Director Ramkumar’s Ratchasan trailer, that released a few days ago, sent thriller fans on a tizzy. Starring Vishnu Vishal and Amala Paul in the lead, the trailer had clock-ticking, nail-biting sequences, timed perfectly to the beats. This racy drama coming from the director who gave us Mundasupatti - a rural comedy-drama - is what makes this film even more interesting.
In this interview with TNM, the director talks about the making of Ratchasan, how he overcame his numerous rejections, the major clue that’s already out and on his next with actor Dhanush.
How did Ratchasan happen?
After Mundasupatti, I did not want to do another comedy film. I wanted to do something that’s completely on the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of its genre. I wanted it to be a serious film. I read an interesting article about two people in the newspaper. They are not Indians. One was a psycho killer and the other was a lady. This gave me a basic structure to the story. That main character sparked off a story in me. Screenplay took almost a year. The character in my story is based on a real person - a psycho killer. Ratchasan is a fictional story built upon this character.
So you did not want to get typecast as a director?
Exactly. Making someone laugh is the most difficult thing to do. It is the most challenging aspect of filmmaking. So I would not say one is better than the other. I mainly did not want to get typecast as a comedy filmmaker. I was sure on that. If this film (Ratchasan) wasn’t going to happen for me, I wouldn’t have made another. People often consider their film as their child but for me the story itself was my child.
Ratchasan has been in the making for a while. You also faced a lot of rejection initially. Tell us about that
The kind of rejection I faced for this film was huge. Perhaps people did not expect something like this from me. I must’ve lost them immediately after I began narrating the first scene (laughs). Also, initially the hero of my story was a 40-year-old guy who also had a child. Many actors were a little hesitant to play such a character. Then I removed the child from my story and even then things did not pick up.
Another aspect that put them off was the villain in my film. The villain is a very strong character, bigger than the hero. This might have worked the opposite way for a few. I think the hero has to win over the most powerful villain. But perhaps they thought it might not give them better scope in terms of acting. So the project itself took a while to take off.
So you had to compromise with your story?
I haven’t compromised at all. If I had, I would’ve made the film sooner. (laughs) I did change my hero’s character and thankfully it has worked wonders for the story. Here again, I only changed it truly for the sake of my story. Originally the hero was an influential, powerful ACP. Now he’s a sub-inspector who comes from a normal background. This change was a major plus for the story.
There was a change in the film’s title from Cinderella to Ratchasan. Why?
Actually, Ratchasan was the original title we wanted to use for this film. Back then, we faced a few problems in getting the tile so we decided to change it to Cinderella. This name also fit very well with my story. But this title too ran into trouble. So I came up with Minmini. I wanted the title to be the complete opposite of the film and Minmini had a very light, happy ring to it. But a few team members preferred the film’s original title - Ratchasan. So we tried as much as we could to amicably settle upon this title.
Is there going to be a social message in Ratchasan?
Yes, there is. Girl children especially go through sexual abuse and the abuser in most cases is someone well known to the child and her family. This film will create an awareness among teenage girl children to stay alert at all times.
The trailer revealed that the film’s villain has anti-social disorder. How sensitively have you handled this mental condition?
When a child is affected during his/her formative years, especially during their adolescent years, it causes a deeper impact to their psyche. They tend to never recover from it and this backstory is true in the case of all psycho killers. I’ve based my story only around this.
You seem to have put quite a bit of research into this. Have series like Mindhunter inspired you?
I did this story four years ago and Mindhunter is pretty recent. As far as research goes, I read a lot on such psycho killers. It was difficult to go any deeper (laughs). Also, when it comes to thrillers, the pattern is the same. There’s a killer on the loose, hero tries to solve the murder mystery. So what can be done differently here? The way in which it is presented.
I do like a lot of Korean films - Memories of a Murder, I Saw the Devil. That is not to say Ratchasan has been done on the lines of these films. I’ve tried to keep it as Indian as possible. There’s a backstory of my villain, there’s also a higher emotional quotient in this film - things that foreign films lack.
The dialogue in your teaser and trailer - ‘Ne enna pudichalum, naan, naana irukka matten' (Even if you were to catch me, I wouldn’t be myself), sounds like a major twist is in the offing. How did this happen?
This dialogue came very naturally. The dialogue will tell you all about the character. It is a very important pre-climax twist.
The title's font has piano keys. Is this a clue for us?
Definitely. Piano is the main clue.
Tell us about Vishnu and Amala’s performance in this film
Vishnu has done a great job. Especially there’s a scene on top of a bridge that required him to drive while talking over the phone. We filmed it at 1.00 am and this also happens to be the time when heavy vehicles’ movement would be high on the roads. It was a very emotional scene and so he had to drive carefully, remember his dialogues and remember the right kind of emotions. He did the scene so well!
Amala Paul needed very little directions, she’s a great actor. We only gave her a little information and she was able to pull it off so well. Also, actor Muniskanth has to be appreciated for his performance. He’s a great actor. After filming a particular performance of his in Mundasupatti, the crew members clapped and appreciated him. The same happened for Ratchasan as well. Here people around the sets, who had come to watch, broke into applause after his performance. This shows how good his performances are.
We heard you’ve signed your next with Dhanush?
You have already? (chuckles) The film’s teaser was ready a year ago. Having seen it, someone from his office called me asking if I had a line for Dhanush. Back then, I didn’t, so I said I’ll come back with one. Now again, a few months ago, they had called. This time I narrated a line and he immediately liked it. It is a fantasy-based character and would be a very daring choice for an actor to make. We’ll begin work after Ratchasan’s release.