Gautham Vasudev Menon
Interviewer : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar & Inian | Camera : Balaji | Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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There could not have been a better day than Valentine’s Day to meet director/producer Gautham Vasudev Menon who gives a fresh hue to romance in his films. But this time around, he does a complete volte-face with Nadunisi Naaygal, touted to be a psychological thriller for an extremely mature audience. In an exclusive chat in his aesthetically done office (white and red walls) overlooking the Bay of Bengal, Gautham talks and Jyothsna Bhavanishankar and Inian listen.

What is the inspiration behind Nadunisi Naaygal?

There is no inspiration as such to make this film. I just wanted to make something very different from my earlier films. I am yet to foray into this particular domain although I did a little bit of this type in Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu. However I haven’t ventured something so blatant and hard core before and thought this time around let me tread down that route. That’s about it.

I am comfortable with Sameera

Cast of Nadunisi Naaygal

Veera has been with me for the past 4-5 years and has worked with me in the production and direction side. His body language was useful to me while I was scripting NN. There is some kind of quest in him which I have used in the film. I am, of course, comfortable with Sameera, as I have worked with her in Vaaranam Aayiram and I know there would not be any date issues. She is also a very dedicated and hard working artist. In addition to them, I have introduced Deva who has acted as a police officer in the film. I am sure Deva is here to stay; he is young and will do really well. Swapna is a musician who has done the important role of Meenakshi in the film. The cast is not complete without Ashwin, a notable new find.

NN has no music. Your comment?

When I was writing the script, I knew that it has to be scored in a particular fashion. Generally, in films like these, music will play a major role in augmenting the fear factor. I saw there was a short division of music in the script itself. So, I thought why not go ahead without music and that’s the reason I have done NN without music.

Don’t you think films with a strong content will influence the impressionable minds in a wrong way?

The extent of cinema influencing someone is debatable. It is wrong to believe the components of cinema will work in real life too, both in a positive and negative way. Someone is not going to change their ideas or beliefs just by watching a Mahatma Gandhi film. I am sure and I also believe that not even 1% will jump to the other side just by watching films. All that I want to say is such people (psychologically affected) do exist and there are such prevalent issues and have cautioned women because there could be danger lurking even within known people. Hence, know your friend! This is the underlying thought of NN.

Having said that, NN is a very hard film and it will be disturbing. It is an adult film and people under 18 should not be encouraged to watch it. I have worked on a doctor’s files and am aware of such incident but not in Chennai. I have set NN in Chennai which is the only fictional element in the film. I would also like to mention that all those who are psychologically affected are not violent or cruel but they are also docile which again, I have mentioned in the film. So it is a little bit of everything.

What is the status of Hindi VTV?

We have completed the pre-production work. I have got the songs from Rahman also. Javed Akthar has penned the lyrics. We start the Hindi VTV shoot on April 4th with Prateik Babbar and Amy Jackson in the lead.

We start the Hindi VTV shoot

on April 4th

Why Prateik and Amy?

I liked something about Prateik. He has also been receiving appreciation for his work especially in Dhobi Ghat. Amy Jackson looks apt for a new girl. We have given her an Indian look and have worked. Hopefully it will come out well.

Is there any change in Hindi VTV script to suit the audience there?

No, there are no changes. We have set the film in Mumbai but the essence is the same.

Who is doing Ganesh’s role in Hindi VTV?

His role alone is not yet finalized.

On Photon Kathas

I am in the industry for the last 10 years and it is my long cherished dream. Recently I met some good people like Venky and Reshma who helped me set up Photon Kathas. They are the ones who showed me this path. Today I am listening to many scripts and am ready to produce the ventures of other directors. It was my dream not only to produce and direct my own films but also to produce films for others. I am very happy about it.

A selfish motive of owning good music of others was the reason for Photon Kathas to diversify into the audio segment also. I love music and want to hear a lot of music. As regards Photon Kathas, it is a corporate structure with structured funds and we work with bound scripts. There is a creative team that plans and executes projects. We have finished Anjana’s Veppam and Suseendiran’s Azhagar Saamiyin Kudirai. Ram’s Thanga Meengal is going on now. These three projects have been planned meticulously with scripts and the creative team executed the shoot based on the script. Now the marketing team is involved in discussions in promoting the film. It is a good setup and I am happy to be a part of Photon Kathas.

Ram’s Thanga Meengal brought

tears to my eyes

What makes you agree to a project of a newcomer?

First, it is the story. I listen to the story like an audience. If I like it, then others will check out for budgeting, selection of artists and financial viability. I don’t get into that. Of course, I know what’s going on. In fact when I heard Ram’s Thanga Meengal story, I had tears in my eyes. Therefore it occurred to me that audience also will also have a similar feel and I decided to go ahead. Venky and Reshma stepped in and worked the budget for the film. Revathy from my direction team is the executive producer of the film. As a creative team, handling production is very important. There is nothing like new script or new director. If the script is good, then we’ll do the film.

Who chose Ilayaraja for Azhagarsaamiyin Kudirai?

It was entirely Suseendiran’s idea. Even at the stage when we received the script, Suseendiran had decided on Ilayaraja and the cast. We listened to the story, liked and commissioned the project.

On Thamarai, a permanent fixture in your films

It’s a decade’s association with Thamarai. Barring Nadunisi Naaygal, on all the projects that I did, Thamarai is generally involved right from the script stage. I would discuss the script with her; explain the visuals and the situation. And I would get the lyrics. I am very comfortable working with her. I think Thamarai is one of the best.

What stage of film making do you find yourself in now?

