When it comes to making films,director Sriram Raghavan prefers murder,betrayal and deceit
Long before films such as Omkara,Being Cyrus and Kurbaan tapped into Saif Ali Khans acting genes,it was Sriram Raghavans 2004-thriller Ek Hasina Thi that was instrumental in getting rid of Khans lost-in-love image. Ek Hasina Thi,with its brutal climax,tight script and powerful performances,also made Sriram one of the sought-after names in the whodunit genre.
It is surprising that a shy person like him could best be known for his stories of wickedness and deceit. Agent Vinod isnt that. Theres no anti-hero here, he says,pausing for a moment. Vinod is a strange guy though. My focus this time has been to make the character likeable, he adds. The highlight of Agent Vinod is the the return of the Khan-Sriram duo after eight years. For the writer-director,this is a big move in terms of filmmaking as well. Both my previous directorial ventures,Ek Hasina Thi and Johnny Gaddaar,were small -budget films. The budget of Agent Vinod is 10 times more than that of my first two films. And,of course,it took me longer to write this script and finish the film because of the travelling, says the 49-year-old director. He is also excited about finally making a Bondesque film which has been a favourite genre of his.
A third-generation Tamilian in Maharashtra,Sriram grew up in Pune. His love for dark cinema can be considered a family pastime. His brother Sridhar Raghavan,too,has made a living by writing cops-and-thieves stories. As a seven-year-old,Sriram was hugely interested in Alfred Hitchcock films. His fascination for Hitchcock can also be seen in the way he uses the camera to tell a story and engage the viewer. I remember watching Hitchcocks North By Northwest and the spy became an irresistible character for it, he says. His reading comprised James Hadley Chase and Alistair Maclean. As he grew up and started watching Hindi films,it was movies such as Johnny Mera Naam and Jewel Thief that impressed him. I dont think I had the maturity to understand other great films then. I found these thrillers enthralling, he says.
Srirams love for cinema then took him to Film and Television Institute of India in Pune,where he made his National Award-winning diploma film,The Eight Column Affair. But his love affair with whodunits started with his short film on Raman Raghav,the serial killer who terrified Mumbai in the 60s. It is hard to tell why I am partial to this genre,but I admit I am, he says with a sheepish smile. It is also good that very few filmmakers are trying this genre. That way,there is not much competition, he says.
Like many filmmakers,Sriram also bemoans the lack of good scriptwriters in the industry. This is one of the reasons why he takes so long to make a film. I take six-eight months to work on a script, he says. His next,however,will go on floors soon. An untitled fantasy film,it is being produced by Rohan Sippy. I wanted to break out of the thriller genre and do something different, he says,hoping that this one too will create magic.