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An exclusive interview with director Magizh Thirumeni

''Every actor, technician should grab an opportunity to work with Gautham Menon''

Feb 04, 2014
In 2012, Thadaiyara Thaakka, starring Arun Vijay in the lead, emerged as one of the movies to look out for. Though the movie didn’t set the box-office on fire, it slowly emerged as a must-watch movie that year. The director of the movie, Magizh Thirumeni was also noted as a filmmaker to really look forward to. Magizh is now all set to direct Arya in Meagaamann, another action thriller this year. In this conversation with the director, we catch up with him on his film career so far.
Talk us through your initial days in cinema
I worked with Selvaraghavan initially. I joined him when he was about to start Kadhal Konden, which was supposed to be his first movie. But Thulluvadho Ilamai released before that. After Thulluvadho Ilamai was completed, I left Selva.
Then I met Gautham and worked with him for a couple of films. Later I branched out on my own.

What were the biggest eye openers in the Gautham Menon school of filmmaking?

Each film maker has a style. Gautham and Selva are totally opposite in styles but what works for one, doesn’t need to work for the other.
What I like the most about Gautham is the freedom which he gives to others. He has a vision but expects everyone’s contributions in translating his vision. If the contributions are valid, he accepts them as they are. Even the last assistant can give his suggestions and he’ll accept.
Any actor and technician should grab the opportunity to work with Gautham. After Mani Sir, it’s Gautham who introduced a new cinema language in terms of technique. He has such caliber. Kaakha Kaakha was such a trend setter. People still talk about the film, such is its impact.
Coming to Selva, he knows everything. He’ll be clear in what he wants. Comparing Gautham and Selva is basically like the difference between Raja Sir and Rahman sir. The end result will ultimately be brilliant.

What were the films that you worked with Gautham?

In Kaakha Kaakha, I was there right from the scripting stage. I was credited for the dialogs too. We had lots of discussions and he was always open to my contributions.
For Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, I was there for the full film and with respect to Pachaikili Muthucharam, I worked for about a week to 10 days.

You made the shift from romance to action movies very early in your career. Is this due to business reasons?

The shift was not for business reasons. And it’s not wrong to do a film for business reasons as such a need may arise. But Thadaiyara Thaakka wasn’t done for that. I want to try films in every genre. I want to do a defining sci-fi film, I wish to do a comedy, and I wish to do a horror story as well.
Mundhinam Parthene, my first film, got fantastic reviews from all media houses. After the release, I wanted to do something different. That’s how Thadaiyara Thaakka, an action film with social realities, happened.
Meagaamann is an action thriller again, but set in a different milieu. The script and setting intrigues and interests me.

Were you let down by the box-office performance of Thadaiyara Thaakka?
Thadaiyara Thaakka’s release wasn’t known to many. Low key promotions and publicity maybe the reasons. But as time went by, people started talking about the film. This was a truly unforgettable experience for me.
Thadaiyara Thaakka did not have great actors, the technical team was also not big, my first film wasn’t a big success, there were no promotions, the release time wasn’t conducive and we didn’t get good theaters. There were lots of such setbacks.
Inspite of that, people started talking in a week’s time. Initial reviews weren’t all that great until the word of mouth spread. It was an exhilarating experience.
The YouTube clip unfortunately was a great reason for this word of mouth as the film was out of theaters by then. That process of people talking about the film was so inspiring for me and the whole team. All the disappointments that I had about the movie’s release got washed away. I believe that technology and people’s awareness are the reasons for that. The YouTube clip has registered more than 26 lakh hits and it’s still climbing. This is pure word of mouth.
All the setbacks were brushed away.

In hindsight, had a commercially bankable hero acted in Thadaiyara Thaakka, would the film have been a success?

I have no regrets at all. Arun did complete justice to the role and trusted me. 20 years down the line, audience wouldn’t be talking about Arun’s market at the time of the movie’s release. Generations would have passed. They’ll just see the film and judge how the lead actor had done the role. No one would feel that Arun is a wrong choice for the film.
Agreed, a bankable hero would have got the movie an opening. But 20 years down the line, people would have again forgotten that. They won’t have a connect with such things. They may even feel that this bankable hero wasn’t an apt choice for the movie. Time is the best judge and I have no regrets. It was a pleasant experience working with Arun.

Tell us about your intriguing title choices all through your career till date

Am very bad at coming up with titles. It’s my weak point. Script work will be done and after that my title discussions start.
Thadaiyara Thaakka title was first suggested during Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu’s shooting to Gautham. He loved it for the sheer sound of the title. But the producer (the one before 7th channel Manickam Narayanan came on board) felt that it was too chaste and tough to pronounce.  Gautham wasn’t able to use it and this title remained in my mind.
This title kept popping up in my mind every now and then and it was also so apt for the story and script. I told this to the producers, who had an initial hesitation but later felt that it was apt indeed.
For Meagaamann, the story dictated that title. It’s about a man’s game and the title needed to be surrounding the hero, who is a guy who leads and sets the rules. We also have a symbolic tagline which says “captain of the ship”

What is Meagaamann about? Tell us about the genre and scale of the film.