I still think, my next film is my first film. It has been tough. When I was making the film (NN), I did not think about the type of the audience it would reach. However, now when the film is ready for release, I am anxious, I go through this nervous state and get inside my shell. People who are close to me know this. After NN, I will be starting VTV Hindi and then I think about what next in Tamil. I always have this anxiety in me. I work as though I am working for my first film. Even though it has been ten years and I have a production company today and a certain name which I have earned in this period and my films are being liked by producers, theatres owners, distributors and section of the audience, I still think I am making my first film.

I still think my next film is my first


I don’t put in special efforts for

my dialogues to sound realistic

Natural dialogues in your films are your forte. How do you manage this?

Well, it is not something that is cultivated or strived for. In fact whenever I start a film, I would toy with the idea of asking someone else to write. It is only after meeting some writers and realizing that my sensibilities don’t meet with theirs or when I can’t relate to their idea, I start writing. VTV was one script I decided I would do it right away. I took Kaakha Kaakha to many writers, came back and did it myself. I don’t think of dialogues as a separate component and write it along with the screenplay. And dialogues will flow along with the progress of the scene. I don’t put in special efforts for my dialogues to sound realistic. But most of the dialogues are inspired from what I see or hear in real life and what people around me speak. Perhaps that’s why dialogues in my films appear very natural.

Do you fix your characters and loop your narrative around them?

No, I just go along with the flow of the script. Interestingly, it was only for Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu, where I fixed the categorization of the character because I know Kamal sir was playing the role. That aside, it entirely depends on the mood and feel of that particular moment when I am writing. It is like the genesis of a tune from a musician out of thin air when he just touches a musical instrument. I had no idea what I was doing when I started writing Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya. It was borne out of a simple statement, ‘ulagathula evvalavo ponnunga irukkumbodu, naan yen Jessya love pannen?’ (When there are many women in the world, why did I love Jessy?). It has always been like that and I never fix characters.

In 4 of your 6 films in Tamil, either the first love does not end in marriage or the women die. Your take?

I know it is a pattern but was never intentional. It just happened.

When your clichés are liked, do you still want to retain them or come out of them?

No No, I want to come out of them. Some people may like it and some may not. A filmmaker’s specialty should be difference in every film, genre and premise. That’s why I have done Nadunisi Naaygal. But of course, Nadunisi Naaygal is an extreme step and normally people would not attempt such a project. But I did it and I want to make something different every time.

Nadunisi Naaygal is an extreme


What is your take on multi-starrers in Tamil?

Nobody other than Shankar can do multi-starrers in Tamil. Here, heroes won’t agree to work like that in the belief that they have individual markets and limits. Multi-starrers will not happen here.

Is there anything in Tamil film industry that you feel should be changed or improved?

It is about release, distribution and marketing for me. I feel we are still caught up in Tamil Nadu alone with just a couple of prints. This should change. Our work should be seen by people all over the world, not only Tamil speaking people across the globe but also others. There are not many takers to subtitle the work to make it reach widely. And also filmmakers are keen to release their film immediately after completing the shoot and post-production work. Marketing is needed vigorously to promote a film which is lacking here. Appropriate support from producer side is also essential on this aspect. However one cannot blame the producer as the interest rates are very high (36%) and it is only logical that they want to release the film as early as possible. I would be happy if such things are improved.

Will you do a project with Ajith?

I don’t mind working with Ajith but I don’t know if he will wok with me.

Who would you like to work again with - Kamal, Simbhu, Maddy?

Very definitely Simbhu, Kamal sir and Suriya. I always would love to work with these three.

I might do a Malayalam film this


You have not done any Malayalam film. Do you have such plans in the future?

I might do a Malayalam film this year. I have spoken to people. It could happen by this year end.

How do you select your Assistant Directors?

I want them to be educated first which brings about the taste. There are people who want to take this route of assistant director to become actors. I don’t like it and don’t encourage it. I would like them to be focused on film making alone which I am particular about. That aside, I don’t have a great selection process. Whatever I feel at that moment and how they come across to me at that point matters. There are many film makers today and only 10 in 100 stands out. It is this ten who are able to communicate their vision to the artists and make the kind of film that they are convinced about. I take people based on what they speak at that moment, their ideologies and vision. If I am convinced I take them in.

I want my assistant directors to

be educated

You have bought Kalavani remake rights. What languages are you remaking it?

We bought the rights and gave it to somebody in Telugu and somebody in Kannada. We are still holding onto Hindi rights.

I am planning to revive

Chennaiyil Oru Mazhaikaalam

very soon

What about Chennayil Oru Mazhaikaalam?

Yeah… it will happen sometime. First time around I dropped it because I was not happy with the script. Then, I realized that the actors were young and they needed to be trained. I am planning to revive it very soon.

How do you destress?

My three boys at home are the major stress busters. Just a few moments with them and I forget all those film based issues. Besides that, I like to travel, read a lot, watch films, and listen to music. But it’s mostly the kids.

How do you balance your family and professional life?

I am struggling hard to do that. It gets crazy at the post production stage. I start very early and by the time I get back home, it is almost 2 in the morning. I don’t see my family at all during those days. I am struggling hard to find the balance.

Have you at any point in time repented your decision of entering the film industry?

No, never! Of course I have met very tough people and have worked with bad people. But I have never thought why I came into the industry because I have come into this field with a lot of passion and heart. Nobody forced me to do this. It’s not like I had a film producer dad who wanted me to enter the industry. I gave up something to get into this and I am very sure what I want in this industry. Although the times have been tough, the thought of why I ever came into this industry has never crossed my mind.

Tags : Gautham Vasudev Menon, Nadunisi Naaygal, Chennaiyil Oru Mazhaikaalam, VTV, Ajith
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