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Interview Team : Kaushik L M; Jeevakaran

Praveen KL is among the most prolific and successful editors in the industry. There is a loyal group of directors patiently waiting for Praveen to churn out some magic at the edit table, for their films. With Venkat Prabhu’s Masss turning out to be his 50th film, the time couldn’t have been more ideal and opportune for an extensive interview session. 


50 films is quite an achievement indeed. What are your thoughts ?

It was never about doing 50 or 100 films. It so happened that before I signed up for Masss, I took a count of the films that I had done till then and Masss turned out to be the 50th. I told Venkat about this and asked him to not post on Twitter immediately before double checking (laughs). So, it was just a coincidence and doing 50 or 100 films within a certain time span was never a plan.


In an earlier interview, you had told me that your initial film edits were more like part-time endeavors. Now, you are into it for the long deal? 

Eventually I wish to get into the direction space. The long hours aren’t working out (laughs). Have to see how the next couple of years go about. 


Most of your films in the past 2 years or so have worked well at the box-office. Feeling happy about this right? 

I feel happy for sure that I am able to connect to the audience pulse. I generally don’t see Tamil films in theaters. Sometimes I feel it is a disadvantage as I feel am not aware of what’s going on in the industry. Sometimes I feel it is also an advantage as that helps me from not falling into the same trap again and again.
My directors and producers have also been kind enough to give me that space and adjust based on my schedules and commitments. I had to juggle around my commitments for Masss, Komban, Idhu Namma Aalu and Haiku, and all the directors understood my situation and let me go based on my priorities and deadlines.

I generally don’t see Tamil films in theaters.


So that means you are indispensable

Maybe the level of interest and involvement that I show for a film is making my directors feel the way they do, about me.


The films which really fulfilled you creatively in the past year or so?

Naaigal Jaakirathai was creatively fulfilling for sure. And In Thirudan Police, I wasn’t convinced about the climax. I was thinking in a regular way but the director thought in a different way, and that worked out well.
Madras is another film which I loved. We even had arguments over the film’s length, I was totally convinced about the product. For a big hero like Karthi sir to act in such a film and share the limelight with another important character, isn’t a small thing. I, in fact, first asked Karthi sir if he was going to play Kaali or Anbu. Ranjith approached it in a really raw and different way and he could pull it off almost till the end.
Ennamo Nadakkudhu was another satisfying film as we gave a totally different perspective to the film on the edit table. The team trusted my instinct and went ahead with the shoots based on my suggestions.
All the directors were very open to my suggestions and made it very creatively satisfying.
Kaaviya Thalaivan too, to a certain extent. It was a period set-up which we hadn’t been exposed to before. There was this challenge to make it interesting for the viewer. Rahman sir had composed a song for 18 long minutes. It was great to listen to, but we had to make sure that it worked on screen too. We finally condensed it to 6.5 minutes. It’s no mean feat editing his work. We approached him with some fear while editing out his songs but he was so cool and asked us to do what would serve the film the best. All his songs were trimmed on screen, compared to their length in the album. So there were challenges like this.

For a big hero like Karthi sir to act in such a film and share the limelight with another important character, isn’t a small thing.


Kaaviya Thalaivan’s below-par performance at the box-office must have been a major disappointment

It happens when you put your heart and soul into a work, and it doesn’t work out as intended. It was a big downer for the team. I was more so disappointed for Nirav Shah that his work wasn’t recognized with any award. He translated almost 95% of the director’s vision on screen, and being someone who saw the film from the rushes, his work was exemplary, be it the lighting or framing.


Coming to Masss, what is your gut feel? Is the team all gunned up?

We are all really satisfied about the film and all the crew members in the various departments are raving about it. We are keeping our fingers crossed and don’t want to talk too much about it before release. It is a good film and one of Suriya’s best. Everyone will have something to take home after seeing the film.
After Mayavi, Suriya hasn’t done such a local character. His level of dedication is immense and no wonder he is in such a level. Be it the dance movements or dialogue delivery or dubbing improvisations, it is an awesome effort from him and a learning experience for all of us.
The film has extensive VFX work and we outsourced a part of it to a Mumbai studio. Coordinating with them and their timings based on our deadlines, was another effort. 
R.D.Rajasekhar sir, Rajeevan sir and Vasuki Bhaskar have outshone their previous works and in the song Poochandi, they have created a whole new benchmark for the coming years. After editing this number, I called them all at around 3 or 4 am in the morning, woke them up and excitedly asked them to come and take a look at the footage.
This is a very new genre for Venkat Prabhu and he has done a pretty decent job. You will see Suriya in many avatars as a conman and to my knowledge, he hasn’t done a role like this. The film will have references to all of Suriya’s and Venkat Prabhu’s previous films. 
Even Nayanthara in a small role will shine, and her role will be like bridging the gaps in the story. Pranitha would also have her part in the story and will cause a changeover in the film. No one would be in the film just for the sake of it. 
And coming to Premgi, among all Venkat films this is the film with the most substantial part for Prem. He comes as a good friend of Suriya. Venkat reserves the best moments for his brother and uses his mannerisms and style well. This will be even more substantial for him than Biriyani.

