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Director Hari: Commercial films ensure the survival of cinema- Cinema express

Director Hari: Commercial films ensure the survival of cinema

The filmmaker returns with his brand of energetic cinema with Arun Vijay’s Yaanai

Published: 10th July 2022

The massive success of Saamy (2003) spawned many similar attempts during the following years. The racy making and screenplay became the go-to success formula and director Hari was dubbed the 'producer's director.' Such success might have overwhelmed other filmmakers, and perhaps even caused them to shift genres to avoid repetition. However, Hari has soldiered on and tried to perfect the ‘formula’ that’s so unique to his films. Fourteen films and 19 years after Saamy, the director has returned with Yaanai; the recipe isn’t different, but the sensibilities seem like they have undergone an upgrade. Hari thinks of cinema as a ‘joint family’ and masala cinema to be its ‘earning member’. "The success of these entertainers facilitates the existence of artistic cinema. Masala cinema gives momentum to smaller, genre-centric films. Co-existence of both is important for cinema to remain healthy," he says.

Hari sees other filmmakers not as competition but as companions. "I have never seen my contemporaries as threats. I feel happy and excited when someone makes a good commercial film. Cinema is like a temple car; you can't drag it all by yourself. When Perarasu and Siva made their debut, I was thrilled to see their work. I thought, 'Habba, nambala madhriye oru aal vandhutan ya!' I also equally admire the works of filmmakers like Atlee and Lokesh Kanagaraj."

I ask if Hari’s protagonists are modelled on himself. “They carry half of my personality and values. I might not have gone through extraordinary situations like they do, but I put myself in their shoes before finalising their decisions. For instance, I had to think like Ayya Durai from Ayya in order to write the climax in which he surrenders to the police." He is happy to be proven wrong in his writing choices. "If I hurt someone good, even unintentionally, by my words, action or films, I will not go easy on myself. The guilt will kill me. I will apologise and try to correct my mistake. I ensure that my characters have this quality too."

Yaanai doesn’t quite feature the rapid editing, bird's eye view shots, or the peppy set songs that Hari films are often known for. It’s the director showing that he’s listening to the audience. "There is no better place than theatres to learn the pulse of the audience. I sensed that certain elements from my recent films weren’t quite liked by viewers and decided to work on those. I also manage to catch the films of my peers with the crowd to understand what works in the theatre and what doesn't. I have tried to incorporate these learnings in Yaanai." It doesn’t mean his future films will be along the lines of his latest release. "I wanted Yaanai to be an emotion-driven film rather than a celebration. My next film will have the best foot-tapping dance numbers if the script demands it. Sridhar sir, known for his minimalistic making style, made Sivaji sir and Kanchana amma dance for Sivandha Mann, because his script had the scope for it. Such larger-than-life, dreamy sequences will remain in trend forever and cinema will forever be our favourite escapade."

Hari's recent films have sometimes been trolled aggressively on social media. "Cinema is a product at the end of the day and users have all the right to call it out if the quality is bad and their expectations are not met. I just wish that they are a bit more sensitive about the way, medium and scale in which they express their opinions. A film they had a hard time sitting through might be a masterpiece for another. So, it wouldn't be right if a person assumes himself to be deciding authority for everyone."

His latest film, Yaanai, is a journey of a progressive man stuck in a casteist household. I ask if it's important to Hari that he establishes the caste of his protagonists. "I prefer that to remain ambiguous. If someone asks me if the film's hero or villain belongs to their community, I can always argue that they are wrong. My intention is to encourage equality among people, not separate them. I practise what I profess through my films. I strongly believe if a creator chooses to spew venom through their work and spread hatred, they won't prosper for long. Yaanai is born from such an idea."

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