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Interview Team : Kaushik L M

Darling has officially been declared as a superhit and joins the growing club of successful horror comedies in Tamil cinema. Editor Ruben was the man responsible for making the film racy and taut at just over 2 hours. Kaushik catches up with Ruben, a young editor who already has quite a few hits to his credit, in this extensive interview.

The beginning

I am a Viscom graduate and always wanted to get into the creative space as I was not into studies. My journey started from nowhere, but I always had focus on films. During my college days, I was into editing some small projects and got an interest towards it.

From the Anthony school

He has always been a big inspiration. As a college student, I approached Gautham Menon to assist as an intern, for Kaakha Kaakha. He introduced me to Anthony sir. It all started there. I learnt AVID in his studio, spent lot of time there and not at college. My assistant days with Anthony started with Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu and went till VTV and Paiyaa. Many promising current contemporaries are from Anthony sir’s school.

I spent a lot of time at Anthony sir's studio and not at college.


“My body of work”

Prabhu Deva’s co-director Mugil offered me Kanden, a rom-com and this was officially my first film. My career has spanned noted films like Muppozhudhum Un Karpanaigal, Samar, Raja Rani, Naan Sigappu Manithan, Jeeva and recently Darling. I also do a lot of theatrical trailers for the industry - films like Thoranai, Avan Ivan, Vedi, Veeram, Osthe, Aadhalal Kaadhal Seiveer, Oru Oorla Rendu Raja, Aaha Kalyanam to name a few.


Trailers and Films

A film is scripted but a trailer is different. We create a different script there, communicating the film to the audience in a span of 2 minutes. It is an interesting and challenging job. I got a lot of contacts with directors, with this process of cutting trailers. I take up trailers with a lot of interest and am known for that in the industry.

I am known for trailers in the industry.


“Editing is the art of storytelling”

Editing is simply the art of storytelling, like translating the director’s vision. In Hollywood, such art is appreciated. But people here look for gimmicks in the name of editing, that should change. A good film should be neat, shouldn’t have disturbances, needless transitions and should be smooth as silk. Audiences will connect with the film only then, and won’t get distracted. Am dead against jump cuts.
But commercial songs need gimmicks and transitions. It is treated as a music video. But when conveying a story, it should be kept smooth.

I am dead against jump cuts.


The song which worked the best for you?

Odey Odey from Raja Rani. Atlee wanted some out of the box effects as it was a peppy number but I wasn’t interested initially. Then I did few transitions at places and it worked great.

Oru Murai from Muppozhudhum Un Karpanaigal, had lots of effects too, as the producer wanted it. Am open to effects, but personally I prefer keeping it smooth and simple. I am afterall from Anthony’s school - effects are his style and he trained us in that way. Effects were common, in his songs and fights.

Effects are Anthony's style and he trained us in that way.


Genre variety

Each of my films has been in a different genre, luckily. A sports movie is something which is very rare, very few get that opportunity. I treat a film as a trailer and work towards making the content interesting. We have to keep the audience’s entertainment in mind and not get distracted. Compromises are part and parcel too, based on the directors’ and producers’ wants, both commercial and creative. An editor always wants to give a refined product but we have to keep a lot of factors in mind. It’s mutual teamwork and we have to be open to suggestions from all corners.

I treat a film as a trailer and work towards making the content interesting.


“The worth of my suggestions”

Most of my directors are open to my suggestions. I suggested that the Angyaade song be left out in Raja Rani. They were ready to spend a lot and shoot the song in Japan with a folk theme. Brinda master was also on board. But I felt that this song wasn’t needed as there was already a lot of interesting content in hand. Money was saved, as everyone understood my suggestion. I was sure of Raja Rani being a blockbuster on Day 1 itself, when I heard the script.
The opposite has also happened. Me insisting ‘NO’ but directors still going ahead and keeping the scene or segment. For example, regarding the flashback episode in Naan Sigappu Manithan, I felt that though this was part of reality, it won’t suit the family audiences. The producers and director later realized it and removed that episode in the Telugu version. The pair was just shown as being in a live-in relationship. The film was a bigger hit in Telugu, than in Tamil.
Sometimes our instinct doesn’t work too, it’s all in the audience’s hands.

I was sure of Raja Rani being a blockbuster on Day 1 itself.


