Both Bala and Ameer singled him out as an assistant director who stood out and showed promise. Making his debut with Subramaniapuram, a movie praised for the way it authentically resurrects Madurai in the 80s, Sasi beat every other director at Kollywood by introducing the first promo video for a movie.

Such is his cool confidence that though the song and the video was a hit, he refused to use it in the movie. “Stars do not make a movie, he declares here boldly, “they only bring the audience to the theatre. Once inside the hall, it is the script and the director’s skill that holds the audience’s attention”. Behindwoods found it a pleasure to talk to a filmmaker whose answers were honest, always interesting, and very insightful.

BW: Tell us about yourself, your life and journey to cinema before Subramaniapuram happened.

I am basically from Puthuthamaraipetti, a small village in Madurai. My grandparents used to be a farmer and my parents still live in Madurai where my family has many small and different trades. But I spent most of my childhood years at the St.Peter’s boarding school in Kodaikkanal. My college days, however, were spent in Madurai, doing my bachelor degree in business administration. My entry into cinema was through my uncle Kandasaamy who was the producer of Sethu. It was through him that I met my mentor Bala and joined as an assistant on the sets of Sethu where Ameer was one of the assistants. So, I got to know Ameer and assisted him in Mounam Pesiyadhe and Ram. It was during the initial phases of Paruthiveeran that I began the groundwork for my debut, and thus had to leave Ameer.

Why a photo of Va Vu Chidambaram in the movie?

Not really. The photo of Va Vu Chidambaram does appear but it doesn’t have any special significance. It could have been anyone else…. R.D.Burman or Mahatma Gandhi. There is nothing to be read into Va Vu Chidambaram’s photo appearing in the movie, no statement on any issue is intended.

What was your inspiration to go in for novel techniques?

Well, I am not quite sure where it came from but I found it necessary when I was writing the script. Introducing 5 or 6 separate characters to the audience in a sequence may lead to boredom and I wanted to do it in a way that would captivate the audience, hence the smooth transitions at unexpected and unusual points. It might have come from my mentors or from some movie that I have seen earlier.

Why did you choose to produce the film yourself?

I was making my debut with Subramaniapuram, so obviously it would have been difficult to get the confidence of a producer right away. Secondly, the subject I had in hand was a period drama which is generally conceived to cost more in production and finally I planned to cast new faces, barring a couple. All these factors put together would have turned off a producer who would tend to look at the business side of things. So, I decided to take it upon myself to make the movie.

How were you able to recreate the entire 80s Madurai ambience so well?

This was the first thing that I did when I planned Subramaniapuram. I started collecting old photos, banners, boards of shops and looked into them, found the style of writing of that period. I searched the Internet a lot for photos of the 80s. I also looked into the wedding photo albums of the 80s, especially the photos where the wedding party walked along the streets, which gave me a clear picture of how the roads looked like, the kind of vehicles one would have seen and all that. We pieced all this together to get the 80s feel.


I started collecting old wedding photos, banners, boards of shops to recreate a 80s Madurai.

One thing that I don’t like about Ameer is how stubborn he can get about things, and how stingy he is with compliments.


One thing that you do not like about Ameer?

That’s a difficult one. (Pauses). One thing that I don’t like at times is about how stubborn he can get about things. But it is this habit of his that has got me to the position that I am in today. It is from him that I learnt where and how to put your foot down on certain issues to ensure that things go exactly the way you want them to. Another thing that I remember is just how stingy he can be with compliments. In all the years that I have been with him, he has never acknowledged a good effort with a pat on the back, but he is prompt to point out mistakes. But that, too, in a way has helped me deal with success with a level head. The only time that he has praised me is during the audio release of my movie. He had not spoken a word of it to me before that but his words during the function felt like an award for me. He was also very generous with his praise after seeing the movie.

One thing that you like about Bala

He is a man of few words, he observes, makes movies and lets them speak for him. His movies may appear rough but he is a calm man. Another thing that I love about him is the genuine appreciation that he gives. After watching my movie he was heartfelt in his words of appreciation, there was no senior-junior ego anywhere. It came from within and I felt it.


Bala is a man of few words, he observes, makes movies and lets them speak for him.

James Vasanthan was my music teacher in high school and I told him one day I’ll make him a music composer.


Why did you choose James Vasanthan when you had so many other options?

I being a newcomer felt a bit apprehensive to approach an established music director. I was not sure whether they would listen to me and give me what I wanted. I have known James Vasanthan for a long time, he was my music teacher in school. I have often quipped that I would make him a music director when I made a film. He wanted to become a composer long before but this is how things turned out finally. Most importantly, the both of us shared vibes, we were able to communicate.

What’s your take on film critics, especially those who give marks for movies? Are they fair?

If the audience likes a movie then nothing can stop it from becoming a hit, nothing else matters.

Did the censors snip off any portion of the movie?

Indeed, some of the violent scenes, especially the scene where the head is chopped off. The censors were particularly harsh on this scene, cutting off a good portion of it. But it is that scene that the audience seems to be connecting to.


If the audience likes a movie, then critics can’t stop it from becoming a hit

Doesn’t screen violence propagate aggression, especially amongst youngsters?

I am not sure about other movies, but I can tell you that my movie will certainly not have that influence. I have shown the consequences of being violent. Even rowdies of Madurai have come to me after watching the film and told me that the movie shows exactly how they got trapped in the web of violence. We have shed light on the dark lives of the young people caught up in violence.

You shot an expensive and stylish promo song. Why didn’t you use it in the movie?

