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Interview Team : Kaushik L M

Editor Leo John Paul is among the most talented young technicians in the industry. He has completed 10 films in a very quick span of time and is gunning for more.

Leo opens up to Behindwoods for his first ever interview. Catch the young man in an interesting, insightful conversation with Kaushik.


How it all began? 

In 2006, I completed my Masters in Visual Communication and was looking for an opportunity with Anthony sir. I had worked on lot of short films, documentaries and music videos. I had interest in many film-making aspects but editing gave me the most satisfaction. All the aspects and dimensions of filmmaking are covered in editing and a lot of thought is involved. We can choreograph even acting through editing and hence I narrowed down to editing.

I happened to approach Gautham sir after graduation and got an opportunity to work on spot editing for Vaaranam Aayiram. I got acquainted with Anthony sir and he took me on after being impressed with my work. I worked on the full film and also on Chennaiyil Oru Mazhaikaalam, which is still on hold.

Kadhal 2 Kalyanam was my debut project. My friend and mentor Milind Rau was the director and I had known him since a long time. He called me to work in his direction department but I was interested in working on the editing. He placed confidence in me and gave me the chance, in 2007. We are still hopeful of the release. I believe it’s my best work till date. I had full liberty in that project and it had such a big, celebrated technical crew. I am not sure if I would get such a good offer again. I waited for long after K2K.

Then Attakathi happened and released in 2012. Director Ranjith was impressed with my work and took me onboard. The entire team was new and we all believed that Attakathi’s story had a life and that it will work. Ranjith managed such a new team beautifully and pulled off the challenge. It is a project which is very close to my heart. As a team, all of us worked on the marketing aspects such as the posters and promos. Studio Green acquired the project and all of us got a big break. My travel with C.V.Kumar began then and has continued till date. He has strong belief in my capabilities and I have had many healthy discussions with him. He also provides me my space and freedom to work.

I worked on spot editing for Vaaranam Aayiram


Are you happy with your space and standing in the industry now?  

Sarabham is my 10th film. There has been no gap between all my films and I have been totally engaged. CV Kumar sir deserves a lot of credit for keeping me occupied with such quality work. All my projects were done with a lot of heart.

Each project has been a learning curve as I have worked with different directors. I have also evolved after handling so many different people and have become professional after all this practical learning.

I am continuing to learn, from all the directors that I am working with.


What are your current projects?

Mundasuppati is ready for release. We have touched upon a myth, superstition in a comic manner. We had highlighted it in the trailer too. We have portrayed a village replete with fun and superstitions. The film would be a laugh riot and has all commercial aspects.

It’s basically a photographer’s travel in this village. Watch out for Muneeshkanth’s character. It’s the lengthiest among all my films till date but every scene is needed for the story. We didn’t rush it up as we didn’t want to curb the enjoyment factor.

Sarabham is an interesting crime drama with a gripping core aspect. The director Arun Mohan is a close friend of mine and a former assistant of Gautham Menon. I liked his idea and referred him to CV Kumar and he was also thrilled and the agreement was signed immediately. In this particular film, we planned for the edits all along right from the pre-production stage itself. I am excited to see how the audience takes to it.

Mundasupatti would be a laugh riot


What are your thoughts on film editing?

Editing is all about story telling. Every cut involves a lot of decision making. It involves a lot of layered work and I am still learning it. The edit should be in line with the director’s vision and the movie’s flow.


What is your working style? 

First I listen to the story, and then have healthy discussions with the director related to the story. Improvisations and enhancements will happen later during the edits, based on this discussion and what has been shot.


How have all your directors shaped your journey thus far? 

A lot of psychological aspects are involved and I have become more patient. With each director, I start from scratch and approach it like it is my first film so that I can be open to their working style and thoughts. Save a few, most of my films had debut directors and this approach has helped me to have a good working relationship with all my directors.


The films which really challenged you and also were rewarding

Soodhu Kavvum involved a lot of research and extensive, multilayered work. It is very close to my heart. There was a certain rhythm in my edit and it was in sync with the sound design and the BGM. This really aided the screenplay’s pace.

Nalan is a very well-planned director. He planned his shots and scenes with an eye on the edits. It was very challenging for me and I explored a lot in his movie, I am actually his fan. Nalan thinks from the common man’s perspective even though his ideas are new and path breaking.  

Pizza got me a very good name for the gripping story telling. We focused a lot on the story telling and the recognition was great.

Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara was also challenging as it involved a lot of characters and had multiple stories and perspectives.

