Anjana
Interviewer : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar | Camera : Balaji | Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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ANJANA INTERVIEW
Having started her career in ad films, Anjana learnt the ropes of feature film making from Gautham Menon when she worked as his associate in Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu. Ready with her maiden offering Veppam which is produced by Gautham’s Photon Kathas, Anjana talks in detail about the film and its making to Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
:

An introduction about yourself

I am from ad film background. I started my production house in October 1997 and have been producing ad films, music videos, documentaries and so on. At some point of time I felt the need to tell a long story, longer than 30 seconds and that’s when I wanted to get into feature films. I have written many scripts and was waiting for the right opportunity. Gautham Menon is a very good friend of mine and he was making Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu with Kamal sir at that time and we both thought it was a good opportunity for me to work hands on in a feature film and to get to know the ropes of it. Hence I worked as an associate in Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu and three years down the line, I am here with Veppam today.



Gautham was very cool and rock

solid

How was it work with Gautham Menon?

Gautham Menon is the calmest and the most unruffled kind of a person. Disaster can be happening around him but he would not react at all. That’s what struck me the most in him as a person and also while I was working with him. This quality extended to his role as a producer too.

Most of the times (at shoots), things don’t go as planned. This was a film which was supposed to be tight on budget and we wanted to complete it very efficiently in ad film style within a set duration and of course we did that. However along the line, there were many hurdles like rain. Every time when we wanted to shoot a song, it would rain and we had no other option but to cancel shoots. And there were many such instances. But Gautham was very cool and rock solid. He would just say- go for it and do whatever needs to be done.

The kind of creative freedom he gave us was something unbelievable. I think being a film maker himself, he knows the value of space and difference in the quality of output when someone is given complete freedom as against someone who is not. Gautham is experienced enough and is smart enough to understand this. It was an amazing experience working with Gautham as a producer for my first film. I hope I am as lucky in future with rest of my producers also.

What is Veppam all about?

It is a very difficult question to answer. Firstly Veppam is an ordinary story about very ordinary, nondescript bunch of people who live in slums. The film follows multiple tracks and is about three friends- 2 boys and a girl- and what happens in their life. Certain things occur in their life which makes them take specific decisions and Veppam deals with the consequence of such decisions. The story moves about these multiple tracks which criss-cross each other at various points and the people who are connected to each other and ultimately the conclusion. It is difficult for me to condense into a single story line because it is hard to pick out one person as the hero or the principle protagonist of Veppam. All the characters take the story forward in huge ways, in their own graph.



Veppam is about ordinary,

nondescript people who live in

slums




Veppam is a realistic film

What influenced you to cast Karthik, Naani, Bindu Madhavi and Nithya Menon?

Veppam is a realistic film. We have tried very hard to make it as real as possible. We shot the film in real live locations and went into all kinds of unimaginable places. We shot where there was no physical space and where there was hardly any intervention in terms of lights or equipments or from art director. We basically
put the camera in places as we wanted to capture things as they were and just rolled. An extension of this effort was what influenced the casting to a great extent. I did feel that if we had known faces doing various roles, there would be a plus point in terms of performance and the marketability of the film. The minus would be the audience would look at these people as actors themselves and there would be a pre-conceived baggage through which they would be filtering them. On the other hand, if you have people who you have not seen before, you would not have anything to relate them to. You would see them as the characters in the film rather than as actors. I felt this would add to the grittiness and rawness of the film.

Besides that, the actors who worked with me are extremely talented, highly energetic. There was so much of positive spirit, optimism and energy which were brought on to the table.

Where was the film shot?

Veppam is set in Chennai and hence it was shot in and around Chennai in all the common places like the slums, market places, beach, private streets, and Mahabalipuram. One song and a couple of scenes were shot in Pondicherry. Another song was shot in Kodaikanal because that song involved a little bit of fantasy and imagination, mixed with memory and longing. We wanted a slightly different look and tone to it. If you would see any snippets or footage of the film, you would agree with me that the familiar places and landmarks of Chennai have been captured by Om Prakash in an interesting manner. This was evident in the way he set the frames and rolled. He was extremely dynamic and added a huge value to the film.



