Interviewer: Inian, Jyothsna | Camera: P.Ganesh Babu | Text: Jyothsna
Director Vasantha Balan who won national and international recognition for Veyil is gearing up for his next release Angadi Theru. In this exclusive chat with Jyothsna Bhavanishankar and Inian, he opens up on a myriad of subjects including Angadi Theru. Read on to find out what makes this young director tick.


BW:
Veyil’s success must have increased the expectations on you. Was it stressful?

Vasantha Balan : I am not worried about expectations. However as a film maker I consciously work for my films to be spoken for its novelty. When Veyil was in the final stages of making, I started writing the script of Angadi Theru. During that time I did not know Veyil would bring in many awards. When I started Angadi Theru, I wanted its genre to be different from Veyil which had rural milieu and talked about a winner and a loser. At the same time, I would like my film to have feelings, emotions and speak profoundly about love and affection. I was keen to discuss the lives of people belonging to the lower strata of society. When I started my next work, I wanted it to be an honest and a successful work. There were a few negligible clichés in Veyil. And I did not want them in Angadi Theru. Coming to awards, they have led me to do a decent film without many blunders. Veyil’s international journey has taught me to avoid a certain type of flash editing as it is being viewed as a serious flaw overseas which you will not see in Angadi Theru. I have tried to portray feelings without gimmicks and have attempted to bring that magic in the shooting itself.

What are the clichés of Veyil?

Oh, they are not much and are very miniscule in nature. As a director, they would be visible only to me. It is my way of being critical about my own work. The song ‘Ooran thotathile’ is a kind of hero ‘intro’ number which is very integral to commercial films. Though this number talks about the rise of the hero and there was a small story in it, I feel it could have been avoided. I have avoided such flaws in Angadi Theru.

What is Angadi Theru all about?

Many people ask me what is Angadi. Angadi is a pure Tamil word which means market or bazaar and Theru, as is known to all, is a street. So bazaar street is the meaning of Angadi Theru. To my knowledge, there are no films on bazaar. There could be films on gangster war in a street or such stuff. But there may not be films about a business street. In our country, most of the cities have a specific street which is exclusively known for its business. In Virudu Nagar we call them ‘chinna bazaar’ and ‘periya bazaar’. In Chennai, Ranganathan street in T Nagar is the bazaar street. There is a life in all these streets which begin early in the day and goes on for long hours. Angadi Theru is a recording of such a life in a bazaar street. In Silapathigaram and many such old Tamil epics, you can find the word Angadi. I am glad that I am responsible for popularizing this word.

 

What is the strength of Angadi Theru?

The story of Angadi Theru is new and has not been told till now in any of the world films in any format. This is its specialty. The backdrop is very new and the film deals with various people in the bazaar. A market place sells many things from inanimate to animate items. In this world we all come with a bar code. Everything is for sale and only the rate differs. In such a material world,

" There are 300

newcomers in

Angadi Theru "

Angadi Theru is about a journey which seeks love. This is its strength. In addition, my background, the atmosphere and the way it is shot are new. I have shot almost 80 scenes using hidden camera. It is difficult to create such a big ambience with many shoppers. I did not create such a mood, it automatically happened. Angadi Theru speaks about survival which I think is new to Tamil cinema. The struggle for existence of a man is discussed. There are 300 newcomers in Angadi Theru which will give you a feeling of having visited Ranganathan street. It is not only the noise, not only the goods, but is the life of a thousand souls. There is a physically challenged beggar who is dropped by his mom every morning who goes on to do her job, returns in the evening to pick him. So there is a life even there. When I say a beggar, please don’t think Angadi Theru is about beggars. All along when we go for shopping, we complete our shopping list, have some refreshments and get back. We don’t think about the lives of people who are in the market place. But after Angadi Theru, you will start thinking about it too. This is the strength of Angadi Theru.

On the search of your hero Mahesh?