Suriya's level of dedication is immense. No wonder he is in such a level.


The other films in the offing ? 

Haiku, though small, demanded a lot of work. It is a film without a script. Based on what the children did on the set, we filmed and took it forward. We have to present it in an interesting manner to the audience. Pandiraj sir wanted me more as a writer for this film and not just as an editor.
Then there is Vizhithiru, Idhu Namma Aalu, Kaaval and the prestigious Superstar - Ranjith film. But firstly, I am going to take a break for 2 months after Masss release.


Coming to the films where you gave a totally different perspective on the edit table? 

Aaranya Kaandam, Madras (climax portions). In most of the films for that matter, some innovation would be there. We aren’t there just for cutting and inserting trivially. Though these aren’t conscious efforts, it just happens. Even in Masss I feel there are scenes where I have given a different perspective. Yuvan felt that my cut had a different dimension in Masss and joked if I was taking special care for my 50th film. 
Like how directors evolve and grow with time, editors too go through that growth curve. I make sure to not repeat the effects and transitions in my films.


On the importance of run time and the film’s pace, as our audiences get too demanding and smart to please

I keep telling my directors about the importance of a crisp run time. Anything around 2 hrs 10 mins to 2 hrs 15 mins works ideally now. Beyond that, the audience’s perception towards the film changes and that restlessness shows on their experience with the film. Run time marks the difference between an Average film and a Hit film.
Naaigal Jaakirathai’s 2nd half was 42 minutes long, Ennamo Nadakkudhu’s 2nd half was 1 hour long and Thirudan Police’s 2nd half was for 58 minutes. All these films did well, in line with the expectations around them and the pacing worked to their favor.
Even if the 1st half is slightly longer, the 2nd half needs to be kept on a tight leash. We condensed Komban’s 2nd half from 1 hour 22 mins to 1 hour 2 mins. I had a long chat with Muthaiah and convinced him, citing the difference in the magnitudes of a film’s success based on the length.
I used to keep telling Venkat to make a film below 2 hours 30 minutes (Masss is 2 hours 22 minutes). For Masss, the length was part of the equation from the scripting and from the initial stages of the shoot itself. We wanted to keep it under control.
Only very rare films work despite their length, like Kanchana 2 or Thuppakki, Kaththi, Singam 2.

Run time marks the difference between an Average film and a Hit film.


But fans want to see their favorite stars that much longer on screen 

There is this perception about big hero films that they would survive and thrive despite being long. For big hero films, if the content is above average and if the length is short, then it is a guaranteed blockbuster.
May be 5 to 6 minutes extra for big hero films! Fans may have that feeling to see their hero longer on screen. But producers prefer shorter films as they are being pressurized by distributors, who want more shows of a new film in the first few days. Even for theater owners, canteen operators etc. shorter films make better business sense. There are so many players (laughs).


Is the audience’s understanding and appreciation of an editor’s work getting better now? Most of us still think that runtime and the film’s pace are solely due to the editor.

It all started with Anthony sir around 2007 - 2008 when people started recognizing an editor’s work. Before that, the word ‘editor’ was associated with a newspaper. Around 2011 - 2012 public perception got better thanks to interactions and awareness in the social media. It keeps getting better, I would say.


Is internet a boon or bane for the industry? 

A plus for sure. Only request is, journalists should wait for the film to release in theaters, before publishing their reviews. That responsibility and moral ethics should be taken up. It was done properly for Uttama Villain recently.
Regarding trolls, we have to be ready to accept brickbats along with all the appreciation. It’s not a wrong thing.


About your split with Srikanth?

We were in good terms while splitting and are still in good terms. We wanted to go our separate ways since long but stuck on somehow, due to some influence or the other. Beyond a point, we felt that the market had space to accommodate all of us as standalone editors. There were some creative differences as well. It was tough on my workload after we split, as I finished around 11 films on my own. But it was a good decision.


What sort of an impact has editor Kishore’s death caused in the fraternity? 

All of us have got that fear now. I felt really sad after his death, it was a rude wake-up call and a shocker. Though we weren’t in touch always, we did talk at times for matters concerning our union and regarding some work commitments. He always used to welcome suggestions and was very cool about inputs.
I came to know about his long hours, (20 to 22 hours in the studio) after his death. I am not that much of a workaholic but I do spend about 15 to 16 hours in the studio. At the end of the day, we have to be there for our family. No point killing ourselves, ignoring family life.
I was telling Venkat that from the next film, it has to be a 9 to 7 routine with weekend days off work. All of us have woken up to this reality after his death.

Editor Kishore's death was a rude wake-up call and a shocker.


Is editing fraught with unrealistic deadlines ?

We have to co-ordinate with all the departments and have to be on-call constantly. We editors rarely used to open up about time pressures to producers before, and managed all the work due to the deadlines. But now, we will speak up and manage our time better.


Closing words? 

Please mention editors in your write-ups, reviews and articles. When all the crew members are being mentioned, editors are sadly being left out. He makes a vital difference to a film, and he deserves one line at least. Even a small mention would be a big boost for him and his family which sees that article.
Duly noted Praveen. It was a pleasure. All the very best !!!





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