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How to write a twist like Karthik Subbaraj ft Petta, Mercury, Jigarthanda

"Success is doing simple things extraordinarily." This is one quote that summarizes Karthik Subbaraj's style of filmmaking. Writing a twist is quite simple for a writer. But, how does one keep the audience engaged till the 'Big Twist'? Karthik definitely knows how to do it, in ways more than one. There are little bursts of surprise that he offers throughout a film, keeping us invested till we reach the big twist.

1) Springing a surprise through dialogues:

The pre-interval fight sequence in Petta, where a few henchmen arrive and confront a laidback Rajinikanth. Are we going to see a classy fight scene, that is going to give us an unforgettable interval block? As this question arises, Rajini says "எவனுக்காச்சும் பொண்டாட்டி குழந்தை குட்டினு செண்டிமெண்ட் கின்டிமெண்ட் இருந்தா அப்டியே ஓடி போயிடு! கொல காண்டுல இருக்கேன் மவனே கொல்லாம விட மாட்டேன்!" (If anyone has family sentiments, please leave the place. I won't hesitate to kill you!").

This is it. The terrific interval block we've been waiting for is finally here. As this thought arises, Karthik Subbaraj places an intermezzo between the punch dialogue and the fight sequence. As soon as our Superstar utters this line, one of the henchmen takes a step back and runs away.

Even in the song Ilamai Thirumbudhe, when Rajini is supposedly busy in a romantic conversation with his new-found love Simran, Sananth pulls his leg asking who is on the other side of the phone. Rajini retaliates by saying "Un Maamiyar Kitta" in a slightly angry tone... which is actually the case.

These are small Karthik Subbaraj touches. He uses the literal meaning of a dialogue to evoke humour even in the most serious/romantic scenes. The man certainly knows the craft of writing.

2) Usage of visuals to create magic out of thin air

This one can be explained through a sequence in the film Mercury. Five friends, who are hearing impaired, are trapped inside a factory, and Prabhu Deva, who is visually impaired, is on a ruthless killing spree, slaughtering anyone in 'sight'.

The last ones left are Indhuja and Sananth. They distract Prabhu Deva and almost escape... almost. What follows next is a brilliant culmination of Santhosh Narayanan's background score, Kunal Rajan's sound design, Thirunavukarasu's cinematography and Karthik Subbaraj's vision. The camera swirls in as it focuses on Prabhu Deva, the Sound Design captures the even the tiniest of sounds inside the factory, while Santhosh Narayanan's orchestration breeds spookiness with a sense of serenity.

Indhuja has a timepiece with her(gifted by Sananth in an earlier scene) and all of a sudden the alarm from the timepiece goes off, leading the lurking monster towards them. They(Indhuja and Sananth) take longer time than usual to find out where the sound is coming from. Sananth finds the time piece in the eleventh hour and throws it away. Or does he?

Prabhu Deva catches it single-handedly, crushes it, and the frame freezes for a second. We are convinced that they have escaped, which is when the master unravels the surprise. The camera slowly moves right, and we see Prabhu Deva's other hand squeezing Sananth. A pound to the face and our 'hero' lies in a pool of blood. The timepiece, Prabhu Deva, and Sananth were all positioned in a straight line, and the place where Sananth's hand was grabbed, was the blind spot. Had the camera been at any other angle, the element of surprise would have been lost, the scene would have been a 'normal' one. That is how you build suspense and break it, to create a scene that sends a horripilation of dread down your spine.

3) What if both the dialogues and visuals combine?

The final case is from the film Jigarthanda. Assault Sethu is inside a theatre canteen, having a ball with his friends. From earlier scenes in the film, we know that he is a merciless, bloodthirsty gangster. He suddenly gets up and walks towards the cook. He throws a half-eaten bajji and asks him to make proper ones, because the one he ate wasn't spicy enough. Is he going to show his rage towards the Bajji-master? No. He has other plans in mind. The movie Ninaithale Inikkum is playing in the theatre (There are posters of the film all over the walls.) It is pouring down heavily, but he wants to go somewhere else. Only Sethu knows where. The camera follows him through the corridors of the theatre to the toilet. (Even Gangsters are humans!)

The cleaner asks Sethu to use the first restroom, apparently because it has been specially cleaned for him. The camera keeps following our man. He is about to enter the first one, when a semi-sloshed drunk stops him. Thanks to the cliches wired within us Tamil film audience, we assumed that he would be thrashed mercilessly. Instead, Sethu calmly proceeds towards the last restroom.

Meanwhile the drunkard opens the first restroom. Bang! Bang! Bang! A series of bullets are pumped into the alcoholic's chest by someone who is already inside. Sethu stands in disbelief at one corner. He is totally shocked, like us. What just happened? The assassin is on the phone with someone, and goes on to say "Sethu is not like what he used to be, his appearance has changed." It is all a single shot till now. 

Sethu's henchmen rush in after hearing the gunshots. Even they are shocked. "Here, Take your Sethu's body, and get lost." The henchmen's glance turns towards Sethu. Now the focus is on Sethu. Are we going to see another cold-blooded 'Sambavam?' Is Sethu going to get hysterical and go on a rampage?

One look at the assassin's eyes tells you he has already died a thousand deaths. We start biting our nails anxiously, waiting to see what Sethu has up his sleeve. In this moment of high uneasiness, the hot-headed gangster calmly goes into the toilet to do what he wanted to. In total contrast to this chaotic atmosphere, Namma Ooru Singari from Ninaithale Inikkum plays. Kids, that's how you unfold a surprise, says Karthik Subbaraj.

Wishing the master of twists, a very Happy Birthday!

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