Filmmaker Karthik Subbaraj has co-produced debutant director Eashvar Karthic’s thriller Penguin, which stars Keerthy Suresh in the lead role. Penguin is set to premiere on Amazon Prime Video this Friday.
Excerpts from a conversation with Karthik Subbaraj:
What about Penguin clicked with you?
The premise of Penguin is attractive. A mother, who is also pregnant, in a situation in which she has to push herself to find her missing child sounded very interesting. The film also has a lot of other interesting elements, which makes us feel anxious about what is going to happen next. I told Eashvar Karthic that if he can make the movie exactly the way he narrated, it will be a big hit.
Did you watch the movie?
I saw the first cut and I really liked the film. I watched it without the background score and all. And I am sure Santhosh Narayanan would have done a great job.
For the movies you produce, do you also help fine-tune the screenplay?
I personally have a long discussion with directors, and I share my views about the scripts. If they take it, it is fine. Or if they have their points, they can convince me. It is a very healthy discussion. But, that’s how far I go.
What quality of Eashvar Karthic as a filmmaker do you think will make him stand out from the rest?
I think Eashvar has very good technical sense. After writing the script, he knows how to pick the right location, visual tone, mood and costumes that fit it. He has a very good sense of filmmaking. He is also a talented writer. He is very good at writing lengthy scenes. He slowly builds up a scene to a high point of tension.
You are building an impressive resume with some great collaborations. How do you cast? Do you write after deciding on actors or you write first then approach actors later?
I think only Petta, I specifically wrote for Thalaivar (Rajinikanth). When you are writing, you have a certain actor in mind. You know that that actor will be right for the script. I am talking about the main protagonist. When I started writing Jagame Thandhiram, I felt Dhanush would be the right pick. But, for other characters, we go through a lot of options and select them.
Do you think there is merit to the fear that OTT will eat into the traditional distribution model?
I don’t think so. The chance seems thin. Anyway, people love to watch films in theaters. These are unprecedented times, and we can’t talk about the future based on the current situation. During the lockdown, people are watching a lot of movies on television and OTT platforms. But, I think everyone wonders when theaters will open. When things are normal, everybody will go to the theater. I think I will be the first person to go and watch any film that is available in theaters. I think people are longing for that movie-watching experience.
Will the Tamil film industry start making movies exclusively for OTT platforms from now on?
I think it will be a welcome change. Say, for example, last year, we produced several movies including one with Aishwarya Rajesh by a new director Gautham and another film with Vaibhav by (newcomer) director Ashok. But, when you take these movies to the market, there are challenges like finding theaters. If a movie doesn’t fulfil some conventional parameters, then it is perceived as a risk in the theatrical circuit. I think OTT platforms will open up new avenues for filmmakers. Say, I like a script which is experimental. You don’t know how it will work in theaters, but an OTT platform is ready, I can go ahead and produce it. It also creates a good balance. I don’t think it is even possible for all movies to release directly on streaming platforms. There will be films made for theater. For example, we are waiting for theaters to open for my film Jagame Thandhiram. The producer has no idea to give the movie to an OTT platform. Things have to come back to normal at some point. It cannot go on like this.
But, aren’t you worried about what the new normal will look like?
We are positive. Theaters are set to open in the UK from July. And theatrical release dates have been announced for (Christopher Nolan’s) Tenet and (Niki Caro’s) Mulan. These things give us hope that soon the cases will also reduce in our country and we will go back to normal.
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