My story required a boy from a small village in Tirunelveli who comes to the city. So I thought why not I take someone from such a place directly. I wanted a person who speaks the local language, who has specific facial expression and has an ordinary face that has not been ravaged by beauty parlors. I liked the thrill in this hunt. In fact when I started Veyil after my first film Album, my family and well-wishers wanted me to do a formulaic commercial project. They were very apprehensive about a film that talks about a loser and tried to dissuade me. But the normal path does not excite me and I like the thrills unchartered terrains offer and I started my journey towards that thrill in search of my hero. A team of 35 people were involved in this mission and we found our man in Tirunelveli playing volleyball. He belongs to a very simple family and his dad sells small eats in a theatre. I also consider it to be a forward step in a

" A director is

the mother of

every artist"

director wherein he makes a positive difference in someone’s life. In this way, I feel a director is the mother of every artist and I am happy to have found Mahesh. I consider his success as mine. It is my deep desire that he succeeds. His face is such an ordinary, pitiable one; he need not try to show any emotion. It is simple if he comes and stands in front of the camera. This is what I needed and he satisfied my need. He coalesced with the script very well.


Why Anjali when Asins, Trishas and Nayantharas are there?

I am not doing a big commercial film to have Asin or Trisha or Nayanthara. I appreciate them in films as a fan. I wanted a heroine with a ‘girl next door’ look. When we analyze love, in most cases, the involvement will be with our next door girl or boy. The simple reason is that this is the face we bump into every day and every night. To me, a face with its minute imperfections appears very realistic. I saw Anjali in Ram and her plain Jane looks appealed to me but I chose her with a bit of trepidation because I wanted to hunt for my heroine also. But as the hero hunt itself had taken a quite a while, I decided against it. However Anjali has done a wonderful job and I am happy I chose her. She is a director’s actress who has cooperated very well. She is also a very dedicated artist.

About cinematography

In Angadi Theru, I am introducing a new cinematographer, Richard M Nathan who was K V Anand’s associate and has worked in Sivaji and a few Hindi films. Angadi Theru needed a hunting type of camera as it was full of thrills and 90% of the shooting was done at nights. I used to start around 6 in the evening and go on till 9 or 10 the next morning. It was a very uncomfortable situation where I should complete my work before the crowd starts coming in as I was shooting mostly in crowded

areas. So I needed a cameraman who will give me enough dates and I opted for Richard. When I had narrated the script to him, he brought in his test shoot which I really liked. Richard is a highly bankable person who never got unperturbed by the late night schedule. We have done a lot of hidden shoots and Richard rose up to the occasion. His visuals were much appreciated in the audio release also.

" Richard is a

highly bankable

person "


Editor Sreekar Prasad

When I desired my film to reach international standards I wanted the editing to go to the right hands and the first name that came to my mind was Sreekar Prasad. Katradu Thamizh gave me two talents, Sreekar Prasad and Anjali. His repertoire is impressive with eight coveted awards and many cross over films. His editing is seamless and I have been getting many offers to present my film in international film festivals. The value of my film goes up when Sreekar Prasad is at the helm of affairs in the editing department.

" Sneha has

come for a

big price "


About Sneha’s cameo?

It was for an advertisement campaign in the film and as Sneha does many such campaigns we wanted to cast her. And Sneha has come for a big price. It is a small role.

 

About ‘Karungali Naaye’ number which ridicules bosses.

In our various walks of life, we often come across a few characters who would constantly be nitpicking about us to our superior, be it in school or in work place. We cannot do anything and have to simply put up with them impotently. These people make our life miserable and we have to live with them as we have no choice. I get very angry with such people. So this song is for all such people to vent their powerless anger.

About Kadaigalai Pesum Vizhiyale?

It was shot at night. The couple in love is spending some time together but the man does not have a single penny to spend. All the same, he feels good because his lover is beside him. I viewed the night as an occasion which celebrates love unmindful of mundane issues. The lovers miss the last bus and consider that night to be their last night. At this juncture, I would like to draw the attention to nights of Chennai. It is the most beautiful one. Kamal Hassan once said that nights have one thousand eyes

whereas day has just one. During the day, you cannot notice anything; it is always fast paced and action packed. Nights are intensely peaceful and lend us tranquility. Even a busy street takes on a beautiful shape during nights. I somehow feel nights are hugely scented and we all go to sleep engulfed by its fragrance. I like the beauty of night and wanted a song set at that time. I shot the number for ten nights with much difficulty. The song celebrates night.

