Sasi, who started his career in 1998 with Sollamale, has only directed eight films thus far. “It’s not about the number of movies I make; only the journey matters,” he smiles. In a conversation with indianexpress.com, the director spoke about his recent film Sivappu Manjal Pachai.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
Sivappu Manjal Pachai had mixed reviews. A section of the critics felt the film was a tad outdated.
Maybe, but my intention was never to make a perfect film. Nobody can make a film that satisfies everybody. This mama-machchan relationship hasn’t been explored much in Tamil films and I didn’t direct this to please the multiplex crowd. I knew my target audience. I knew people in Namakkal or Kovilpatti would relate to this idea more. This type of strong bond isn’t prevalent among the city youth but certain emotions will not change no matter what. At the same time, I value criticisms when they are legit. I may have gone overboard with the sentiment (smiles) but movie-watching is quite a personal experience. Do you think I don’t know my flaws? (Laughs)
Pichaikkaran happened in 2016 and Sivappu Manjal Pachai in 2019. What were you up to in the meantime?
I didn’t want to do random films. I never take up something unless I’m sure of what I want to tell. I was working in a company for eight months. I had no material to work on this mama-machchan relationship. I had to write a screenplay focusing on four different angles: akka-thambi, mama-machchan, bike-racer and a traffic cop. Bringing these different elements together was a difficult task. Had I shot the film in a rural setting, it would have been pretty easy but Sivappu Manjal Pachai was set in city backdrop. Blending of all the characters took a lot of time.
What inspired you to direct Sivappu Manjal Pachai?
Around the 90s, I had a writer-friend. His brother-in-law actually respects him so much and takes his words seriously. I found this relationship interesting and the thought kept lingering in mind. I kept track of whether someone was broaching this subject in their films; but nobody did.
As an audience, I felt that the female lead (Lijomol Jose’s character) wasn’t allowed to think on her own.
That’s not entirely true. At some point in time, she asks, “Shouldn’t I be allowed to grow?” “Shouldn’t I change?” This very much says she’s a thinking woman.
That comes much later.
I understand where you are coming from. But this is how I wanted Lijomol Jose’s character to be. Had I overdid it a bit, the tone of the story would have shifted to that of a brother-sister. I did everything I could so that people wouldn’t dismiss this as “yet another feminist film”. Sivappu Manjal Pachai is largely about the mama-machchan relationship, I reiterate.
How did you draw the line?
That was the tricky part. I had to show the sibling bond and I had to deal with the wife and husband part of the story. There were a lot of links that I had to think through and made sure it fits within two-and-a-half-hours.
Why does Siddharth’s character save his wife’s number as ‘control room’ on his phone?
It was just to endearingly show how he was being controlled by his wife. (Laughs)
Why did you cast Siddharth and GV Prakash Kumar in the film? I like how your stories are character-driven.
Thank you. I’m more open to working with actors who don’t have a particular image. First, my preference was a new artiste, but the producers wanted me to use a big actor after Pichaikkaran. I couldn’t visualise anyone as a 19-year-old boy apart from GV Prakash. I needed someone who looked like a brother with a 6-year-gap and Siddharth fit the bill. He’s never essayed the role of a cop.
It’s interesting that your films are always centered around human relationships and emotions.
In India, a person commits suicide every 4 minutes. If you ask why, it’s because they lack human relationships. Almost all the problems in the world occur because humans don’t think about others. I am a director and I want to do something about this. I can easily make a film for critics, but that’s not what I want. I’m here to make films for the common man, who vote for the wrong people and elect them to power. I want to understand their mind, priorities and thoughts. I want to educate the less-privileged and make them think. To be honest, I will never come in the “Top 5” directors’ list. I will continue to be a ‘reasonable’ director; because I know who I’m going to make a movie for.
Cinema is a mass medium but you say you take a film only for a group of audience. Don’t you think you’re compromising on your ‘sensibilities’ as a filmmaker?
I do lots of compromises and I’m happy with the choice. That’s what filmmaking or any collaboration is all about. Don’t we all compromise? You win some, you lose some. It depends on what you want; what you’re willing to lose.
Critics celebrated Poo, but it didn’t fetch producers for my next film. I guess I am a little scared. I don’t want my producers to incur losses. You can never expect a ‘bad film’ from me. I might get the film wrong, but I can guarantee, it won’t be bad. I will never make a film that conveys a wrong message.
Could you elaborate more?
I want to make films that have a strong message. Also, I want them to be accepted by everyone. Writer Tamilsevan says “those who suffer the most, don’t even know why they suffer”. I want to work for people who suffer. I don’t believe in God but in Pichaikkaran, I made Vijay Anthony, a believer. In Sivappu Manjal Pachai, Siddharth was an atheist but believes in honesty and wants to be honest with his wife. This bit is similar to the relationship my wife and I share. There is a lot of Sasi in all of my characters.
What does a good film mean to you?
Let me elaborate with an example: Paruthiveeran and Mozhi got released on the same day. I liked Mozhi and it’s a better film. But in general, people liked Paruthiveeran more. Why was the film a huge hit? Why would this woman fall for a rowdy knowing he’s a rowdy? Why would you hoot in theatres for the violence? The answers sum up the mindset of your average movie-going crowd.
I don’t know about other directors, but for every film, I have a certain target audience in mind. Sivappu Manjal Pachai’s response has picked up in the second week.
If someone tells me he has 4-5 bound scripts, I get scared. Because it’s not possible. To complete one film itself, a director has to go through hell. (Laughs)
Have you ever thought of directing a ‘star’?
I don’t believe in heroism. But a friend told me that every human being has a bit of a hero in them. I’ve not come to terms with it completely, but I liked what Vinoth did with Ajith in Nerkonda Paarvai.