Long before the term “experimental films” became famous, Parthiban had begun making movies that were out-of-the-box like Ulle Veliye, Housefull and Kudaikul Mazhai. Perhaps that made him write and direct something different, yet again. “I am quite happy that Oththa Seruppu Size 7 has been accepted by all. I made sure I did everything I could to hold the audience’s attention. It has been a while since I tasted success and it feels good. The creator in me is very much pleased,” he smiles.
Oththa Seruppu Size 7 had entered the Asia book of records and India book of records for being the first-ever solo act project made by a director. “I wanted everything about this film to be special. Similarly, we had the longest review session of a single feature film that went for about 24 hours. Normally, movies that go to film festivals tend to have a certain format, but Oththa Seruppu Size 7 doesn’t fall under that category,” he says.
Starting from Pudhiya Paadhai, Parthiban says every film of his has been ‘different’, citing examples. “I didn’t want to end up beating 20 goons. I am happy that I am in a space where I make films that I like and enjoy. Of course, they are mainstream commercial entertainers made in a not-so-grand scale,” he adds.
Parthiban admits that the journey hasn’t been easy. “Success and failure is part of the game. For a long time, I was scared. But after dealing with a lot of failures, I got the courage to do a film like Oththa Seruppu Size 7. When people wrote me off after a string of failures, I got angry. I wanted to prove them wrong,” he rues.
We point out Oththa Seruppu Size 7 was more of a ‘theatrical experience’ — be it the way it was presented or executed. Parthiban responds with a “thank you”, and adds, “I have been a fan of theatre since childhood. Even after I found success in cinema, I always wanted to go back to my theatre roots and do solo acting. I thought many years ago, why not use the theatre approach in cinema, since I am familiar with both mediums. The process wasn’t easy. I managed it on the editing table.”
The actor-director acknowledges he hasn’t made money from films at all. “Most of my directorial ventures suffered losses, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I keep coming up with ‘new’ ideas. Though failures upset me, I don’t dwell on them,” says Parthiban.
On a philosophical note, he says, “Whatever happened, has happened for the good.”
Though Parthiban attempted to make Oththa Seruppu Size 7 with other actors, it never materialised. “I have been sitting on this idea for the past 15 years. I tried making the same film in different formats with other actors, it didn’t work. Maybe, it was about time, too. For a change, my overconfidence worked in my favour,” he laughs.
Also, no producer was willing to help Parthiban. “At last, I had to shoulder the risk all by myself. Nobody seems to trust a new concept in cinema. Everyone is focused on the ‘market’, including the ones who say ‘content always wins’,” he cheekily says.
Has he told any ‘message’ in Oththa Seruppu Size 7? “That’s not the job of a filmmaker, which I learned the hard way. When I made Pudhiya Paadhai, I wanted to tell a message, but later realised it wasn’t needed. In Oththa Seruppu Size 7, Masilamani is not a hero. He is just attached to his son. Masilamani is angry and humiliated because he is poor, but doesn’t want to live with that anger anymore. We generally have the perception that only the rich and powerful get away with crimes. When you can make excuses for them, why not a normal, poor man? This is what I wanted to explore. Further, the intention was to make a film to show Masilamani as Masilamani. I never wanted the audience to see Parthiban on screen,” he says.
Now that his effort has paid off, is he completely satisfied? “Had I sent Oththa Seruppu Size 7 to a film festival, I am not sure if I would have gotten a phenomenal response like this. Because they don’t know who I am. But I haven’t dared to make a raw film yet. Maybe the success of this film will slowly help me achieve more.”
Though Parthiban has multiple scripts ready, he will direct Ulle Veliye 2 next.”It’s not a sequel to the original. Since the title was appropriate, I retained the same,” he says.
Has he ever tried to make a simple movie without any of his trademark quirks? “Of course, I did. Eighteen years ago, I directed Vikram in Housefull. A lot of people felt had I done his role instead, it would have been a huge hit.”
Parthiban has taken the road less travelled even in casting. “It is the script that decides the cast always and if the audience remembers my roles, the credit goes to the director. They talk about Selvaraghavan’s Aayirathil Oruvan even today,” he notes.
Does Parthiban feel bad about not making it to the top league of actors despite making a mark for himself? “After Pudhiya Paadhai, people did say that I am the next Rajinikanth but I broke that impression myself. I made a string of masala, action films even though I wanted to work on strong concepts. This is my 30th year in the film industry. I am still relevant and that itself is a huge success. I am trying my best and will continue taking risks, without getting caught in an image trap,” he concludes.