Direction Dream: Pa Ranjith sir has made films like Karnan and Jai Bhim possible

...says assistant director Vishnu Vijayan while talking about his struggles and aspirations in this edition of Direction Dreams
Vishnu Vijayan in Nithya Menen
Vishnu Vijayan in Nithya Menen

Films worked on: Thupparivaalan, Thupparivaalan 2, Psycho, Kattumaram, Maadathy: An Unfairy Tale, Villain

Directors worked with: Mysskin, Swarnavel Eswaran, Leena Manimekalai, Unnikrishnan

Main responsibilities: Scheduling, Production design, Continuity

In conversation with Vishnu Vijayan

When did you realise cinema was your calling?

I come from a family that loves films. I’d go to my hometown in Kerala for vacations, and we would all watch films of Mohanlal sir or Dileep sir. One such film was Manichitrathazhu, which made me take note of cinema. I wanted to get into films, but my family wasn't welcoming. My father worked at a tea shop, while my mother worked in an eatery, and really, all the family sought was my graduation. I started doing short films during my spare time from my IT job, but eight of them got dropped mid-way. I didn't lose hope though and shot a 20-minute short at my late grandfather's house. After seeing that, my family gave me a nod.

What have you learned from your directors?

Mysskin sir knows exactly what he wants, and he won't stop until he gets that. He never compromises on quality. I learned to be welcoming of inputs from everyone from Unni sir. Though Villain was my first Malayalam film, he took my suggestion of making Mohanlal sir's character greet Vishal sir's character in Tamil. Leena, meanwhile, is a sensitive filmmaker who makes sure ADs don’t get over-burdened. Her courage is inspiring. Swarnavel sir’s handling of people, too, is beautiful.

What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?

When I started working for Villain, I didn't know it was a Mohanlal sir film. I was stunned when I realised it. Someone on the sets patted my shoulder during filming, and I turned around to see it was Mohanlal sir. He asked me to tell him the Tamil dialogue, so he could get it right. I said, “Naa ungala sandhikira indha naalukaga dhaan kaathutu irundhen.” This was the actual dialogue, and it matched my situation too (laughs). I will never forget that moment.

What’s an area of filmmaking you had a tough time with but are better at now?

The department of production design involves creating a complete set inside small areas. Only after working on a few films did I learn that many films, which I thought were shot in real locations, were filmed on sets. I learned that with the right budget, we can come up with anything.

What is your take on present-day cinema?

It's in a healthy state, and despite the pandemic, we have still come up with films like Karnan and Jai Bhim. I don't think films like these were possible before the arrival of Pa Ranjith sir. The industry is now open to more new talents.

What's a change you wish to see in Tamil cinema?

ADs who worked with established directors are being prioritised over others, who may be more talented. How will they prove their worth without getting an opportunity? With the right filmmakers, our society can change for the better.

Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?

Vikram sir is an actor who can pull off all types of scenes. He is a star with no haters. 

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