Kaushik L M



''Being a Kamal Haasan fanatic, I didn't hesitate one bit'', Kayal, Chandran


After the release of Kayal a few days back for Christmas, the debut lead actor Chandran has been quite the cynosure of all eyes. His impressive performance has been noted and audiences have also pointed out a resemblance in him to Vaaranam Aayiram’s bearded, long-haired Suriya. In this chat with Chandran, I discover more about him and on all the miles that have gone into his journey to the silver screen.
The roots leading to Kayal
“I am based in Chennai and graduated from the Vivekananda college. From my first year in college, I got a huge interest in cinema. Even after my post-grad, my heart and soul was always in films. During a 6 months’ break, I packed my time with auditions but it didn’t help. I was also prominent in the theater space and in short films. I must have done about 10 to 15 of them and also directed a few. 
Then to financially equip myself, I took up jobs in the FM space and also with Sathyam cinemas for about a year. I attended auditions attired formally, and this got me weird looks. One day I decided to quit for good and take the plunge, full time. For about a year, I slogged. My family and friends offered me full support in all aspects. Then Kayal finally happened. The auditions bore fruit!”
Breaking the middle-class myths about cinema
“I belong to an orthodox, middle-class set up. My family always had a myth and a taboo about films. It took me about 3 to 4 years to break that, and prove to them that I wasn’t interested in the conventional way. They gradually started believing that I was really serious, when I quit my job. But they asked me to keep a time frame due to the typical middle class issues such as marriage dilemma and stuff (laughs).”
The Kamal Haasan factor
“Kamal Haasan is my icon and inspiration. From Avvai Shanmughi to Vishwaroopam, I have never missed a FDFS of his films. I have experienced Kamal sir’s acting school all along. Keeping my fingers crossed to meet him. Film was my only option, my passion. I also never used to miss films of the other heroes and directors.”
From Chandran to Aaron
“I attended the auditions of Kayal in a well-kempt look. I was asked to sport the ‘lungi’ and  ‘mundas’ and was tested in the Madurai, Tirunelveli slang. The photoshoot, screen-test took about 3 hours in all. I was ready for a character role too, but when I was selected for the main role, it didn’t sink in that I was indeed selected. I slowly realized it. The director made me rugged and on his instruction I got the ‘Kayal Aaron’ makeover - the vintage Mynaa, Kumki look of his male leads.”
The travel involved
“We shot the film across India in never seen before locales. From Leh, Ladakh to Rajasthan’s Ajmer, Pushkar to the North East’s Shillong, Cherrapunji - Bangladesh border to Kanyakumari, Madurai, Virudhunagar, Mayavaram down South.
Everyone wishes to travel but materialistic commitments and responsibilities hold us back. The character that I play here is a nomad who has no commitments and loves to back-pack. He believes in the ‘6 months work, 6 months freak-out’ mantra.”
Fresh faces to add to the charm
“Kayal is populated by all fresh faces. Vincent from Norway is like the second lead and takes care of the comedy element. He is like a real brother to me now. Lot of other fresh characters would be there throughout. Kayal is Anandhi’s 5th and she is technically a senior to me. DoP Vetrivel Mahendran also makes his debut.”
The relevance of the title
“I believed in the good script that Kayal had, and had no pangs about acting in a film which was named after its female character. The title is well-justified too. The scene of action Kanyakumari is the only spot where we can spot a variety of fish called ‘kayal’. Plus the female character has big expressive eyes (again kayal).”
Education from Prabhu Solomon
“From King to Kokki to Laadam to Lee, I have followed his career closely, seeing all these films (an ‘every Friday movie guy’). He is a household name now after Mynaa and Kumki. Contrary to popular belief, he isn’t a taskmaster. From 6 to 6, the whole unit would be splitting in laughter. He is a nice, kind and helpful gentleman but makes sure that work is done. He is a mood-based director and based on the scene's mood, he would behave accordingly and extract the right performance from his actors.
Prabhu sir is open. He’ll ask the entire crew for feedback on the music, the lyrics and will educate us on what is being done. He allowed me to learn about all the aspects of filmmaking. He is someone who gives importance to all his crew members. Thanks to all his tutoring, I am confident of direction after some 10 years or so, with more experience and learning.”
Respecting the audience's intelligence and intellect
“The tsunami climax segment was shot first. There were about 30 to 40 days of green mat shots. I was technically aware of the making techniques due to my prior education. In Ponneri in about 8 grounds, a huge set was erected for the green mat shots. Prabhu Solomon is someone who respects the audience's intelligence and intellect and to make it more real, we brought in debris, sewage and slushy waters. From 6 to 6 we had to shoot in these waters and I actually got a fungal allergy and some ear problems on Day 2 itself. But I believed that it would all be worth it and that the outcome would be great. Kamal Haasan is my guru after all and I definitely had to put in such efforts.”
Pleasing to the eyes and ears
“The Dolby Atmos sound system would enhance the effect for the tsunami scenes. It is all a huge crew’s work and it would be pleasing to the eyes and ears.
And in Muttam, we shot Christmas celebrations ‘live’ at their main church with 5000 to 6000 actual people, and about 2000 of our junior artistes. This sequence would again be pleasing to the eye.”
A touching dedication and ‘Live and Let Live’
“Releasing on the 10th anniversary of the devastating tsunami in 2004, Kayal is dedicated to the victims and their families. We realized the importance and have made sure that there are no emotional misfirings. The film is highly expected and we are all keeping our fingers crossed for the final verdict. It would be an enjoyable emotional ride.
Regarding the packed release date, there is competition in all spheres, everyone needs a chance. But with the boom of the multiplex culture, I feel screens won’t be a problem for multiple new releases. All of us are colleagues and this is one industry where there is no jealousy. We believe in ‘live and let live’.”
The powerhouse team members
"Escape Artists Motion Pictures have a great graph. It was a double blessing that I was in the right hands like Prabhu Solomon sir, Madan sir and James sir. I was relaxed and was able to sleep peacefully thanks to their brand, which is enough to market a film. Imman Anna’s music is another check in my list. I have been a fan since his Thamizhan. The last 20 to 30 minutes of Kayal is a complete musical journey, packed with emotions. Imman's live recording would be another character by itself. I am sure that he would bag all the awards. I wish to thank Madan sir, James sir and the complete cast and crew for this experience."
The next move
“I want to enjoy my first film thoroughly. I am listening to scripts but am in no hurry to act in the next. I want to soak in and experience all the pre-release, release and post-release frenzy.”
Here’s wishing that Chandran shines, true to his name …

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