With back-to-back interviews lined up, it has been a hectic day for Karthick Naren, whose second film, Naragasooran is getting released this month. “I’m confident that I’ve made a good film,” he smiles. The young filmmaker eases into this chat with answers that are honest and refreshing.
Excerpts from a conversation follow:
You dropped out of college at 19 and took to filmmaking. Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (D16) was well-received. Now, you’re 24.
When someone refers to my age, I panic, because that’s seen as a huge disadvantage. After D16, a few producers are open to working with youngsters, but many of them are apprehensive. I don’t know why age is often associated with maturity.
How did you handle the attention you got post-D16?
I didn’t take it seriously. The moment I signed Naragasooran, I had people caution me about the freedom I got during the making of D16. I enjoyed the same in this film, too. Naragasooran was creatively satisfying. I managed to retain the old technical crew except for the music director. Barring a few episodes (you know what they are), I’ve no regrets.
Will you collaborate with Gautham Menon again?
First of all, I chose Naragasooran because I wanted to work with him. He’s a huge inspiration to me. Oh yes, certain things went wrong. That’s all right. Everything was an experience. I still hold a lot of respect for him as a filmmaker. Time decides everything. (Smiles)
What does Naragasooran have in store for the audience?
Naragasooran is a suspense drama and not a thriller with horror elements. The title is closely linked to the storyline. When you watch the film, you’ll know why I named it so. The film is nothing but a case study of civilised human beings. I wrote the script when I was occupied with the post-production work of D16. I’ve also dealt with ‘the fear’ and ‘the myth’ factors here.
When we released the trailer, we feared that the audience would guess the plot. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. It had no dialogues, and we wanted to communicate the feel of the film through the actors’ expressions. We had cut the trailer in such a way those characters looked into the camera so that the audience could connect with it. Initially, we thought of making it a Tamil-Telugu bilingual. For now, we’ve dubbed into Telugu. We completed the film in 41 days (two schedules).
Naragasooran isn’t a positive title. It sounds quite villain-ish.
I get what you’re saying. To be honest, it never struck me in the beginning. We had a few hiccups in the middle, and that’s when I was told it was all because of the title. (Laughs) In fact, I didn’t think of an alternative one.
Take us through the writing process.
When I write, I simply enjoy it. I don’t let the director in me out. Of course, you’ll see Karthick Naren in every character -- at least 20-30 percent. At the end of the day, I put myself into the shoes of my characters. I created them in a particular style because of the milieu the story is set in (Ooty). When you think of the place, you associate it with romance. But, to me, it’s about mystery, suspense, and thrill. Maybe, that’s because -- of the stories -- I had listened to, as a kid. I clarify -- I don’t believe in supernatural powers, but I love watching horror films! Arriving at the knot, as always, is challenging. Once done, half the job is over.
You pulled off a casting coup of sorts with Arvind Swami, Shriya Saran, Sundeep Kishan, Aathmika and Indrajith Sukumaran for Naragasooran.
I had set actors in mind while writing the film and glad I was able to rope in them all. They’re sensible, unconventional and powerful actors. Arvind sir told me not to change the script according to his image. Indrajith (who plays a cop) and Sundeep were equally encouraging. Everyone was cool with me not having songs in the film. It’s rare to get understanding actors, who care about the whole film, not just their characters.
It’s interesting that D16 didn’t have songs. Neither does Naragasooran.
That was sheer coincidence. Hey, I’ve nothing against songs, okay? (Laughs). But they’re not your usual films. D16 and Naragasooran are not arthouse cinema. They’re pretty much commercial. I am a fan of films in general. I watch everything -- from Velaikkaran to Thaana Serndha Koottam. But my favourite genre is thriller/horror.
You began your career making short films. Do you’ve plans to direct a few more in future?
Absolutely. When I direct a short film, I don’t have to think about the Censor Board. (Laughs) You’re being given 15 minutes, and you need to tell the story within the specified time frame. And, that’s how you learn to edit. Moreover, I’m not a quitter. Success-o, failure-o cinema dhan. That’s one of the reasons why I chose to see filmmaking as a hobby, and not something I do for a living.
What makes a great film for you?
Something that touches my soul and stays with me for a long period. If not, some time. I often feel it’s not about the story, but the way you narrate it. To name a few: Oldboy, Kannathil Muththamittal, Gangs of Wasseypur, and The Secret in their Eyes.
One thing you dislike about films?
Films are one of the largest means to reach the masses. I don’t like it when the wrong things, like stalking, are glorified onscreen.
Nadaga Medai. It will be a lighthearted venture that talks about the modern day society.