It is an action thriller, set in Goa. It will be my biggest budget till date. Meagaamann will be a film where the audience’s intelligence will not be ridiculed. The word ‘commercial’ is used in a flat sense in our industry. This is also a commercial movie but will be true and honest to my script and setting. We haven’t abused logic and will respect the audience’s intellect. It will be a realistic attempt without being boring.
Producer Jhabak is such a nice guy to work with. It’s fantastic and I am feeling comfortable with him. He gives so much freedom, understands that I am doing good work and believes in the film.

When is the film releasing?

We have shot for 11 days so far. We wanted to have a light schedule as Arya had an operation in his knee and was recovering.
Arya had to then leave for the shoots of Purampokku. He’ll join us in the first week of February. Till June the shoots will happen and then it’s post-production and finally the release.

How will Arya be showcased in the film?

It’s a new role for Arya, for sure. There will be a new interpretation, a new body language and a new dimension. That said, it’s a commercial film. It’s not a message based film. It’s a feel good film where good will triumph over the bad.

About the various heroine speculations surrounding Meagaamann, starting from Samantha to Shruti Haasan to Taapsee and now Hansika?

Hansika was the only heroine that I saw and narrated the script to. The other names are all just speculations.

This is your 3rd film in a row with Thaman. How much of a comfort level do you share with him?

Thaman is one of the most underrated composers in the industry. His skills, talents haven’t been realized. His full potential hasn’t been tapped by the films that he has done. His range is extensive – he tries so many genres. He is also prepared to learn and work hard. He understands my mentality, my taste and is a good friend. I share a great comfort level with him.
He contributed a lot to Thadaiyara Thaakka and continues to do the same with Meagaamann. I am sure that his music will be spoken about.
The sad thing about Thadaiyara Thaakka is that a lot of people were recognized and appreciated but sadly Thaman wasn’t given his due. In my opinion, his RR for Thadaiyara Thaakka was one of the best among 2012’s films. But he wasn’t recognized. ‘Kelamale’ was definitely one of the Top 25 songs but I am not even talking about the songs. His RR was one of the very best but not given its due. But in this film, Thaman will surely get his due.
Regarding Mundhinam Parthene, Thaman still says that it’s his best work. Sometimes it takes time for people to take note of good work.

Editors Praveen - Srikanth also seem to be a constant in your films.

They are a part of the staple and constants in my film. I share a very good working comfort with them; they understand me and my film making style. They are very good friends too and it’s always an enjoyable working experience.
Before shoots, I generally narrate the full script to them. From then on, they plan what all can be done with the edits. Their professional ethics, technical know-how and involvement are big strengths for me.
Like Thaman, they’ll always remain constants in my films.

What’s your working style and the general time frame that you take for your films?

I take 8 months on an average to complete my script. I took that much time for Thadaiyara Thaakka and needed some more time for Meagaamann. It was a new setting for me, and involved some research. So generally it takes about 8 to 10 months, for the full script work. Then the other processes start and it all works out to a film a year.

What are your future plans, going forward? Any production plans?

It’s too early to say about production. I want to establish myself as a director and consolidate. I want to make a couple of hit films, films that are appreciated.

Who are the actors that you aspire to work with?

I wish to work with all actors - every known, every unknown actor who loves his craft and is inspired by good work. Acting is a craft, an art and it’s not a simple thing. Every actor who loves his craft and is prepared to slog for the art is part of my wish list.

Tamil cinema is going through a healthy phase now. Your comments on the state of the industry

Absolutely. It is one of the most exciting industries in India. Over the last 10 years, there have been so many new attempts. There is a new crop of filmmakers with new stories and new ideas. All this is being done within the context of mainstream cinema. Before 15 years, it wasn’t like this.
The audiences have matured and literacy rates have also improved. There is a very responsible culture of reviewing too. All of this has contributed. Most importantly, audiences have changed for the better. This has created an ambience where good, experimental films can be made and profitably too.
In other industries, good films fall in a niche space. But in Tamil cinema, such films cater to a mainstream market. This is a very healthy trend.

Any concerns about the industry?

People have matured and are ready to support new attempts. Many new film makers are coming up and producers who are in tune with the current audience sensibilities are also there.
But the marketing apparatus for such new age cinema isn’t there currently. Theaters aren’t available for good movies. Ultimately the bottom-line is money. A scenario where good movies can prove to be profitable needs to come about. I am hoping that this new wave with respect to filmmaking will also extend to the marketing apparatus.
Behindwoods wishes Magizh a rocking career ahead.


An exclusive interview with director Magizh Thirumeni

People looking for online information on Arya, Gautham Menon, Magizh Thirumeni, Meagaamann will find this news story useful.