Interviewer : Inian & Daya Kingston | Camera : Hemananth | Text: Daya Kingston
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The Mind of Meera Kathiravan

Director Meera Kathiravan is making his debut with Aval Peyar Tamizharasi. The film which is set in Tirunelveli will bring out the colors of love alive in true rustic flavor. The film which is soon to release in India was screened at Dubai Film Festival and received a standing ovation. We catch up with the talented young director.

BW: How did you get into cinema?

MK: I was inspired to get into films by good cinema. I wanted to make good films like the ones that I had seen and like the directors who influenced me, I too wanted to influence the audience.

Have you had any kind of formal training?

No, I never had formal training. I entered the film industry in 1998 but since I came from the village, I had no knowledge of cinema. However, when I came here, I made good friends and met good directors. The directors whom I worked for trained me for cinema the correct way.

" I had no knowledge

of cinema "

Do you think the lack of formal training from an institution is a disadvantage?

Definitely not. Cinema does not come through learning, it’s a plus to study at an institution but cinema is an art form that comes through observation. In today’s cinema, directors like Selvaraghavan, Venkat Prabhu have not studied in any institution. I am not saying it is wrong to study in an institution, just that if you observe cinema the right way is enough.

How did you receive your initiation into Tamil cinema?

I came into it in 1998 and aspired to become a director in 5 years but it took me that time to reach the position of Assistant Director. I started writing short stories in magazines. I wrote a small piece on the film Azhagi which was released in a Tamil literary magazine called Kanaiyaazhi. After reading this my friends were very impressed. Then, Va. Gauthaman who has directed serials like Sandana Kaadu, Auto Shankar, the film Kanavey Kalaiyathey and now Magizhchi helped me reach Thankar Bachchan. He read my short stories and was impressed and I joined him.

" Cinema is completely

a powerful media "

Tell us about your experience with Thankar Bachchan?

The period I joined him was the time I was reading books and writing stories. While working with him, I understood that a script is not just about what you think or just about writing dialogues but that one should work in detail. Cinema is completely a powerful media and he helped me learn that.

How was it working with Director Lohita Das?

I had always liked his films a lot and he was the film-maker whose films I have watched the most. When I heard that he was going to direct a film in Tamil, I approached him. It so happened that he also needed someone who knew Tamil and Malayalam as an assistant. Since I knew a bit of Malayalam, I was accepted. That was the best period of my life in cinema and very fulfilling.

How many films did you work with him?

Just one film.

How was your experience working with Director Balu Mahendra?

Balu Mahendra is like my father; he treated me like a son. Beyond the fact, that he is a good filmmaker and director. His best quality is that even if someone has entered films recently, he would encourage and praise that person. I met Balu Mahendra while he was planning to make a tele-serial titled Kathai Neram for Sun TV. He wanted to use one of my short stories Mazhai Vaasam that had appeared in the Tamil magazine Kalki. We had a very healthy meeting and discovered that we were on the same wavelength. After that, he allowed me to participate in many of his discussions. He also gave me the opportunity to write the screenplay of Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam and Azhiyatha Kolangal into books.

" Balu Mahendra is like

my father "

All the directors you have worked with have usually had complex scripts with many shades. Will today’s audiences accept this?

The audience will always accept. They have never said they won’t accept a particular kind of film, there are no limitations. From the days of Parasakthi, Poove Poochooda vaa to Pasanga by Pandiraj which was only with children were hits. The Tamil audience wants their hearts to be touched. They should like the film and would like it to reflect their lives. A film and that the 2 ½ hours should be useful

Since 1998, you have been in cinema. Have you been discouraged at any point and thought of giving up?

" Good friends and books

helped me stick on "

Yes, at times. I did not have any cinema background. I am the first in my family to enter cinema and from a village in Tirunelveli which is green and prosperous. After that, living in a city like Chennai called for lot of compromises. There were times when I have waited 2 years for directors who promised to take me on but due to their circumstances were unable to do so. At these times, my reading and writing habits gave me solace. I had the stamina to hold on for five years and after that the directors encouraged me and till today they appreciate me well. Good friends and books helped me stick on.

What is the story of Aval Peyar Tamizharasi?

