Rathna Kumar: Vijay sir’s attitude in Master is like nothing you have seen in his other films
Filmmaker Rathna Kumar speaks about co-writing Master, sticking to his writing responsibilities, and the challenges involved in the process
While uncertainty looms over the release of many feature films, there are few that are as expected as Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Master. The hype is partly aided by the film featuring a group of established film personalities, including Vijay, Vijay Sethupathi, Anirudh Ravichander, Rathna Kumar, Lokesh Kanagaraj… the list goes on. The film’s co-writer Rathna Kumar remains optimistic and opens up to us about his writing process and reveals some insights about Master.
The times are unprecedented. Is it having you think about stories that take into account this pandemic?
We are in a never-before-experienced situation right now. We are yet to understand the full ramifications of what’s happening. I’m mainly spending time with my family, and reading a lot. Occasionally, I’m getting some writing done—mainly reworking of some old scripts, giving new names to characters… I have actually thought about a dystopian film like What Happened to Monday. When I thought about this idea, I was not sure if people would be able to relate to it, but the current situation has given us an idea of how the world would be like when faced with a dystopian situation. I think our audiences would be more accepting of such ideas in the future.
There’s a lot of expectation surrounding new-age filmmakers like yourself and Lokesh Kanagaraj. Given that Master has you both working together, what should we expect?
Well, I can tell you that it will not be a formulaic Vijay film. It will be a celebration of Vijay sir, but the celebration will be rooted firmly within the script. On the first two days of shoot, Vijay sir was not given any dialogues. He had to simply exist as the character and carry out everyday activities like cooking, listening to songs, playing games… The attitude of the character he plays in this film is very close to how Vijay sir behaves as a person… You will see him carry a fresh attitude in Master.
Recent films of Vijay have had him deliver social and political messages. Is this the case with Master too?
It is a socially responsible film for sure. People have already heard the songs that convey some useful messages. The film is told through the character’s way of life. But no, there will be no long monologues.
What was most challenging about helping write Master?
After Vijay Sethupathi sir came on board, the scenes became bigger than we expected. An otherwise small scene of a phone conversation suddenly became more significant. It was hard to decide what to retain and what not to. Every little scene became entertaining, but we also had to keep in mind the film’s duration. Even though we did not have the heart to do it, we had to make the tough choice of leaving out some bits.
How is the team handling this unexpected delay?
From our side, we need only about ten days to complete the post-production work. The lockdown was announced just days before we were to approach the censor board. No matter how long it takes for the film’s release, it will still come as a celebration. Right now, nobody is in the mood for celebration, with many struggling to meet basic needs. Cinema would be the last thing on people’s minds now. We want to accommodate all the fans and will have the film released at a time when everybody has a more stable mindset.
Any reluctance about participating as a co-writer after being a director yourself?
I look at them as just titles. I have known Lokesh for a while now and he has always liked my writing. When Lokesh and I were working on Maanagaram and Meyaadha Maan respectively, we had a meeting at Besant Nagar beach and agreed to help each other in our films. Even during Kaithi, I helped a little, but that was more as a friend. I am a descriptive writer and expect the scenes to be exactly as I have envisioned. However, there are many practical difficulties and differences in executing them. During such times, I reminded myself to stick to being the writer and let the filmmaker do the rest.
Any particularly unforgettable memories from your journey with the team?
Once, Kaithi-fame Dheena along with Vijay sir, Lokesh and few others called me while I was working on the script in Shimoga. Dheena claimed to be working in Simbu sir’s office and asked me to come right away to Chennai to meet him. I was hesitant because I was working on the script, but he insisted I come immediately saying, “Simbu sir ippo dhaan malaikku poitu vandhurukaaru, manasu maarardhukulla udane vaanga.” I instantly recognised it as a prank call, and all of us burst into laughter. That was a funny, unforgettable moment.
What are you working on next?
I was to meet Stone Bench Films for a Tamil-Telugu bilingual after the release of Jagamae Thandhiram on May 1, but everything has been pushed. I am working on an anthology as well. If not for the lockdown, the announcement of my next film would have come by now. My projects are all in various stages of development. There is a plan to make a film with actor Vaibhav in the near future. Some OTT platforms have also approached me, and I am working on a mini webseries for the digital medium. The script of the series set in a time frame of 50 hours is almost done. I am hoping to make a period film some day—something set before independence maybe. I am inspired by the story of Netaji’s disappearance and want to make a fictional story on it. All my work right now is aimed at hopefully, helping me finish these dream projects in the long run.
You have admitted in interviews to being a Vijay fan. Were any of these dream scripts created for him?
It has always been my dream to make a film with Vijay sir. Who wouldn’t want to? I have had a story for him since my college days. When the time comes, it will happen.