Interviewer : Venkatesh | Camera : Balaji | Text : Prathap | Coordination : Venkatesh
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Praveen, Editor of Ajith's 50th film Mankatha speaks to

Tell us how your career began

I am in the editing profession since 1996. My first job was at ETV as a linear editor. And then I worked for Balu Mahendra for his Kadai Neram sitcom that was telecast for 52 weeks. After that I worked for Discovery Channel, Singapore for about 9 years. It was in 2006 that I met Venkat Prabhu through my friends and he offered me to edit his Chennai 28. This was when the movie was just taking shape. I did not take it seriously and thought he was only casually offering me the job. I told him we could talk after he finished working on the script. After a couple of months, he called me up and said the script is ready and asked me to come join the team. It was an accidental offer so to say but it was a nice experience. I liked working for the team. Since it was sort of the first movie for everyone involved in it, we put the best of our efforts to make it a success and it worked.

I did not want to come into


After Chennai 28, I left for Singapore. I wanted to go back to my life in Singapore since I did not have any complaints with that. But it’s the case of following your family’s footsteps. My father and grandfather were in the movies. I did not want to come into movies but eventually I did.

And Saroja happened; after that there was no looking back. I worked for a number of films. I received the State Government award for Saroja. From then on, I have worked in about 24 films. Now, I am involved in Mankatha, Ajith’s 50th film. It’s a huge responsibility. This is also a mammoth effort for Venkat and we are hoping this movie will serve as a platform for us to reach the next level in our career. We are putting in our 100% for Mankatha.

Mankatha is a huge responsibility

Ajith’s intro song for Mankatha

is shot in Bangkok

Did you have to take any special efforts for Mankatha?

Ajith’s intro song for Mankatha is shot in Bangkok. What’s special about the song is that it is shot in a club. Since that song marks Ajith’s entry into the movie, different types of visuals were shot before finalizing on one. Usually such songs will have rushes for one hour but this particular song has rushes for about four and a half hours. I had to compress the rushes and bring it into the song. That was a huge challenge. Venkat wanted a totally different setting for this, unlike any other club songs ever shot. So we had to work a lot to get that effect. We had readied the song like that and the teaser trailer will have a sample of that song.

Be it color tones or the fight sequences or the shot to shot transitions, they were shot according to Yuvan’s fast beats. Mankatha employs a lot of novel techniques. Every technique used in Mankatha is new. There is a fight sequence that is sure to be considered as the highlight of the movie. I can’t reveal you anything more about it but trust me it will blow your mind.

Every technique used in

Mankatha is new

I save my best for Venkat

Venkat Prabhu’s contribution to editing

Venkat Prabhu and I share a very good rapport. He doesn’t even come to the edits. He sends me the rushes and leaves the rest to me. According to my imagination, I will do the edits. We share this camaraderie since Chennai 28 days. For instance, for the Jalsa Pannunga Da song I did the edits and showed him the video in the shoot location and the song got okayed. So I basically know what he wants and since I am free to experiment, the job gets done faster. I feel a lot more responsible owing to Venkat’s confidence in me. So every time we work together, I feel the urge to give him something new. Truth be told, I save my best for Venkat.

How is your relationship with Sakthi Saravanan?

I am in very good terms with cinematographer Sakthi Saravanan. In regular scenarios, there is bound to be some level of friction between the editor and the cinematographer. But I never experienced that with Sakthi. He has always been very cooperative about my requirements of shots. For instance, I wanted a different shot for the ‘dost bada dost’ song. He did not show so much of a flinch but agreed to shoot as it was required by me. In fact the reason why that song came out so well is because of our brainstorming sessions. I received like 4 awards for that. And Saroja got State Award as well. Sakthi is the man of innovation and he is always up for trying new things. If you told him that there is a new camera in the market that we could use for our next movie, he would go ahead and buy it. Venkat, Sakthi and I, the three of us had plans to direct a 3-D film. And I suggested Sakthi about this new camera used for 3-D venture. Sakthi immediately took us to the shops to take a look at the equipment. He is very enthused.

Venkat, Sakthi and I, had plans

to direct a 3-D film

Tell us about Ajith

Ajith is a perfect gentleman. A very nice and kind man. I had to go to the sets of Mankatha a few times since we are using this new technique called motion cam that involves online editing on location. Whenever I am on the sets working, Ajith always comes up to us and talks to us without the air of a star. We get biriyani, pasta and similar home-cooked food when we are in the sets. He will always ask for our honest opinion, be it food or his acting. He has never interfered in any of our work but always asks for our feedback. He asks if his performance is on par with the movie’s standards or needs improvement. I am actually surprised; a star who has about 50 films to his credit, seeking feedback about his performance.