The promo song was made exactly for that purpose- promotion only. We did not intend to use it in the movie, even after it became quite a hit. This is the first time in Tamil cinema that a song has been shot exclusively for promotion. The song is totally disconnected from the movie. It has a far more contemporary look, a snazzy feel that will rob the movie of its flow. That’s why I did not use it, even in the end credits.

Will films grounded in reality always succeed?

Definitely, there are no two ways about that. Films that deal with human emotions can always connect to the audience and will always succeed.

What made Bala and Ameer say they felt good seeing you first thing in the morning?

This happened during the days of Sethu. I was very young then and had a lot of good habits like getting up early. I used to take my bath, smear sandal paste across my forehead and look very pious, maybe he liked that. Now, he is surprised that I have left behind those habits.

How many days did the making of Subramaniapuram take?

We finished the shooting in 85 days.

What does your movie have to offer that is different?

I have never said anywhere that my movie is different. The story is one that has been said before, so are most of the stories, but what sets a movie apart is the script. I have tried to present the events in an interesting sequence, in a manner that does not lose touch with reality and the audience liked it a lot.

Why did you choose a girl from Andhra Pradesh, not from Tamil Nadu as your heroine?

Initially, I too wanted to cast a Tamil girl. But the girls that I found suitable for the character were not willing to act. That is when I noticed this girl as Trisha’s sister in Selvaraghavan’s Telugu film Aadavari Maataluku Aradhalu Verule. First, it was tough to convince her for the role. She felt uncomfortable with the language and the set up. But, after a face to face meeting and a discussion she agreed. There were some initial hassles, but once she settled she did a fine job and brought out the character better than I expected.

Why do directors who make fantastic debuts tend to tail off in their subsequent ventures?

The first is always the best. When a director makes his debut, he gives out the best story that he has written so far to get a foothold in the industry. What follows later are ideas that he already had but which he knew are not as good as the first one. Then there is also a problem of expectations. A debutant director carries no load of expectations. But once he has made a good movie, he is expected to deliver the same, if not better goods. The expectations may tend to make a movie look inferior. Finally there might be a problem in the way success is handled. People may want to do the next film as soon as possible, get some big stars, make a big movie, sign a good contract etc. There is a chance of losing sight of one’s actual goal, making good movies.


Once a director makes it big, there’s a chance of losing sight of one’s actual goal: making good movies.

You have taken on three big responsibilities as a debutant in your first film. Why?

When a director acts, there can be only two reasons behind it. The unavailability of an actor who can carry off the role or the innate desire to act. Any of these can make a director take up acting and most of the time directors turned actors are accepted by the audience very easily. This is because they look more like the common man, not having handsome faces and chiseled features like a screen hero.

The moment a director steps in as an actor there is a danger of self-indulgence taking over.


Balu Mahendra has said that a director should stick to being a director, what’s your take?

I agree. The moment a director steps in as an actor there is a danger of self-indulgence taking over. The screenplay might be compromised for the individual. Characters must be made for the story and not vice-versa. To ensure this, maybe a director should stick to being a director. I cannot but agree.

Many assistant directors are waiting for opportunities, why don’t they get openings?

The major reason is the attitude of producers who are ready to produce films only if they have stars in them, irrespective of whether they like the story or not. The only thing they want to know is whether any leading star has agreed to act in the script. Getting the dates of stars is not a director’s responsibility, it is part of the producer’s job and unless they get out of this mindset, assistant directors will find the going tough.

What do you feel about your three roles?

I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. Producing the movie was the biggest risk, and above that I was directing the movie and another actor’s absence forced me to act. Now, realizing that I have succeeded on all three fronts feels very good. The audience has accepted my performance as an actor and my skills as a director. But success has not swept me off my feet, I now feel even more apprehensive about my next venture.

Which are the locations at which the film was shot?

We shot at Madurai, Tiruppur and Coimbatore. 

Stories about thugs are overused, yet you have used such a subject.

First let me clarify that this is not a story about thugs or goons. The movie is about a few youngsters without a proper education who are dragged into the web of violence for easy money. I have shown what life will be like for these young people once they are stranded in the dark world. This is something that has been acknowledged by a few young people akin to characters in my movie. It is about how society and political powers manipulate hot blooded youngsters.

There is a strong star system in force in Tamil cinema, your take on that.

The star system has been in place for a long time and will continue to be so. But stars do not make a movie. They only bring the audience to the theater. Once inside the hall, it is the director’s skill that holds the audience’s attention. A star can increase only the face value of a film, not its quality.


But stars do not make a movie. They only bring the audience to the theater.

How did the idea of casting Samudrakani come about?

I have known him since the days of Ram and I felt that his Madurai slang and curly hairstyle would be perfect for the character. So, after one month of not visiting the barber shop, he was ready for the role. Most importantly, he came to me as only an actor and not a director, this made matters very easy.

I wanted to do at least one good film and I have done it.


Do you want to continue as an actor or a director?

I came to cinema to be a director. I wanted to do at least one good film and I have done it. Everything else is a bonus. But Samudrakani who helped me by acting in my movie has asked me to return the favor, and that will happen soon.

Your next movie?

I need some time before I get it on the floor. It will again be a subject on youngsters and will be full of new faces and I will not be part of the cast. It may start by January next.

Any other plans for Subramaniapuram?

Yes, we are working on the English subtitles for entry into some international film festivals. Hopefully, it should come out well.

Director - K.v. Anand Actress Tamanna Cinematographer - Ravi varman Actress Divya Director Perarusu