Venu admitted that he was very nervous about his first directorial venture, Daya. The cinematographer of films like Namukku Parakan Munthir Thoppukal, Pamela Rooks's Miss Beatty's Children and Shaji's Piravi looked jittery when Shobha Warrier got to meet him in Madras, where he had gone to record some music for the film. After that, it was going to be a two-month schedule somewhere in the deserts of Rajasthan. Warrier spoke to him at the VGP recording studio sometime before Chitra broke into the melodious tunes written by Vishal.
Venu. Click for bigger pic!
Many screenplay writers and cinematographers who have turned to direction say they wanted to direct films because the director was the captain of the ship and a film is ultimately his creation. Is that why you decided to become a director?
I don't think any one person can be the captain of the ship as far as films are concerned. Okay, if it is your idea, your own screenplay and your own creation, the film, as a whole, is yours. But when you are working for a director, either as a cinematographer or as an editor, you are working on somebody else's ideas. In my case also, I am going to direct a film based on the story and screenplay written by M T (Vasudevan Nair) In fact, it was he who asked me to direct the movie.
MT asked you to direct the movie? How did it happen since you don't have any previous experience in film-making?
May be he likes me! (Laughs) Do you know the title of the movie? Daya. In Malayalam, daya means benevolence, mercy. So I say this movie is MT's daya (laughs again)!
How did you get the offer?
He called me and said, 'I am coming to see you. I want to talk to you.' Obviously, I thought he was going to ask me to do the camerawork for a movie of his. Instead he asked me to direct his script.
Were you not surprised? Did you ask, 'why me?'
I was soooo happy. I didn't want to say 'no' to an offer like that. How can anyone say 'no' to MT? I said, 'Sir, you know me. I don't have any experience in directing.' But he insisted on me directing.
How did he know that you wanted to direct movies?
I had earlier given a script to NFDC (the National Film Development Corporation) and it was not approved. That was last year. MT knew about it. So, when he finished his script, he asked me to make a film.
Were you thrilled?
No, I was very nervous about the whole thing.
When MT offered you the film, how long did it take you to say 'yes'?
Oh, my god! It is an offer I can never refuse. There is no question of me saying 'no' to MT. Anybody, anybody connected with the film industry will jump at it. I too did. I didn't need to read the script.
He can't go wrong.
Venu. Click for bigger pic!
These days, nobody connected with films likes to label films as commercial and art even though there are two different kinds of films. As a person who studied cinematography at the Film Institute, as a person who has seen good cinema there, do you like to compartmentalise films into art and commercial categories?
To me, all films are commercial films. Some art films make more money than many commercial movies. See, you invest a lot of money in films and nobody likes to lose money. So, it is hypocritical to say that you make movies just for the fun of it. You cannot do that in this field. All the films that you see here are commercial movies. May be there are some personal movies made by those who can afford it.
What kind of movies would you like to make?
At present my answer is, 'I want to make this movie.' Let me make this first. After that, I will try to make a film based on the script that I have written first. But only after this...
What is it about?
Let us talk about Daya now. This film comes first, this is my present and this is what is going to happen now.
Since the story is adapted from the Arabian Nights it must be a period film. Isn't it
difficult to direct such a film?
Yes, it is very difficult. But we do not want to go haywire so we have decided that the story takes place in the Middle-East in the pre-Islam period. That is why we are going to shoot in Rajasthan.
Do you like challenges?
I like challenges which I can handle. Not impossible tasks. Though I am nervous, I know that this film is possible, though difficult.
Since it is a period film, it can be made in any language, can't it?
It can be. Since MT wrote the script in Malayalam, we are making it in Malayalam.
Do you have any plans to remake it or dub it in any other language?
It depends on how well the film shapes up. If it comes out well and if we feel that it has potential in other languages too, we can think of the possibility. At present we are not thinking in that direction.
Are you excited about the film now?
No, not at all. I am still nervous, very, very nervous. The same nervousness I felt when the film was offered to me, is still there. I hope it will go once I really start shooting. See, it is going to be very hectic as I have to finish the film in one go, in 50 days, in Rajasthan.
Are you going to stick to direction? Or, is it back to cinematography after this film?
Immediately after this, I am going to do the camerawork for a Tamil film for Siddique Lal.
Daya, a film to watch for