When people hear the title they think it’s a female-oriented story but its not. It’s the story of a man who says the line, who he is, how she came into his life as a friend and as a lover and how she influenced his life in equal proportion as his mother. We trace his life story from 8 to 30 – the story of a boy born in a village and who grows up with his grandfather.

What is Jai’s Character in the film like? Is he rough and tough?

No, Jai has a soft character, you will even wonder if it’s really Jai who is enacting this role. He does not have much of dialogue; in fact if you write down all his dialogues in the film on a piece of paper, you will find that it will run to just 20 to 25 pages. He has shown his performance in his expressions, eyes and struggle. However you cannot classify it as a totally soft film either. It has Panchalamkurichi Padapadakka, Puliyankotta Thadthadakka, a peppy Kuthu song from Vijay Anthony and a comedy track. One portion is very fun and the other serious.

" Jai has a

soft character "

Do you think that there is an expectation to see Jai as a tough hero?

No, the audience will not expect that from any hero. All fans want to see their hero donning a variety of roles.

How did you choose Nandagi as your heroine?

Nandagi is making her debut with this film. She has a bright future as a heroine. She has a prominent place in the list of actresses who can speak Tamil and know to act. The producer and I were looking for a heroine for one year and were particular that since the title had Tamil, we wanted a Tamil speaking girl with a Tamil face. Before starting the film, I had made a trailer in which she starred and since she had performed well I had promised her a role in one of my films. Then I thought, why not use her for this film as she was right for the character.

How did u decide on this theme for your debut film?

I was very stubborn that this should be my debut film because in the 78 years of Tamil cinema, we have touched areas that have never been touched. The story’s background, characterization and many things will be new. It’s a bold attempt and I think as a debut director I am confident that I will receive appreciation for it. I must thank my producer Dhananjayan as I don’t know if the film would have turned out so well if I had any other producer.

How was the response in the Dubai Film Festival?

The response in the Dubai Film Festival was overwhelming and I must again thank my producer Dhananjayan for making it happen. As the release got delayed, I came to the point that I just wanted the film to release. He took the initiative and took it to the festival. We had two shows and the audience consisted of people with their roots in Ramnad, Trichy and Madurai. They were average cinegoers and after seeing the film the whole theater stood up and clapped. They said that the director and Moser Baer who produced it have good future. It’s customary that the audience at the festival is given a coupon at each show that contains stars to rate the film. When we collected the filled coupons, we were happy to find that 96% rated it very excellent.

" Life is a creator as

powerful as cinema "

Is there any genre you want to stick to?

Life is a creator as powerful as cinema. Though life has its positives and negatives, one must give the audience something positive. Above all only love can win in this world. My genre is this.

Tell us about your cameraman P.G. Muthiah?

My cameraman had done Moser Baer’s production Poo and Kandein Kaadhalai where he had exhibited his talent and this is his third film. He has done a lot of hard work with three different kinds of camera angles, lighting and expression for the 3 different periods in the film. I am sure that this will prove to be an important film in his career.

There are some directors who like to go to the spot and write there while there are others with a ready script. Which category do you fall into?

I do not agree with the idea of going to the spot and writing. A film shoot calls for an expenditure of approximately 1 and half lakhs a day. A producer invests his trust in the director and one has to be responsible. If an average auto driver or farmer toils for 5 years, only then can he earn and save that amount to get his daughter married. So when I am responsible for it, if I go to the spot not knowing what I want and spend 3 ½ hours writing there, that would not be the right thing to do. One should have the script written properly before reaching the shooting spot.

" One should have the

script written properly

before reaching the

shooting spot "

Share with us about the music in the film?

Music is by Vijay Antony who is very good. Everyone thinks he can only do Kuthu songs but he has broken the mould by doing folk songs in this film. He was waiting for a chance to show this side of his talent. When I met him with the story, he accepted and his work has me 100% satisfied. The re-recording was much appreciated.

What gives you the confidence about the film?

I trust the Tamil audience. Even at the All India level, they form a healthy audience. From Parasakthi to Pasanga, people have appreciated good films. If a film is good, they are ready to make it a success. I trust them.

What are your future plans?

Two films are in the offing, one is a complete action film though it won’t be a formula film but rather realistic, something like Polladhavan. The other is an out-and-out comedy.

Have the titles and stars been finalized?

No, the titles are not finalized yet. We are speaking to some stars and they will be finalized in a few weeks.

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