Veppam is set in Chennai




Joshua Sridhar is a prolific

composer

Joshua Sridhar’s music

Everybody knows how central music is to our films. Veppam does not fall under the category of typical love story wherein music will elevate emotions and make you feel all those emotions that the lovers are supposed to go through. Although Veppam can be slotted in an action genre, there is also space in it for feelings like love, longing, separation and certain basic
human sentiments and that’s where Joshua’s music has come into play. Joshua Sridhar has done something remarkable for the film and his music is very fresh to listen to, very different from what you hear in our usual Tamil films. I am very happy about it as I wanted everything associated with the film to be different. Joshua Sridhar is a prolific composer. I would ask him for a tune for a particular situation and he would give me four. I would listen to the four tunes and think that two would work. But by the time I could tell this, he would send me six more tunes and by the time I could listen to those 6 tunes, he would send me 10 more tunes resulting in 25-30 tunes to pick from for a single song. Joshua is certainly one of a kind.

Na Muthukumar’s lyrics

Muthukumar sir is incredible. He would listen to the situation and we also would have the scratch playing. The entire song would be ready on paper in 30 minutes. He will sync it with the meter and we would listen to the tune while he will be syncing it and that’s it, the song would be ready. There was very little that I could say. Perhaps, in a couple of rare occasions I had requested an alternate word or something like that. Muthukumar’s wavelength is incredible and his speed of turn-around is fabulous. The hallmark of Na Muthukumar’s lyrics is its simplicity. His lyrics are very easy to understand but at the same time, there is a rhythm to it which gives it the poetry. All the same his lyrics are not devoid of symbolism which is one of the beautiful ways of communicating without actually saying something.



The hallmark of Na

Muthukumar’s lyrics is its

simplicity




Om Prakash is the hero of
Veppam

Om Prakash’s cinematography

In many ways, Om Prakash is the hero of Veppam because no matter what the director sits and thinks of in terms of characterization or scenes or dialogues or songs, ultimately it is the cameraman’s vision which marks your film. Unless the cameraman understands to such an extent what is there in your mind, and unless he has that kind of drive and motivation, it is very difficult to put your film anywhere beyond just an average film.

Om Prakash has done some incredible stuff with his camera. As I said earlier we only shot in and around Chennai and there was nothing to aid him in aesthetic appeal because all places we shot were not exotic locales. We were shooting in slums of Chennai. It is not easy to capture the raw feel and to make it look real, gritty and at the same time to make it look interesting, dynamic and stunning also. But he made it look easy.

Om Prakash is a crazy guy. He is a perfectionist. We will be shooting at 2 in the morning and all of us would be ready to drop dead where we are; we would be ready to complete and get it over and done with and call it a day and he will be nitpicking for the smallest of detail as every frame has to be meticulously planned for him and there would be absolutely no compromise from his side.

His sense of color and composition is amazing. Although I have worked with many cameramen, I have not come across someone like Om Prakash. He will not settle for anything other than the best. If you try and make him compromise, he will nag you and finally you will go his way.

At the end of the day, his efforts and motivation have made Veppam look remarkable. We have got positive feedbacks from people who have seen the trailers and the two songs that were screened during the audio launch.

Om Prakash’s cinematography is the first thing that hits you when you watch the film because it is something very unusual. As Veppam follows multiple tracks, we also wanted a visual separation between the characters because each one’s personality is different but at the same time we wanted the film to be consistent in terms of look and tone. All this was possible, thanks to Om Prakash being there by my side.

The plus and minus of being a woman director

I don’t think it really matters. I have been directing my ad films for 13-14 years and I don’t think it is gender-specific at all. If you have talent and knowledge, you can command respect from your cast and crew irrespective of the gender. I did not have any problems at all.

Tags : Anjana, Veppam, Gautham Menon
 
 
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