Nalan is a very well-planned director


How do you go about cutting teasers and trailers?

Attakathi and Pizza had fresh teams, and there was lots of responsibility on the publicity and marketing material. We had to pull in the audience with the promotional material such as posters, teasers and trailer. I always focus on this aspect as our audience can’t be cheated.

Attakathi’s posters and trailers attracted Studio Green who acquired the movie and released it big. Pizza’s posters and trailer attracted the attention of Sangam Cinemas, who then released the movie.

By the time Soodhu Kavvum released, Vijay Sethupathi’s star power had bloomed and it was easier to market the film.

In the case of Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara, the producer Raj Kumar sir appreciated me personally before settling my final payment, that the teaser and trailer helped him a lot to market the film and do business.

By the time Soodhu Kavvum released, Vijay Sethupathi’s star power had bloomed


How do you approach editing songs? 

My style is that there should be some choreography in my edit patterns, even if the song doesn’t have any choreography.

Montage songs are a big challenge, while dance numbers are comparatively easier to edit. The ‘Raathiri’ song in Pizza and ‘Rasa Magarasa’ in Mundasupatti’ were few examples where the edits had a major role in utilizing the songs even better.

Positioning of songs is really important. It shouldn’t stop the story’s flow and the narration of the film. 


Does producer CV Kumar contribute to the edits and the other technical aspects of a film?

CV Kumar is a good reader and he chooses only strong content. There will be something new in his films. He also feels that people should relate to the film and understand the concept easily. Lots of discussions are involved and he also monitors edits continuously.

CV Kumar puts a lot of thought into deciding his technical teams. He gives space to each of the technicians, to utilize their work better. He has introduced a lot of new technicians. I have been his first priority when it comes to editors and I have worked in all his productions till date. We have a good relationship and there is a certain comfort zone.

He strongly believes in team work and is one among the very few Indian producers who gives a lot of importance to quality control.

CV Kumar is one among the very few Indian producers who gives a lot of importance to quality control


The ‘Why this Kolaveri’ experience 

Before film editing, I worked on a lot of promotional material for Sony Music South. I have worked on many music videos which later went viral. Thanks to Ashok Parwani sir who kept me busy when I was my idle before coming into mainstream film editing.

In 2011, I worked on ‘Why this Kolaveri’ and it was a very casual attempt. The shoot was for a very short duration and we did a lot of matching in the edit suite. Overnight we shot, edited and uploaded online and in a day it became sensational.

It started like an interview with Dhanush, but he got into the groove gradually and started improvising and became totally involved in the whole process.

Anirudh’s song and Dhanush’s screen presence worked big time along with Shruti Haasan and even the studio’s color. Things fell in place just like that and the reach and reception were unbelievable.

Anirudh’s song and Dhanush’s screen presence worked big time


The common man’s awareness of editing 

We can’t expect the common man to appreciate editing. They can understand it overall but can’t notice the intricacies.

People can relate easily to music and photography as they travel with it in their daily lives. That’s not the case with editing.

But of late we can see people noticing and commenting on all filmmaking aspects in depth. Every common man has started commenting and reviewing nowadays in the social media networks.


How is the recognition for editors in the industry? 

I feel that there should be recognition given based on the quality and credibility of work, and not just on seniority. That is the case in Hollywood where editors and their work are held in great esteem. Bollywood is also following suit. Here too, there are some sensible people who accord great respect to editors.

When such respect and credit is given to the quality of our work, it will encourage us to deliver even more.


What are the films which you like and admire as well-edited films?

There are many examples. Aaranya Kaandam, Aaytha Ezhuthu, Kaakha Kaakha, Kushi, Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu, Engeyum Eppodhum, Eeram

After watching Kaakha Kaakha, I decided to join Anthony sir. It was new, and even the jump cuts were in line with the story and narration. Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu was stylish and perfectly presented.

Eeram had a simple concept but it was gripping. Editing and photography blended really well in the movie.

After watching Kaakha Kaakha, I decided to join Anthony sir


Your inspirations among directors and editors

Murugadoss sir and Gautham sir among the directors.

Anthony sir and Sreekar Prasad sir among the editors.


Preferred genres

Adventure, action and fantasy are some of the genres which I really prefer. 


Plans beyond editing?

Every creative person in cinema has an eye to direct a film. Before editing films I have done short films on my own but now it’s not the right time for me to jump over to direction.

I have to do at least 25 films as an editor and need to explore more, cross more levels and stages.

All the very best, Leo



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