Here is the link to Part- 1 of this interview.
“I am equally responsible for Kallappadam. Hope you realize that its tougher for a cinematographer to don the grease paint than a director!”, Sriram Santhosh interrupts my discussion with Vadivel with a playful grin. I ask him about his contribution to the Kallappadam project. “Ideally I should have been credited for the screenplay too. Thats how close this project is to me”, Santhosh looks at Vadivel and smiles again. “The idea cropped up in one of our late night brain storming sessions as room mates”.
What brought him into cinema? Why cinematography?, I ask Santhosh. “Its been a chain reaction. Having fallen in love with drawing and painting right from school, I came to Chennai to pursue my masters in Fine Arts after my BFA in Kumbakonam. I developed a passion for photography in my UG days, which I sharpened and experimented a lot during my post-graduation. Then I got the opportunity to work with the Vikatan Student team for a brief period”
“Realizing that journalism was not my forte, I went to PC. Sriram sir to assist him. He took me in after quite some months of relentless pursuing and follow-up. After assisting PC sir for 6 years, when Vadivel pitched the idea of making a small film for his debut movie, Kallappadam happened. So, technically, this is my first film as a cinematographer, though I am associated at a much more closer level with the script.”
I am curious about his doubling up as the actor in his own frames. “Yes, its a tough ask. But we didn’t feel the pressure because we are good friends and understand each other well. For each shot, I had to compose the frame first, check the lighting, then come back to do the camera rehearsals, then proceed to make-up, and finally the take; the entire experience was hard on me, but exciting and informative. Never once, did I compromise myself as a cinematographer, because I had to double up as the actor”
Was acting before the camera more taxing than cinematography?, I wonder. Vadivel and Santhosh look at each other and laugh. “Not really. I tried being my own self before the camera. And Vadivel too helped a lot, especially in the rehearsals.”
I ask him of his future plans. ” I like to experiment a lot with tone and lighting across all genres. One day, I dream of working with Mani Rathnam” he says, his eyes gleaming with confidence
I turn my attention to the youngest looking bespectacled guy of the lot. If I had been told that this guy composed the music for Yuddham Sei back in 2011, I would have found it tough to believe.When I mention this to K, he laughs it off, “That mostly works to my advantage. Also truely, I am the youngest of the lot.”
I ask K about Kallappadam. “We are all team mates. When Mysskin asked me to compose music for Yuddham Sei, Vadivel was his assistant and Gaugin was the editor. When Vadivel asked me to play myself in his debut film, I just couldn’t say no”
Was music always his passion? How did Mysskin find him?, I question. “Yes, I started taking key board lessons very early in school and played in a rock band when I was twelve. Mysskin, who was a family friend, always used to say that he would use me in his films one day, and he kept his promise. Yuddham Sei happened. And then Mugamoodi. Mysskin’s working style is different. He gives the entire script to me, and I give him my suggestions for each scene. He then tells me his opinions and we take it from there. He pretty much has an clear idea of what he wants for each scene, and he doesnt compromise for anything less”
How was it working with Vadivel in Kallappadam, I ask. “When Mysskin offered me a role in Yuddham Sei, I turned it down because I thought I wasn’t ready. But Vadivel somehow convinced me to act. I am basically apprehensive in front of the camera. But in course of time, I settled down a bit. As a music director, I had my freedom to experiment in the background score and songs of the film. Since the film turns a thriller at one point, I took some time to establish the mood with the music. And we have also experimented with the ‘koothu’ form in a song”
I turn towards Vadivel and ask him about the necessity of songs in his movie. “I slightly differ from Mysskin in this aspect. I feel songs can be effectively used to take the script forward, without hampering the flow. I can assure you that none of the songs in Kallappadam will act as speed-breakers”.
Gaugin Venkatesh, the editor of Yuddham Sei and Mugamoodi, and now the editor of Kallappadam, seemingly comes across as the most serious and silent person in the gang. “Well, I think my beard makes you think so”, he quips, while the others seem to agree with me. “I know these three guys right from the time, I started working as the spot editor for Nandalala. We bonded more in Yuddham Sei and Mugamoodi. Vadivel always used to say that when he makes a film, he wanted me as the editor”, he pauses and smiles.
How was it working with Mysskin?, I ask. “He is well learned about all aspects of film making. He knows exactly what he wants and communicates it to us with ease. I got used to his long shots and lingering imagery very easily. His shots actually cant be edited in any other way. He films everything keeping the sequence of events and editing in mind” . Has he had arguments with Mysskin? “A lot”, he confesses. “But when I put forward my point of view, he either agrees or contests it with his opinion. At the end of the day, its all a learning experience”
How was it working with friends? How is his working style with Vadivel?, I quiz. “With Kallappadam, we sat and worked it out to both our satisfaction. We wanted it to be a gripping affair, and so I have edited it accordingly. As planned, we have limited the running time to two hours, to keep the proceedings slick and fast paced.”
When I ask him about his experience as an actor, he grins, “Why lose a once in a life time opportunity? It was all fun, like going to a picnic. But we never compromised on quality, and never stopped till we got what we wanted. Vadivel is himself a perfectionist, and Santhosh competes with him in it.” he ends.
I come back to Vadivel for some parting questions. How much of what he had wanted to take, has managed to bring to the screen, I doubt. “Nearly eighty percent”, he says. “There are a lot of limitations. We creators have to work around that. The censors, the tax exemption, the budget, the logistics, and the scheduling. I have given my best. And my producer Anand was very cooperative, giving me all the freedom I needed, while chipping in occasionally with creative inputs”
Does he consider working with friends a disadvantage, as he cant be rude or strict? “Not at all, On the contrary, it gives you the space to get what you want, unmindful of social etiquette and manners. And much more than that, you wont feel the pressure and tension, when you are with close friends. The atmosphere is always cool and jovial, and that brings out the best in me”, he smiles.
So, is Kallappadam a meta film?, I suggest. Vadivel is quick not to label it, “Not only a meta film. It has a gripping conflict that has all the makings of a thriller. I would call it a sensible commercial film, that reaffirms the fact that hard work begets success.”
After some parting pleasantries and the customary selfie, as I bid good bye to the guys, I realize that their infectious energy had caught on to me. As I walk out, I sincerely hope that the film turns to be as interesting and diverse, as this lovely bunch of friends.
Kallappadam is due for release on 20th March, we at MAM wish Vadivel and his team all the very best for the same.