Interviewer : Inian & Jyothsna Bhavanishankar | Camera : Ganeshbabu | Text: Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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Magilzh Thirumeni - the name sounds unique and one of its kind. So does this director when he gets talking. His impressive testimonial prides itself in having worked with the brilliant minds of contemporary Tamil film industry viz. Gautham Menon and Selvaraghavan. Now Magilzh Thirumeni is ready with his maiden offering Mun Dinam Parthene. Here he is on a freewheeling chat in his characteristic baritone with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar and Iniyan.

Your journey in the film industry?

I started my work assisting Selvaraghavan a few years back. Selva had then completed a script called Kaadalagi which later got changed into Kaadal Kondein. He had narrated the script to many actors who evinced keen interest in it. He started work with a puja with actor Murali. That’s when I joined him. However for some unexpected reasons, the project was getting delayed and Kasthuri Raja commenced Thulluvado Ilamai. Selvaraghavan wrote the story and screen play for the film. I worked with Kasthuri Raja for the film for three schedules. Barring the first schedule, the rest of the film was written and directed by Selvaraghavan. That’s how my journey in films began.

What are the films that you have worked with Gautham Menon?

I have worked with Gautham in Kaakka Kaakka and Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu. I joined as an assistant in Kaakka Kaakka and was promoted to Chief Associate. And now it is Mun Dinam Parthene.

Experience working with Gautham Menon

Working with Gautham was such a sweet experience. It is a known fact that he is a talented director but more than that Gautham Menon is a wonderful human being. People who have worked with him would vouch on this humane aspect of him. Basically working with Gautham was big fun and also a big learning process for me. I learnt so much from him – writing and implementing the script, transforming the script to a film, conducting oneself with every kind of technicians and getting the work done from them, handling of artists- the gamut is wide and I learnt all of it from Gautham. It was a fantastic journey and work experience.

Gautham Menon and Selvaraghavan

Gautham and Selva are two extremes. It is my good fortune to have worked with these two talented directors. Selvaraghavan is absolutely brilliant just like Gautham but in his own way. Selva has clear cut ideas about various aspects of film making. He has lucid thoughts about the manner in which the story to be made into a screen play and then into film, the lighting aspects, camera angles, the position of the artists, their body language, voice modulations, type of costumes etc. On the other hand, Gautham discusses with everyone. I am not saying Selva does not discuss. Selva has a vision whereas Gautham’s vision will methodically evolve after repeated discussions with his technical crew. One cannot say which is right and which is wrong. Their film which is the outcome of their hard work will be top class and therein lies the success of their style.

" Gautham and Selva are two

extremes "

Do you recall any of your ideas getting implemented in Gautham’s films?

As regards Gautham, he is always open to discussions with his entire team starting from assistants to cameramen to art directors to editors. So I don’t much remember what I told in particular and what got translated. My contributions may have been insignificant. But this is a process resulting out of teamwork which always happens in any of Gautham’s works. In my opinion, in the process of film making, there may arise numerous inputs from various sources. The moment a director accepts our input and incorporates it, it ceases to be ours and becomes his. He may not take it as such but would transform that to suit his vision. In Hollywood, directors don’t write screenplays; the second it reaches from the script writer’s hands to the director, it does not belong to the script writer’s anymore. Hence all of Gautham’s films are the product of his hard work irrespective of the directions of inputs which evolve along with his perspective.

How did you impress the producers 7th Channel for Mun Dinam Parthene?

By narrating the story of course! (chuckles). I first told the story to Ms Mala of 7th Channel who liked it and then Mr. Mahesh of 7th channel read my script and he too liked it. That’s how it started. After Manickam sir gained confidence, he decided to launch the project. When the question of casting came, I suggested new faces and he decided to go along with it. As the film was shaping up and when the first schedule was being completed, his confidence levels in me soared which resulted in him taking us to England and Italy.

" Mun Dinam Parthene

is a colorful, youthful

and a pleasant film "

In the current scenario, I am a first time director, I still don’t have a clout to pull crowds and my name is not marketable. Besides that, my artists are first timers and the project does not boast of heavy weights in its crew. However our strength is our producer who never flinched even a little to the abovementioned features. Generally people would be hesitant to even start such a project as there are certain logics and limitations which govern such projects in terms of economic returns due to business dynamics and financial viability. But Manickam Narayanan sir not only commenced the project but also spent more for this project. When you will see the film, you will realize its worth. Mun Dinam Parthene is a colorful, youthful and a pleasant film. Narayanan sir is wholly responsible for the films’ sweet splendor. And also the trust he had on my script. I owe him a lot and so does my team.

About the songs shot overseas.

MDP is a Chennai based story. Although the premise is Chennai, it could be relatable to any city dweller be it from Mumbai or Ahmadabad or any metropolis. I did not think about this script beyond Chennai be it the storyline or the songs. At this juncture, I need to thank my music director Thaman. MDP is a breezy light hearted entertainer. And when I say this, music plays a significant role in the film. We had already decided that this story will only be told through music. I wanted the music to be youthful, fresh and peppy to suit the mood of the film and Thaman has exceeded my expectations in this department. And only after listening to the music, Narayanan sir was keen and confident that we go abroad to shoot the sequences. I owe it to Thaman and Narayanan sir for giving us some fantastic locales.