Yuvan is totally cool and keeps


About Yuvan and his songs for Mankatha

Yuvan is the musician for all of Venkat Prabhu’s movies. Besides, I have also worked with Yuvan in many other movies. I share a good rapport with Yuvan so if we need an extended score for a song or any other visuals, he will always oblige. For instance, for the ‘Machi Bottle’ in Mankatha I felt if there is an extended portion since Ajith’s dance and Yuvan’s music was so much in sync it would be nice to extend the song a little bit. When I expressed Yuvan this interest, he immediately said yes.

Whenever I edit, I do that with music to get a sense of rhythm and particular pacing of a scene. So when I show the edited portions to Yuvan, it’s with music. He enjoys it. And if he feels he has to watch it without the music, he will say so. He is totally cool and keeps improvising. The version of ‘Kodana Kodi’ he gave us when the song went for shoots is different from the one we received afterwards. I had to totally rework on the edits and when I asked him in exasperation, he said ‘please do the re-cuts; imagine the number of times I had to suffer because of your edits.’ He is fun to work with.

Tell us something about Mankatha. About the color of the film

Mankatha is a dark, action thriller. It is set in the slums of Mumbai and is about money, about 10 people chasing a huge amount of money. Ajith plays obviously the biggest role in the film. Since the movie is set in Dharavi, Mumbai’s infamous slums, we had decided that the movie will carry a dark, grim, dirty look. So essentially, the scenes about Dharavi will have grimy, brown and rustic feel. In contrast, Ajith’s portions and the heroine’s portions have a softer look and feel. Mankatha is also a very complex story. Venkat has done a commendable job in terms of putting all the actors together. The casting is perfect. This is also a different movie for Venkat whose strongest focus was always on comedy. So this is his attempt to break that mould. But the movie is not entirely dark; there are Venkat’s touches of comic brilliance. And Ajith complements it with his onscreen charisma. In fact Venkat was telling me recently how Ajith enjoyed his transformation for Mankatha from his regular roles. which is all good for us. I am sure it’s going to be a treat for Ajith fans.

Mankatha is about 10 people

chasing a huge amount of money

Arjun plays a very valiant

CBCID officer

Tell us about Arjun and his role

Arjun has graciously accepted to take up the role in the film. Despite the presence of other stars and his image, Arjun agreed to do Mankatha. Arjun is synonymous with cop characters and he plays a very valiant CBCID officer who goes after criminals. That’s only as much I can say about Arjun’s character. I have always been a fan of Arjun stunts. There is a special stunt scene, composed specially for Arjun in this movie. It’s a very tricky shot. He had to drive in about 120 km/h and pick up Sumanth (Vaibhav). He managed it quite well. Usually such stunts take a lot of shots but Arjun did that in just one take with ease. That is one of the highlights of the movie.

About Trisha

Trisha is one of the main characters of Mankatha. There are three heroines in this movie. Trisha, Andrea and Anjali. Trisha plays Ajith’s love interest. Like every other lover girl, she is also very protective about him. She disapproves of his smoking, his partying and stuff. There is a completely CG song between them, which will also be a highlight of the movie. We have recreated about 7 sets. In terms of role, she plays the bridge between the two central characters - Arjun and Ajith.

Lakshmi Rai?

Well, that’s a secret. I can’t reveal much about it. She plays a reckless woman, who doesn’t care what happens tomorrow. She has a song with Ajith and Premji and supplies the humor element. She also has a lively character. Her role is parallel to Trisha’s, which will be colorful throughout the movie.

Your other films

Other than Mankatha, I am doing 7 movies. Vasanthabalan’s Aravan, which is a complicated period film, set in the sixteenth century. Vasanthabalan has done a tremendous job of recreating the sets. This is a challenging film for me since it’s got lots of CG works. I am enjoying working on every scene of the film. Besides, I just finished Aaranya Kaandam produced by SPB Charan who is a good friend of mine. This film got the best film award at the New York Film awards with standing ovation. I am very happy for Charan. This will release in the first week of June. Other than these, I am working on Madil Mel Poonai, Kazhugu, Thadayara Thaaka, a Malayalam and a Telugu film. Besides, I am also working on a Tanglish film called Pickled, jointly produced by the Singapore Government.

Tags : Praveen, Mankatha, Ajith, Trisha, Venkat Prabhu, Arjun
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