August 17, 2021 9:28:16 am
Filmmaker S Shankar turned 58 today. His name is synonymous with ‘bramadam’, or grandeur for the Tamil audience. If those in the know are to be believed, he is incapable of thinking ideas on a small scale. His movies are as big as it gets in terms of production and scope in India. The grandeur of his movies is best reflected in the blockbusters songs, where he showed his appetite to explore the possibilities of special effects very early on in his career. That’s the reason why he is celebrated as James Cameron of India.
Shankar’s movies arguably laugh in the face of filmmaking that is all about playing safe, taking calculated risks and making films on a shoestring budget. For instance, even as he has never made a film in Telugu, the dubbed versions of his films have always been a huge draw in Telugu states. That is because every scene, emotion and idea in Shankar’s movies have a certain largeness in it. The feel, texture and style of his films set him apart from all big directors of Indian cinema. Many of his movies are limited in terms of geography as the story plays out within the confines of a city or a state. But, his films always have that something extra, which ensures that the audience get their money’s worth.
That something could be the playful “Chikku Bukku Rayile” song in his first film Gentleman. Or it could be showing a beating heart lying on a road after an explosion in the climax of the same film. it could be a scene where Prabhu Deva draws the portrait of his girlfriend on the floor with his feet while performing Bharatanatyam. It could be “Telephone Manipol” or “Maya Machindra” songs in Indian. It could be simply travelling across seven wonders of the world to shoot the “Poovukkul” song for Jeans. It could be the idea of a man being multiple persons without his own knowledge (Anniyan). It takes some ingenuity to take a character with a serious disorder and turn him into a sort of crime-fighting superhero.
Shankar fully realised his dreams of making a VFX-heavy movie with Enthiran and he upped his visual effects game in 2.0.
So how does Shankar make larger than life movies?
Don’t get too comfortable
During the promotions of his 2012 film Nanban, which means friend, Shankar recalled the role his friends played in pushing him towards becoming a director. He began his career as a filmmaker by assisting filmmaker, S. A. Chandrasekhar, who is Vijay’s father. He recalled that he was earning well enough and he was comfortable and happy helping others make their movies. But, it was his close friend, who helped him see that he was getting too comfortable and content with his current station and pushed him to venture on his own.
Always satisfy the fan in you
“I am a creator but at the same time, I am also a fan of cinema. After watching my movies, the fan in me asks for more. So respecting the wish of Shankar the fan, Shankar the director will begin to imagine how to satisfy his wishes. Somebody invites you for dinner at their house and you find the meal very tasty. When they invite you again, obviously you expect the meal to be tastier than the previous time. That’s why I keep pushing my imagination with every film. But, at the same time, if I can’t think of something new and bigger, I will do what I feel is good to meet the expectations of the audience, even if I won’t exceed their expectations.”
Imagine big, live simple
“Only my imagination is so big ( and expensive). But, I try to live a simple life. I don’t make unnecessary expenses both in my personal or professional life. For example, usually, the last song in movies would be a grand affair in all movies. But, I would have kept it very simple, in the rural backdrop for “Uppu Karuvadu” song in Mudhalvan. It is because the script didn’t need me to imagine that song somewhere in Switzerland. So I only spend on things that are needed.”
What is a good commercial film?
“A good commercial film should have a good theme. And that theme should be new. Even if it is not new, it should be narrated in a new way. And, for me, the film must be fast-paced from the beginning to the end. It should be very entertaining. And it should have a few good things for the audience to take home.
The secret for longevity?
“Staying updated (with all new technology and developments) is a must. It should become your second nature. It is always better to think ahead of time, only then we will bring in new ideas and feel a sense of satisfaction.”