" Richard is a

highly bankable

person "

I have always observed a peculiar smell especially in very old unattended temples encompassing bats, holy ash and such things which you will not find in well maintained temple. In this song a particular line draws a parallel between this unique fragrance to that of his lover. Secondly I also find a rhythm in the revolution of the moon which has been brought beautifully in the lyrics by Naa Muthukumar. I have dedicated this number to the memory of veteran music director Salil Chaudhery. He is one of my favorites whose music has a mesmerizing and haunting quality.

Who is the villain in Angadi Theru?

Fate and life!

Would Angadi Theru also bag many awards like Veyil?

Yes, very definitely. Veyil has brought me to a different league in international cinema and people are approaching me to screen Angadi Theru. I will most certainly present my film and it would also fetch many awards.

" I do not want to be a

senior bully standing at

the gate and blocking

newcomers. "

After Veyil, why was your next venture not for S pictures?

S Pictures was started mainly with the objective of encouraging and giving an opportunity for talented newcomers. I do not want to be a senior bully standing at the gate and blocking others.


Role of Assistant Directors in cinema?

Cinema is said to be an amalgamation of 24 crafts and for a director to execute this, he needs the help of assistant directors. A director thinks but assistant director executes it. For instance, I have spent three days in a blacksmith’s place to ready the knife that was used by Indian thatha in Indian. For Angadi Theru, I wanted to find a hero but the job was done by my assistant directors Nagaraj and Prasad. Such instances are aplenty. The job

" A director thinks

but assistant director

executes it"

of an assistant director is tantamount to managing one thousand elephants. It is round the clock work. Assistant directors are the soul, blood and skin of a film but with a minimal salary. One can get a degree in film making from institutes but the nuances of film making can be learnt only by working as an assistant director. Shooting spot is tension filled area. How the director deals with a variety of atypical situations makes for a good learning. Shooting spots let you discover where to give in and where to stay firm. From today’s assistant directors only, tomorrow’s Sathyajit Rays or Mrinal Sens or Shyam Benegals will be born. In my opinion, assistant directors are the backbone of the film.

On the current trends in Tamil cinema

It is very healthy and audience tastes are expanding. A director’s main job is to develop the tastes of the audience. There was a time when people believed that no body would like to watch a sulking hero but my Veyil proved them wrong. There are no limitations. The success of films like Pasanga, Subramaniapuram, Paruthi Veeran, Nadodigal only reveal that tastes of audience can never be undermined. They seem

" Tamil cinema has

certainly improved in the

technical side, in

narration and in being

realistic."

to want something new. For the past four years, middle cinema is recording success and I am very happy to have contributed in my own way through Veyil. Tamil cinema has certainly improved in the technical side, in narration and in being realistic. This can be considered as the golden age of Tamil cinema. I am planning to organize a film festival for Tamil films here and invite delegates from around the world and showcase our masterpieces. This has been my dream and I hope to realize it next year.


Your favorite directors?

The list is long but I wish to state contemporary ones. In Tamil I like Katradu Thamizh director Ram, in Hindi Anurag Kashyap, Rock on’s Farhan Akthar, Neeraj Pandey of Wednesday fame. In the international scenario, my favorites are Majid Majidi and Alejandro Gonzalez.

What do you like in Shankar?

He is a very calm director and does not get perturbed. He is extremely hard working. Even for a minute detail, he would repeatedly work and bring the best in the screen play. He is very adept in giving the work to the right person and getting the job done. I like his grandeur visual sense. He

" Shankar’s films

are a carnival and

a true celebration. "

can make the most complicated subject also understandable to the common man through his simple narration. I like Shankar for increasing the budget of Tamil cinema to 150 crore. He is the pride of Tamil cinema and I am proud to have worked under him. Shankar’s films are a carnival and a true celebration.

Is it true that you will be directing an English film?

It is not an English film but a cross over like Slum dog millionaire. I don’t want to leave Tamil films immediately. I want to focus here and complete a couple of them. Perhaps later I will start as an experimental attempt in English. I have not made up my mind. It is true I got an offer but it may not happen immediately.

What would you want to be known as after a few years?

I want to be known as a director who gives innovative, quality films. And I don’t want to be typecast or bracketed within a framework. I want to be recognized as a director who would churn out different genres of films. I want to be a film maker with diverse works to my credit. In the olden days director Sridhar’s films were like that, each one different from others. Similarly Manivannan’s films will never be on predictable genres.

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