You would wonder at his initials pa ( P in English) which he humbly attributes to his love for the Tamil language. Right now he is busy preparing for his next big movie (produced by Wunderbar Productions, owned by Actor Dhanush and his wife Aishwarya Dhanush) with superstar Rajnikanth again. Nithya Ravindran chats up with Pa. Ranjith, sketching his career graph from point zero to being the director of the renowned Rajni movie, Kabali!
How did your first ever stint as an Assistant Director in 2006 for Thagapansamy happen?
Thagapansamy is not my first. Before 2006, I worked for a movie called Kaadal Aramgam, assisting filmmaker Velu Prabakaran. This was in 2003; I was studying in third year of college then. I worked as both an Art Director and an Assistant Director for the movie. I worked for a few days there and stepped out. That’s my first shooting experience. After that, in 2006 I worked as an Assistant Director for Thagapansamy.
Did any particular movie inspire your decision?
I had an opportunity to watch several world classics such as Rashomon; Life is Beautiful, Battle of Algiers, Cinema Paradiso and many more at a film festival held during my college culturals. I loved them all and wanted to make similar kind of movies. That’s where and how my love for cinema started!
Is Akira Kurasowa an inspiration?
Definitely yes; even Alejandro González Iñárritu!
How did Attakathi happen?
When I was working for the movie Saroja with Venkat Prabhu, my script for Attakathi was ready. I made a mention about this to Venkat Prabhu, who by then had begun scripting the movie Goa. He told me I could move on to become an independent director after Goa was made. In fact, Soudharya Rajnikath, who was the producer of Goa, was supposed to produce Attakathi too. Due to several inevitable reasons, it did not materialize. I went knocking at several producers’ doors for around two years. Some liked my story, while the others didn’t. Finally, through a friend, I got an opportunity to meet Producer CV Kumar who agreed to produce Attakathi. Thereon, the movie took off.
Do you research for a movie in particular or incorporate what you observe and see around you into your script?
Both. Attakathi has a lot of me, my life and what I have observed around me in it. Madras on the contrary is not associated to my life, but is based on what happens in (North) Chennai. I studied the place well, observed what happens there and thus, came up with what you see in the movie. Coming to Kabali, I’m not at all associated with Malaysia; the movie is built on 100% research. I met many people there, heard them out, understood them and then wrote the story. Also, I am a painter. We painters observe very keenly. We engage in spot studies and movement studies, where we draw people by observing them through their daily routine. I observe everything minutely, be it a tree, a building… and later when I write a script…these trees; buildings, etc. are replicated in my movies. I also read a lot. So characters in books also inspire me.
Did you tailor-make a script for superstar Rajnikant or did u already have a script in mind, which he agreed to work in?
Initially I wanted to make a story about Malaysia and its happenings, based on a don’s life. Rajni sir also liked it because he always loved Kamal (Hassan) sir’s Nayakan. He wanted to do something similar, but not a replica. He liked the script of Kabali a lot. Thus, it happened.
All your movies have extremely strong supporting characters. Radhika Apte and Dhansika and others for instance.
Attakathi was made with new comers. In Madras, I used Kalaiyarasan from Attakathi, that’s all. For Kabali, I wanted people with whom I would be comfortable working and also those who are flexible and understand my style of working. They should be able to come anytime round the clock for a shoot…plus they are excellent actors too. That’s how they were boiled down on and whether they would continue being in my films or no that totally depends upon character requirement for a movie. If my movie demands actors like them, then yes, else no.
Genre-wise, you seem to steer towards movies that are more realistic, what about making a 100% masala film with a top hero?
No. I don’t know to make typical masala movies.
A director’s responsibility is to ensure his movie reaches his audience correctly. What, according to you, is a ‘movie’s’ responsibility?
According to me, a director should be socially responsible and a movie should trigger at least a small or a minute change in the society…that is what art is meant for! If not revolutions, something subtle at least – even making a sad person happy is a change! A movie should carry elements that can trigger at least a minute change in the society, or in a person’s life, lifestyle or thought process!
But do you think such movies are actually causing changes to happen?
It definitely makes a difference; else such great acceptance and appreciation for the movie wouldn’t have come forth. But if it is a drastic change that you are referring to … well, changes take place very slowly. It’s not instant. See, different people have different views, approaches and opinions. That’s how arguments and debates start. I don’t believe in just arguing or debating. I wish to first create something that people can understand and relate to, through which they will have several questions surfacing in them for which they would or might start seeking answers. This could cause a change.
Which is your favourite scene in Kabali?
The scene where Rajni sir goes to his house and recollects his wife’s presence there, toggling between the past and the present, I love that scene a lot. Another one is when Kabali is asked why he loves his wife a lot; Rajni sir has showcased excellent acting skills there! These are just two of the many!
Do you spot mistakes while watching Kabali?
Not mistakes, but there are several scenes in all the movies I have done so far that makes me want to do them differently. I thus, try to improve with very next movie of mine. And till date I haven’t done a movie that I am 100% satisfied with.
Who can we give credit for the extremely stylish Rajnikanth in the movie? You or Anu Vardhan (Costume Designer and Director Vishnu Vardhan’s wife)?
I had envisaged everyone’s look and style. Anu perfectly rendered them for me
The marketing done for Kabali has been unprecedented. Did you fear the way things were taking shape?
Yes, I was scared. I mentioned several times in my promotional interviews that the mood of the movie is very different. The hype gave me jitters; but it had gone beyond my control. I tried to restrict it, but failed. It took time for people to realize it’s not a typical Rajnikanth movie! The way it was branded wasn’t 100% right, not that we showed anything that’s not in the movie, but people expected a different kind of movie all together! Once they realized reality, all fell in place! And now it is still running houseful!
Can we expect sports-based movies from you?
Yes. I like cricket a lot, that too the one that happens in villages. They are very different from the usual kind. I am a cricketer myself. I would love to do a story based on this. I also want to do a movie based on football.