" Thaman has exceeded my

expectations "

It was Narayanan sir who said after listening to music – let us go to some lush, green and grand locations to shoot. We shot in London, Dover, Italy, Venice and Cortina. These locations were chosen by Narayanan sir who decided on this after a vigorous scouting of picturesque locales. He travelled the entire Eastern Europe and gave me extensive choice of places. The mindboggling list included places like Hungary, Germany, Czechoslovakia, London, Egypt, Italy, Romania and Poland. Such locations were impressive but were not needed for the script. So we chose London, nearby Dover and Cortina and Venice in Italy. I think MDP is the first Tamil film shot overseas involving newcomers. The entire credit goes to Narayanan sir.

Why many new faces in MDP?

The main reason is the script wherein the hero is an ordinary boy next door. I needed an artist sans image baggage and trappings. I was keen that the audience should see only the character and not a hero. That’s the main reason I got Sanjay, Ektha, Lizna and Pooja and all of them have justified my selection and have performed well.

" I needed an artist sans image

baggage and trappings "

" MDP is not a classic

triangular love story "

Is MDP about love triangle?

No, it is not. There is a particular formula for commercial films. I will not say I have flouted that formula in MDP and as it is my first film, I cannot take such risks. However I have brought in a few novelties here and there working within the framework of commercial prescription. I am confident that those little few things would certainly appeal to the audience. MDP is not a classic triangular love story.

Is the title Mun Dinam Parthene a thanksgiving of sorts to Gautham Menon?

Yes, it is! Firstly MDP is my homage to Gautham, some kind of offering to him. I have told in many occasions that Gautham Menon has been a great source of influence not only in my professional front but also in my personal life. I had a desire to pay obeisance to him and that’s one of the main reasons to have chosen the said title. Secondly as regards the film, there is a small relevance associated with its title. After we christened the film when we asked people what kind of emotional waves it churns, they said that it is poetic, nice and beautiful and felt it indicates a love story. And that is what we wanted. If life is a journey, all of us have crossed many milestones and I wanted the title to be reminiscent of those journeys undertaken. In that vein, Mun Dinam Parthene is an apt title.

" MDP is my homage to

Gautham "

About your cast?

Hero is Sanjay and he is a Chennai boy. He has done an acting course from Mumbai. I am very happy with the way he has performed. Sanjay was very natural. I did not want any kind of melodrama in my film and he fitted into the character very smoothly. Pooja, Ektha and Lizna, the lady leads are from Mumbai. Right from the beginning we wanted the women to have south Indian looks and scouted for almost six months but in vain. As the time was flying, we had no other option other than to go to Mumbai though I was not keen to cast a non-south Indian face. We auditioned around 200 girls and finally zeroed in on these girls. Although the heroines are from north India, we were anxious that they understand the dialogues that they speak. Hence we organized workshops and taught them Tamil to a certain extent. They have also delivered well and I am sure our efforts will certainly show on screen. In addition, Thaman’s music is the major pillar to MDP. And then there is a group of young girls and boys as my supporting cast who has done extremely well. I cannot much speak about them as it will be like revealing too much. You will understand when you see the film.

About cinematographer Vincent?

Vincent who apprenticed with P C Sreeram is the cinematographer for MDP. He has done many films and I am sure he will be recognized for his talent in MDP. I am so proud and happy about his fantastic work.

In Kollywood, there are directors who excel in their very 1st film but fade into oblivion afterwards. What is your take on this?

I don’t think there could be a general answer and feel it is case specific. I am not able to pinpoint any reason. Some of them would be living with a story, keep honing it and travelling with it. Once they do justice to the story and execute it, a vacuum of sorts may have set in. I don’t know. The recent crop of directors in Kollywood who have given a trailblazing and trendsetting victory in their very first film are in for a long innings. I feel they have the potential to take the Tamil film industry to a higher level. It is a good question but there are no general answers.

When there is a general Madurai fad in Kollywood today, is your Chennai premise in MDP a deliberate one?

I am an admirer of films with the ugly boys and Madurai background which are shrieking of realism all over. According to me it is a healthy trend in Tamil cinema. Such films are an eye opener which has transported the premise of story telling from Chennai to Madurai in a realistic manner. These films have shown that life does exist elsewhere too and a story can be narrated with such characters and with such a background. However I have not made any deliberate attempt to deviate from this course. It just happened that the story of MDP is about middle class and upper middle class urban characters. I am one of those who vote for realism in both city based as well as rural milieu subjects

What is the role of an assistant director in a film?

Assistant directors are very important to a film. It is difficult to do a film without assistant directors. That is the truth. An assistant director is as important as a cinematographer or an editor or an art director. An assistant director is someone who travels along with the director and offers him the right kind of views. My assistant directors are also like that and are like a guide and friend to me.
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