'Karthik Subbaraj gave everything that I needed for Triples'
...says Charukesh Sekar as he joins mentor-producer Karthik Subbaraj in a conversation about their recently-released Disney+Hotstar web series Triples
Directors funding the first project of their assistants is not a common occurrence, with a handful of filmmakers like AR Murugadoss, Shankar and Mani Ratnam doing so. Karthik Subbaraj now joins that list as he has turned producer for Triples, made by his erstwhile associate, Charukesh Sekar. “I've tried to incorporate my learnings from Karthik Subbaraj in this web series, including staging and drawing best performances,” says Charukesh.
Karthik, your recent films like Mercury and Petta have not had your brand of humour seen in earlier films like Pizza and Jigarthanda. Was this why you were drawn to this project?
Karthik Subbaraj: The humour in my films is dark and quite different from the easy appeal of what you get in Triples. We call it the Crazy Mohan style of humour as a mark of reference. When writer Balaji gave us the script, I loved the simplicity. The humour was natural, and after Charukesh got on board, Triples has come out as we envisioned. I hope to write this kind of humour soon. My inputs were minimal as Balaji had written the script with the dialogues as well. Kalyan, one of the producers, said he laughed out loud while reading the script. The rushes I saw were enjoyable.
Any reason why it was made as a web series?
Charukesh Sekar: The script was in the web series format, with eight episodes lasting almost 30 minutes each. There has not been much like this in the Tamil web series space. After the promotional videos came out, people said it looked like a feature film and that's all because of Stone Bench Films. The freedom they and Disney+ Hotstar gave us allowed us to make it as we wanted.
Did you enjoy more freedom given that this was made for a streaming platform?
CS: To be honest, we planned it right from the beginning as a clean family entertainer. We didn't want to bring an edginess to it. I would say that we have pushed humour boundaries with this series.
Karthik, unlike your last production, Penguin, Triples was promoted as a Tamil offering. What decides whether the content can cut across regions?
KS: Films like Panchathanthiram and Thillu Mullu worked because of the dialogues and performance. Triples too has similar comedy, and we recognised that it could not work as a bilingual. The casting was finalised once we made this choice.
CS: The casting was quite easy actually. My wishlist was names like Jai, Vani Bhojan, Rajkumar, Vivek Prasanna, A Venkatesh￼ and Manikandan Achari. When a filmmaker like Karthik backs a project for a platform like Disney+ Hotstar, it’s easy to convince actors. Jai was cooperative and is the heart of all the performances. Similarly, Vivek Prasanna and Rajkumar have done a splendid job as Madhu and Cheenu.
As a producer, is it any different when you are funding a web series for a streaming giant as opposed to a feature film?
KS: The challenges are the same. Writing is the differentiating factor. A series has a longer runtime and is akin to making three films (smiles). In filmmaking books, they often say that shooting three minutes of content in a day is a good shoot. But Charukesh has wrapped up Triples in less than 50 days, which is usually the time taken to finish a feature film. Shooting as much in a single day gets challenging. It demands that the team be efficient.
Recently, Christopher Nolan expressed his disappointment with Warner Bros. for announcing that it would be releasing its entire 2021 slate simultaneously in theatres and its OTT platform. As someone who works in both mediums, what's your take?
KS: Warner Bros' decision is a shocking announcement. We don't know what the idea behind it is. A friend of mine who works there, tells me that following the postponement of the new James Bond film, many theatres were closed again. This unpredictability could be the reason for their call. Who knows, this could also turn out to be a brilliant model. Tenet has brought back audiences to Indian theatres and the distributors are happy. Warner Bros’ model is new to the business and it remains to be seen whether it turns out to be profitable or disastrous.
What's the status of your upcoming projects?
KS: On Jagame Thandhiram, producer Sashi sir has been clear that it will only be a theatrical release. We are happy that theatres have now been opened and soon, this film will be released in theatres. I have made two short films for two anthologies that will be coming out on OTT platforms. I am also currently working on the script of Chiyaan 60. The pre-production will commence soon, and I am eager to begin shooting.