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When God lived in Room No 305!
Shobha Warrier | April 07, 2008
Chimbudevan's first Tamil film for director Shankar's S.Productions, Imsai Arasaan 23aam Pulikesi was an unprecedented success. The film's 100-day run defied conventional wisdom that a political satire set in an ancient period cannot be a success.
Satisfied with Chimbudevan's unusual way of telling a story, Shankar decided to produce his next film too -- Arai Enn 305il Kadavul (God in Room No 305), which is ready for release on the April 12.
Now, not only Chimbudevan, but all those who have enjoyed his first film are excited about the film.
In this exclusive interview, the director talks about both his films and his entry into the world of films from the world of cartoons. Excerpts:
Does God live in Room No 305?
Maybe! if I answer your question in any other way, I would be telling you what my film is all about.
Because of the title, many people ask me whether God really stays in Room No 305. As they have seen the image of Prakashraj as Lord Vishnu, they also ask me whether Prakashraj acts as God in the film.
I can tell you one thing; Prakashraj appears as Lord Vishnu only in a song. According to me, anyone who lives for others is God.
Does that mean the person who stays in Room No 305 lives for others and hence can be compared to God?
I am telling the story of two educated young men from a poor background. The story takes place in an apartment in Chennai. There are no rowdies or bad elements in the film. Because the story happens in such a place, there are all kinds of people living there. The story is about why those who occupy Room No 305 are called God.
The young men in the film -- Santhanam and Kanja Karuppu -- face some problem, and the person who rectifies the problem is God!
How do you come up with such interesting titles? Both your films have very catchy titles. Does a lot of thought go into these titles?
I first write my script. While writing the script, I don't think of any artist. I didn't write Pulikesi with Vadivelu in mind. When I felt he could be the best person to be cast in the role, I approached him. I didn't think of Santhanam or Kanja Karuppu when I was writing this script.
I am happy to hear that my titles are interesting. Maybe this happens because of my reading habits.
Is it because you are a cartoonist that you think of such funny titles?
I am primarily a journalist and a cartoonist. Being a cartoonist, my forte is comedy and fantasy. So, maybe because I have a cartoonist's mind, I get such titles!
Generally cartoonists look at even the most tragic situations with humour. Do you do that as well?
I can't say I do that. Maybe because of my scripts, I give out that feeling. While writing a script, you can't sit with any preconceived notion. As I write, the situations and characters follow a path and the characters behave in a particular way.
I may be a cartoonist but what I love the most are thrillers. But what I am making are comedies.
Why did you write a comedy and not a thriller first? Why did you think of a film like Pulikesi?
Actually the story I narrated to Shankar Sir was not that of Pulikesi. He liked what I told him, and as we were talking, I spoke of my desire to make a film like Mel Brooks (American director, writer, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor and producer). He then asked me why I wasn't doing that. I could make my dream film only because I got a producer like Shankar Sir.
Were you confident that a film like Pulikesi would be accepted by the audience?
You must remember that for a good project or a good film to happen, what you need first is a good producer. It is not the audience that has to accept you first but the producer. A film becoming a hit or a flop is only later; what has to happen first is the acceptance of the producer.
In my case, I have worked as an assistant to Cheran and all the films I worked with him are village-based. And here I was, making a political period film full of period sets. I had no idea what kind of lighting you needed for such sets. So, I started the film not knowing all that but I had a producer who believed in me. That gave me the confidence to work hard and learn.
So, I feel a director alone cannot give a good project to the people; what he needs first is a good producer who has full confidence in the director. I do not know whether I can start a narration like, a king comes riding a horse...' to any other producer!
Did Shankar offer you the new film immediately after you made Pulikesi or after its success?
He asked me when I would start my next film after he saw the first copy of Pulikesi. More than a producer, he is a good rasikan too.
Once I got the offer, I decided to make a comedy again because I want to make good films.
I read somewhere that your film is inspired by the Jim Carrey's film, Bruce Almighty. Is it true?
People do write such things after seeing the posters. Please tell me after watching the film, whether my film is inspired by that film or any other film.
Since you are a cartoonist, which Indian cartoonist and which cartoon character is your favourite?
R K Laxman and his 'common man' are my favourites. I think 'Common man' is 63 years old. R.K.Laxman said in one interview that his inspiration was David Law. I have also created characters for Ananda Vikatan inspired by the Common man.
Among cartoons, my favourite is Tom and Jerry which I would say is like an encyclopedia for all cartoonists!
How much has your work as a cartoonist helped you as a filmmaker?
When I was a journalist, for three years, I would go to Parrys Corner here in Chennai to sketch the people I saw there. From seven I would sketch people. Those three years gave me a solid foundation.
So, for my films too, I sketch my story board.
As Pulikesi was a success, are you nervous about your new film?
Even after 25 films, you can't help but feel nervous because each film is like writing for an examination. After the examination, everybody looks forward to the results. But what I have learnt from Pulikesi is that if you have a good producer, you can make experimental films.