Jayendra's 180 turn
Noted ad film-maker P Jayendra has finally turned feature film-maker.
He, along with National Award winning cinematographer P C Sreeram, had started JS Films, an ad agency, long ago.
Even as P C Sreeram did cinematography for many important films and even directed a few films, Jayendra continued to make only ad films. He also involved himself in the development of technology.
Jayendra's Real Images can take the credit for developing the Qube Technology which is implemented in over 25 countries.
Now, Jayendra is in the process of making his first feature film, 180 a bilingual (Tamil and Telugu) with Siddharth, Priya Anand and Nitya Menon in the lead.
In this exclusive interview to Shobha Warrier, Jayendra talks about his ambitious venture. Excerpts:
You started JS Films along with P C Sreeram and made ad films for almost 25 years. Why did it take you so long to make a feature film?
I was busy with technology and ad films took all my time.
I started JS Films in 1986 and Real Image with Senthil in 1993. We brought new technologies to the film industry. We developed the Qube technology and then started work on Avid. I was probably the first ad film-maker to start editing on Avid. Slowly it caught on. Then, we introduced DTS sound and we also helped in equipping theatres across the country with DTS sound playback. Today, we have more than 2000 cinema houses with DTS sound.
Didn't you want to make feature films?
Yes, and there were scripts in my cupboard but I didn't have the time to go through them. Now that our company is well established, I can take time off to make a film.
Yours is a very late debut...
I may hold the Guinness Record for the oldest person to make his debut! (Laughs) But it doesn't matter. Whether it is your first or tenth or the 20th, you approach it like it's your first film.
Image: P Jayendra (standing) on the sets of 180
'I wanted to show people that there is so much more you can do on stage'
Last year, you made Margazhi Raagam, a film on carnatic music. How did that happen?
I have always been an avid listener of classical music. I am also saddened by the fact that Carnatic music is not presented well.
Carnatic music moved from being performed in the temples to being performed for an audience, but people involved did not make the shift in presentation.
The stage crafts and tools were not used to enhance the performance of the artist. I wanted to hear carnatic music in a good ambience, with good lighting, good sound and good stage settings. That was how Margazhi Raagam came about.
How did you conceptualise Margazhi Raagam?
I wanted to do it as a stage performance and not as a video. I wanted to show people that there is so much more you can do on stage. The performance, I felt, can be enhanced by lighting. Probably, we used as much lighting as a rock show would have and changed the lighting to enhance the mood of the raga. It created a special ambience for each song. Also, when the singer alone was singing with the accompaniments silent, only the singer was lit. I think the audience really enjoyed the experience.
How did the traditional Carnatc singers react to this?
T M Krishna said 'Oh God, this is scary' when he first saw it because everything was magnified and amplified. We picked up every nuance of his expressions. I feel this is a brilliant way to archive our talent.
Image: On the sets of 180
'After Margazhi Raagam, I couldn't resist the idea of making a feature film'
Is it going to be an ongoing series for you with many more singers?
Not as yet. It took quite a while to break even the cost as it was expensive producing it. We hope to do more but not as an ongoing feature.
Do you wish you had done this when MS, Sembai and Semmangudi were alive?
Imagine MS with 5.1 sound and image captured with digital cameras! Today, with the kind technology available, we can even make them sing in 3 D. It will be great to see a life like person sitting and singing. That would be a treat for generations to come.
Can we say with Margazhi Raagam, you got the courage to start your first feature film?
The passion to make a film was there and it happened with Bombay Jayashree and TM Krishna. After Margazhi Raagam, more than courage, I couldn't resist the idea of making a feature film.
Image: On the sets of 180
'It made sense to make 180 in Telugu too as Siddharth has a big market in Telugu'
You said you had quite a few scripts in your cupboard. How did you pick this one?
This is not picked from the cupboard; this is written afresh. When you live with script ideas for long, you get bored with them. So, I decided to write a new one. When you are making your first film, you have to think of fresh ideas.
I wrote this one after Margazhi Raagam in short spells and it took me two years to complete. I worked with writers Subha (two people) and they co-wrote the screenplay with me. We wrote several versions and finally reached the version that we liked the best.
Did you have any particular audience in mind while writing the script?
I would say we created characters that the younger generation likes. Very, very, youthful characters. Based on the story idea, we created the characters and after that, the characters wrote the script. We didn't write the script, the characters wrote the script.
Is it a love story?
Why a number as the title?
The number 180 is an integral part of the film. Another reason is, when I am making a bilingual, 180 cuts across all language barriers.
Did you decide in the beginning itself that 180 was going to be a bilingual?
Once the story took shape, I knew I could make it a bilingual as the characters are urban and not placed in any particular milieu.
Also, when I got Siddharth as the hero, it made sense to make it in Telugu too as he has a big market in Telugu too.
Image: Siddharth in Baava
'Nithya Menon was brilliant in Kerala Cafe'
Why did you think of Siddharth?
He fits the central character very well. He is a very good actor. I have known him for the last several years, much, much before he became a part of the film industry. In fact, after he finished his MBA, I put him into the film industry by connecting him to Mani Ratnam to assist him. So, I sent him the script once it was ready. He read it and showed his willingness to act in it. Though I knew he was perfect for the role, I didn't suggest it to him but he also felt he suited the role.
You have Priya Anand and Nithya Menon also in the film. Are those roles equally important?
All the three characters are equally important.
Did you see Nithya Menon in Kerala Cafe and chose her?
Yes, I saw her in Kerala Cafe and thought she was brilliant. So, I called her here and screen tested her. I liked what she did. She is a very intuitive actor.
I tested Priya Anand before I saw her in Leader and chose her. I thought she looked quite urban like the character I had in mind.
Where does the story take place?
The story takes place in the US and India.
When do you plan to release the film?
180 will be a summer release.
How different was making an ad film where you have to convey something in a very short period, and a feature film where you have 2 hours to say the same thing?
I think the advantage I have as an ad film-maker, other than the basic aesthetics and stuff like that is that my film will not drag. If I see anything dragging in the film, it is out. It will be a tight film. Like an ad film-maker, I started with the intention of making my film last 2 hours 15 minutes and let me see where I end. I am sure it will only be that long.
Is it an advantage an ad film-maker has?
I might have made at least 500 ad films. I will say it's an experience an ad film-maker has -- crafting things in a shorter duration. It is important that we give the right length to the audience. If it's long, you see the audience getting restless.
What is the right length?
2 hours 15 minutes!
Image: Nithya Menon