocent and had a tough time acting. But after working with directors like Ameer, Bala and Gautham Menon, he has learned a lot. By the time I worked with him in Ayan, he was a complete actor and the role was a cakewalk for him. And hey, I also shot Jyotika's first film, Doli Saja Ke Rakhna.
While on these details, Mohanlal, who plays an important role in Kaappaan, was the hero of your first film as a cinematographer.
Yes, that film was Thenmavin Kombath. He is extremely cool and easy to work with when you are a director. It's actually harder to work with him as a cinematographer. He is a one-take artiste; multiple takes won't be as effective as that first one. Moreover, you can't mark positions for him and expect him to stay there. I remember things being quite tricky in Thenmavin Kombath. The film is based on a village with no electricity, and so I had to be careful with the lighting and get things right in the very first shot.
Arya also has a role in Kaappaan. We hear that you have been trying to work with him for quite sometime now.
He was actually shortlisted for my first film, Kana Kandaen. I consider him for almost all my films. Ko was supposed to have another hero, and when that didn’t work out ten days before shooting was commenced, I needed someone else immediately. I called Arya but he didn't pick up the phone. Jiiva did (laughs). Kaappaan will be an important film in his career.
Betrayal is a common theme in your films.
I think it’s a part of our life—like anger, love, and other emotions. I probably touch upon this emotion a lot more.
There seems to be a two-year gap between the release of each of your films.
I don't think of my next film when I’m shooting for one. I never start shooting without the full script. After the release of every film, I travel and explore places. I also kill time watching TV at home until my amma and wife ask me why I am not going to work. And then, there’s the problem of actors and call sheets. Top actors would typically ask me if we could work in a couple of years; so I have no option but to wait.
As part of the film’s promotions, the audience was asked to choose between three titles for this film.
I like how simple words can denote a lot. For this film, one of the shortlisted titles was Uyirkaa. Even the word Kaa means the same—a protector. I thought Kaappaan seemed catchier. We thought people may make fun of Uyirkaa, as it sounds like ooruka (smiles).
You show a tendency to work with the same crew.
I like working with Kiran. Unlike other art directors, he stays on the sets after making them. As for editor Antony, we rarely agree, especially when it comes to chopping a scene. For some reason though, I have never been able to work with the same cinematographers. Avangale odiduvaanga (laughs). Cinematographer KV Anand is a bigger and better technician than director KV Anand; so I would like to preserve him for films not made by me.