When you watch a “Selvaraghavan film”, you can take home scenes and dialogues that will stay with you forever. We catch the NGK director in an introspective mood and if there’s someone who can be calm about artistic disquietude simmering within, it’s him. Unlike the early years as a director, Selvaraghavan feels he is much more in control of his craft.
Excerpts from a conversation:
Irandam Ulagam happened in 2013. Six years seems a long time.
The film didn’t do well and it took more than a year to come out of that zone. It is not that I was idle. (Smiles) I have been working since I was 21. I needed a break.
Meanwhile, you directed Nenjam Marapathillai, featuring SJ Suryah. Then, there was Mannavan Vanthanadi with Santhanam.
Yes, Nenjam Marapathillai has been completed, but I am not responsible for its delay. When things don’t go as expected, it disappoints you. Sometimes, it is hurtful. That phase was difficult. But I took it easy. I stopped worrying about things that aren’t in my control.
How did you conceive NGK?
Though it is a mix of reality and fiction, NGK is my take on the current political scenario. The idea is to tell people what it is. In fact, have always wanted to make a film on politics. The world belongs to the youth. Unless bright young minds come in, we can’t fix the system. I am all for it.
Is NGK a Suriya film or a Selvaraghavan film?
That’s for the audience to decide. I still don’t understand what a ‘Selvaraghavan film’ is. I never make films to deliberately fit myself into that. Suriya sir was wanting to work with me and NGK needed someone like him. I simply worked on the film as a fanboy of his.
Was it pressuring to direct Suriya? Because this is the first time you are collaborating with a ‘mass actor’. Dhanush and Karthi weren’t stars at that time.
It was a pleasure rather. (Smiles) We spoke a lot on the sets and became good friends. He constantly tries to improve his performance. Suriya sir is a director’s delight.
You are known for your raw style of storytelling, but NGK was certified ‘U’.
It wasn’t an easy film to make. NGK has many layers. You may want to watch it multiple times to understand the film better. I had to rework the entire script once again post the announcement was made.
Was NGK a ‘safe’ film? Also, it is unusual to see you direct a political drama.
That’s the catch. Previously, I have never made an effort to reach out. This time, there was a conscious effort. I wanted to put across a lot of things. NGK was not about any political party but society at large.
Tell us about directing Sai Pallavi and Rakul Preet.
Sai Pallavi is a method actor. I was mesmerised by her performance in Premam. And, Rakul is a wonderful performer.
What does good cinema mean to you?
Anything that comes from your heart. Even today more and more young people come up with different stories. They challenge themselves and the audience. There are many people who love their art. They do all sorts of crazy things out of their love for cinema. I am one among them. (Laughs)
Weren’t you worried about losing connection with the audience?
Not at all. Still, people are excited about Pudhupettai and Aayirathil Oruvan. I won’t rest till I make sequels to those films.
Did you know Pudhupettai will emerge the cult classic that it is now?
You worked with K Balachander for a while.
He is my guru and godfather. I am into filmmaking only because of him. Look at Aboorva Ragangal. Even today, there is no match for his style of making. He belongs to the rare category of directors who made original films. He had his own magic.
Your protagonists aren’t normal people.
(Laughs) They are flawed and real. We are all flawed, too. Nobody wants to see an ideal human being on screen because nobody in real life is 100 per cent good. For example, I didn’t have a pleasant childhood. I would get beaten up for the smallest of things. That reflected in 7G Rainbow Colony. Now you may feel tempted to ask if I am like my characters in real life. The answer is ‘no’. With my films, the audience will identify themselves with the characters. They will know that this can happen in their lives.
Your films have had strong female characters. Any woman-centric film in the pipeline?
I would love to make one. I have ideas. Women are far superior to men, and I have always admitted to this. Let’s see.
Pick your favourite on-screen woman character.
Krishnaveni in Pudhupettai. Credit goes to Sneha, of course. Also, I like Yamini from Mayakkam Enna.
How does your creative collaboration with Yuvan Shankar Raja work? NGK marked your reunion with him after a decade.
I remember kissing his forehead when he was done with a song in NGK. Yuvan is a fantastic composer. We know each other really well. I get him. He gets me. Sometimes, well, it doesn’t happen. That’s all right. (Laughs)
Kadhal Kondein (2013) was your directorial debut. How fulfilling has this journey been to you?
When I started out, it was thrilling. But it is not the same anymore. The process of making films is actually emotionally draining. Otherwise, I am satisfied. I am doing what I want to do. It is fine as long as others like what I am doing.
You are a writer first. Most of the writers in the industry are directors as well.
Yes. When I write, I think of myself as the character. I like writing and there were days when I wrote more than 1,000 pages. Nowadays, I type. And there are some things you can’t write. To be honest, it is tough to keep the audience in mind when you write. You forget everything and just let things be.
I heard you have never experienced writer’s block.
It’s imagination. Writers write. Why do they call it a block? Maybe, you feel it is not right. It is just the mindset.
You are sounding a tad philosophical.
As you get older, you become more philosophical. It is inevitable. (Laughs)