Pa Ranjith: Destroy my thoughts, and I become merely one of many
Director Pa Ranjith discusses his latest production venture, Writer, and the kind of films he enjoys producing
Imagine suddenly getting ushered into a hall to have a conversation with a personality like Pa Ranjith. This is exactly what happened to me, when instead of the group conversation that was planned, a one-on-one chat was organised. Thankfully, conversations with this director feel as organic as the political and ideological points in his cinema. Starring Samuthirakani, his latest production, Writer, too touches upon many social causes. On how the film came to fruition, Ranjith says, "When Aditi (of Little Red Car Films) and I planned on producing films together, I was clear that I wanted to make only socially relevant films. Aditi was happy with that and that's how our collaboration began. We planned on doing five films and I let everyone know about it too so that I would get scripts to choose from."
Writer is the first of this five-film deal. "We wanted to team up once again with Mari Selvaraj, and so, he's doing a film starring Dhruv Vikram. I loved Merku Thodarchi Malai and I wanted to collaborate with director Lenin Bharathi too." The other two will apparently be helmed by debutant directors. "We didn’t quite plan for Writer to be the first. The film's structure and form were all set by the director (Franklin Jacob), and we ended up making it first. Franklin is a fun individual and I didn't expect such a sensitive story from him. I suggested Samuthirakani for the lead character as I had worked with him (in Kaala) and I knew he would fit the character well," says Ranjith, who credits Franklin for picking the rest of the cast and crew. The director-turned-producer believes that the film is a strong take on the hierarchy system in organisations. “This is not only true of police stations, but also of every Government sector. Writer discusses this problem inside the police department and how that oppression of power trickles down to a constable. The film also talks about the RTI (the Right to Information) Act."
The stories decide the social messaging and not the other way round, clarifies Ranjith. “If we are showing the livelihood and backdrop of a particular setting in a film, the politics automatically becomes part of the story. How we portray it is a question that we find answers for," says Ranjith. "Karuthukaga naa padam edukurathu illa. However, I search for meaning inside a story. I need it for not just the films I direct but also for the ones I produce." While Ranjith’s ideological strength has been lauded and even revered, an opposing school of thought has found its way into cinema as well. "I can see that those films that don't align with my ideologies are also making a mark in society. Such films with hate politics have always been getting made. I am not even sure it is something new," says Ranjith. "Right from the days of Sabapathy (1941), Tamil cinema has always had such films. Today, there's a space that has been created to speak more about it openly. When there's a certain belief and ideology, there will always be someone against it. That's how a society is formed," he adds. "When an issue, say in a village, is causing a group of people to revolt against it, another group would obviously be against the idea of that resurgence. What's considered as the favourable one for the general public ends up becoming the right one. So, I'm not surprised that such films are coming out now. They have always existed, and now, they have taken a new form."
The conversation returns to his upcoming productional ventures. "After Writer, we have a Suresh Mari directorial with Dinesh and Urvashi playing the lead roles. It has come out really well and I like it very much. It's an emotional film that won't delve deep into any political ideas but will portray a particular livelihood," says Ranjith. "Another debutant, Akiran Moses, is doing a film, which will talk about the psychological effects people face because of their jobs and society. It's an interesting film that uses several characters to propel the story of how a small problem transforms into something big. It is a project that will have us ponder about our psychological well-being," he adds. The much-awaited films from the stable from those by Lenin Bharathi and Mari Selvaraj, respectively. "Lenin's film will make a huge impact in the industry. I am waiting for it with bated breath, given that the pre-production itself has taken two to three years. It will talk about a shocking lifestyle. The Mari-Dhruv film will be about a kabbadi player." On his directorial ventures, Ranjith says, "I've completed Natchathiram Nagargirathu and the film with Vikram sir will go on floors from March 2022. It's too early to give more information about that film and I will talk about it soon (smiles)."
The soft-spoken filmmaker seems like a different person in this conversation, as opposed to the fiery speaker he turns into at events. I ask if the spotlight and the constant scrutiny takes a toll on him. "I have deliberately brought this upon myself; so, it’s all right. It makes me more responsible, and it makes me believe that there's a sense of importance for the words I utter. My thoughts define me. If you destroy them, Ranjith will become one of many," he says, smiling. "My thoughts have placed me in the limelight, and I believe that I am putting them out in the right way. For some, my ideas might be controversial; for others, it might be in conflict with their ideologies; some others may find them empowering. When my thoughts are met with resistance, I enjoy facing them."
Aditi Anand (Little Red Car Films) on the making of the Writer:
"Writer was conceptualised in 2019 when I met Ranjith at a dinner. I thought Kaala was a revelation, and I was happy to find a director who was making the kind of films I wanted to make. I met him just as a fan, and when I did, we realised there was a lot of synergy between us. To produce a film under his direction is an ambition of mine. We spoke about other stories, and I saw Pariyerum Perumal at the International Film Festival of India. I couldn't talk for twenty minutes after watching it. Ranjith enjoys using his name to back talents, and it became an exciting adventure to know how I could serve as a bridge. I think we have laid the foundation for not just films but the vision for working in Tamil cinema, and a plan to do bigger things."