'Being a producer is more a matter of taste than funding'
Sujatha Narayanan and Devasena, the producer duo, talks about their debut production Addham
A 17-year friendship is behind SNDS Dreamcatchers LLP, the production company that put together Aha’s Addham, which recently opened to positive reviews. The producer duo, Sujatha Narayanan and Devasena ES, first met when working for an FM radio station in Chennai. “Later, I used to help Sujatha in her production projects. So, this was always on the cards and she insisted that I be part of it,” says Devasena.
A Telugu anthology written by Siva Ananth, Addham has three shorts, helmed by Barath Neelakandan, Sarjun, and Siva himself. Sujatha and Devasena admit it was quite the dream team for their debut venture. Addham also features a dynamic ensemble of actors including Rohini, Jayaprakash, Kishore, Varalaxmi, and Prasanna. “It was extremely gratifying that each of those actors came on board with no questions asked. They were extremely professional and very prepared,” says Sujatha. Synergy is the word they use to term the collaboration. “As this was a Telugu project being made in Chennai, we needed names familiar to the Telugu audience and also actors who we haven't seen in these avatars before. It was amazing how aligned the cast was to the script, the director, and the restrictions of the production. We were casting against the grain.”
Addham places its stories in a non-covid world, and more interestingly, explores the greys of morality as a common theme. This was chosen from a list of abstract themes, the duo tell us. “We believed this was a theme that would connect with everyone; the very nature of this topic lent itself to discussion,” says Devasena. “Every emotion falls under the umbrella of right or wrong. So the theme was also applicable to diverse genres,” adds Sujatha.
The project was shot during the lockdown amid tight restrictions in terms of on-set precautions, locations, and other logistics. “People might say these are short films, but a lot of effort goes into putting them together,” says Sujatha. “As a production house, we had to adapt to everything and keep it running. It was a very volatile situation. Every day, your slate gets wiped clean; your plans change and so do the arrangements,” adds Devasena.
Another thing the duo had to deal with was being known as 'women producers'. Sujatha and Devasena aspire for a time when they can shed that tag. “With investors, there is a general perception that women should run certain businesses like boutiques,” says Sujatha. “Production is an uphill climb for anyone. It doesn’t get any easier if there is a man involved. No matter the language or the gender, the deliverables remain the same. How you handle it is only a reflection of your personality and not your gender.”
The other myth about producers is that their responsibility ends with providing the money. “Being a producer is more a matter of taste,” says Sujatha. She gives the examples of legendary studios such as Vijaya Vahini, AVM, and Gemini Studios. “Their projects will reflect the person behind that company. A brand of cinema has to be established.” For this, a passion for cinema and understanding of the medium is necessary. “It needs creativity as well. The dream is to build a brand that consistently engages and entertains the audience.”