Compromise-free film is possible here? 

Definitely. It is already here, in a film like say Soodhu Kavvum. Production-wise, some compromises may have been there for sure due to budget constraints, but creatively it was compromise-free. In the case of Darling, there were no financial compromises from the producer’s side. So there was a lot of responsibility on us to deliver.


With the decreasing attention span of the audiences nowadays, is the film’s runtime planned in the scripting stage itself?

If audiences are engaged throughout with good interesting content, run time isn’t an issue. Avatar, Jigarthanda and Raja Rani being good examples. Redundancy and needless ‘foreplay’ should be avoided as the audience wants to move on fast.


Post-release edits?

I don’t believe in this, films can’t be saved then. This has happened to my films too. Smoothness and flow would go for a toss in post-release edits. Everything should be pre-edited on the table.
There are focus group screenings in Bollywood and Hollywood. But here people have needless ego to show their film to others, fearing story leaks and stuff. Aamir Khan had focus group screenings for Ghajini and he made the necessary changes based on feedback. It is very healthy and should come here too. Lots can be saved.

Aamir Khan had focus group screenings for Ghajini and made the necessary changes based on feedback.


About your team?

I have 4 assistants, each taking care of certain aspects. I give them a chance to learn and experiment, and they come up with their own versions of songs and scenes. Their purpose of learning has to be served. 
Directors are also co-operative in this aspect and don’t mind my assistants working on their film. It makes my job easier too and also improves judging a film better. Before and after the final cut, I show it to them and get their feedback. They are really aware and tuned to the technical aspects. They help in that a lot.



There is a healthy scenario now, unlike the earlier days when there used to be jealousy and enmity. There is no emotional baggage now. Professionals like Suresh, Leo John Paul, Praveen KL - all of us complement each other, appreciate and help each other out. Seniors like Sreekar Prasad too are there in a common WhatsApp group which we maintain to share knowledge amongst us. We also share work and help each other out.


The Atlee factor

He had a strong, well-planned schooling with Shankar, in all aspects. Atlee stands his ground despite pressures. He is self-confident and has a good long way to go.


Vijay 59

The same technical team of Raja Rani is working on this too. It has a nice script and we have already worked extensively on pre-production. Atlee is stronger in romance and will have a nice love track, in this action film. Vijay sir is very impressed with the script.


Long travel with Vishal

From my assistant days, I have known him. He is like a brother to me, teaching me, guiding me and giving me a lot of work. He is a motivational mentor.
A few years back, he was totally commercial. Now even though as a producer he focuses on commercial films, he is also looking at good content as an actor (Naan Sigappu Manithan) and as a distributor (Jeeva). He is ready to support other actors’ films too. He is non-egoistic and his approach towards films is different now.
Interestingly, I have worked on a spoof video compiling all the comedic mishaps from Vishal’s films. He enjoys it a lot and even plans to release it on YouTube, but is holding back fearing distributors and producers (laughs).
And, he is a tough producer to handle and doesn’t compromise. It is tough to convince him. In case, I get into direction, I won’t direct my first film, at least, under his banner. But time will be the best judge.

Vishal is non-egoistic and his approach towards films is different now.


Other friends in the industry

George C Williams - A best buddy since college. We have worked in lot of projects together and he is like family to me. He recommended me for Raja Rani. We broke the myth that a young team can indeed achieve big.
Arya - He is like another brother to me and is such a sweetheart. Through Vishal I knew him, and he has also suggested me for films. You can call him anytime of the day and he will lift you instantly if you feel low.

Arya is such a sweetheart.


A request for the audience

Support good cinema, as you the audiences make or break a film. No one wants to make a bad film but it doesn’t work out sometimes. You need to respect the creators and artists as they have taken a lot of pains and efforts to reach this far. Trolling sounds funny but it definitely hurts. It’s offensive and irritating. You can definitely criticize a film, but please don’t get personal with trolling. Some self-control and maturity are needed.

Trolling sounds funny but it definitely hurts. 


Final fast cuts with Ruben

- I wish to be a director’s editor. Good wavelength with the director is a must for success.
- Piracy should be curbed.
- Fan rivalry isn’t healthy.
- Cinema should get more affordable and easy to access for the common man. Options such as DTH and C2H can be explored. Industry should take a good stand on this.
All the very best Ruben ...




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