I tell Ram that Peranbu is his most successful film till date. He quickly interrupts and adds, “it’s the most honest film” he has ever made too. The director says he thought of making Peranbu even before his first film Kattradhu Thamizh in 2007. “I wanted to meet Mammukka but didn’t know how to reach him. I felt he would be perfect as Amudhavan,” recalls Ram.
The filmmaker got a call from Mammootty when he was shooting Taramani around 2015. “I had asked Padmapriya (who did a cameo in Thanga Meengal) to let Mammukka know I got a script. They have worked together in Kaazhcha. Eventually, we met. To my surprise, till this date I don’t know why he agreed to do Peranbu. As a team, we wanted to explore the festival circuit first and release the film later,” smiles Ram.
Did that help the theatrical release? “Immensely,” admits Ram as he elaborates, “The way the audience consume films has changed today. Ten years ago, we didn’t have these many Tamil films getting premiered at international festivals, and this shows how directors have become sensitive towards their product. Also, when I travel and screen my film abroad, it gives me an opportunity to meet many filmmakers and discuss ideas. It’s like a cross-cultural programme.”
Does he want to make only intense films? “I think people judge us by the films we make, but I am not a serious person. I believe in celebrating life, and that’s what I do,” says Ram, who is equally clear about not competing in the rat race – that’s commercial cinema. “Whether you’ve been a successful filmmaker or not, it is not easy to make the film you want to make. Sometimes, it takes years. But I believe a film should have some artistic merit. When I say this, it doesn’t mean it’s something that will not make money. At the end of the day, films should inspire the creator and the audience,” he says.
Ram says Peranbu is more about finding one’s self. He tells us, “I wanted to tell a simple story about nature and how it’s being interpreted. Though nature is beautiful, I tried exploring it in my own way — weaving a tale around a father and his spastic child. The idea germinated from a train journey I embarked on in 2005. I met this guy whose daughter had paralysis, and it disturbed me so much.”
Perhaps, Peranbu is the first time Ram is working with a star like Mammootty. “I was very particular that I get him to play Amudhavan because I needed a mature actor. Mammukka neither tries to overact nor oversell a performance. Moreover, I quite like the way he internalises a character. The process is brilliant,” he says. Simultaneously, Ram was worried. “I didn’t know how to make Mammukka look less handsome on screen. I asked him to grow a beard,” he laughs.
Ram’s only complaint with Mammootty is he feels the actor could have done more films in Tamil after Thalapathy.
I ask Ram about his characters, and he says, he names them after his assistant directors. “Prabhakar (Kattradhu Thamizh), Prabhunath (Taramani), Amudhavan (Peranbu) — these are my assistant directors. I like to keep it that way. Speaking of Viji (Anjali’s character in Peranbu) — that’s Sridevi’s character in Moondram Pirai. As a writer, when you spend time with your characters, they tell what I should do,” says Ram.
The conversation, naturally, veers to Balu Mahendra. “He’s the biggest influence in my life and the main reason why I am into films. He was not only a breath of fresh air, but also brought a different sensibility to the craft.”