Finding the Middle Route: Filmmaking Lessons from Director Manikandan

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“All films need not possess a message in itself or portray an issue existing in our society”. This is something that most of us firmly agree to as, a film at the end of the day is a form of art that takes many perspectives that may be devoid of a message or an issue. But there are many filmmakers that want to use the film as a tool to enlighten the people about the various issues that are prevalent. Very few among these succeed largely. By success, I mean the ones that favor both the issue and cinema as an art form.

There are many films that fail to engage us because they get carried away with the issue giving us more of a documentary kind of a feel. There are a very few directors that recognize the level of message that needs to be told in films with equal amount of engagement/entertainment. One such filmmaker is Manikandan (Kaaka Muttai, Aandavan Kattalai).

Why his Films are messages filled with Humour?

Manikandan feels that he can’t preach very strongly in films and at the same time can’t afford to give the so called non-stop mindless entertainment also. Rather, he chose the middle path which balances these two. He justifies this by telling that, “there are other platforms to tell issues in a stronger way”. He also believes that there needs to be a greater presentation of an issue by a filmmaker that goes beyond a documentary filmmaker or a journalist!

“A Film is like a small chat with audience”

Manikandan believes that all his audience might or might not perceive the layers in his films. If they don’t perceive the layers,that in no way makes them a wrong audience! He brings in the analogy of 2 persons chatting in a coffee shop. Two persons in a coffee shop discuss about stuffs that both of them are comfortable with. It never goes to something that either of them is uncomfortable of. Similarly, between the filmmaker and the audience, it is important to know and consider what the audience will be comfortable of as it is nothing but a conversation with them.This is  something that all filmmakers ought to consider broadly!

Final thread in a film can’t change!

Particularly talking about the subtext of globalisation in kaaka muttai, manikandan is sure that majority of his audience quite didn’t perceive it as globalisation. But he says the feelings that the ones that got the subtext and the ones that didn’t quite get it are the same!  The ones that didn’t get just cannot term it as globalisation or something else. This is because, the final thread that he had fixed is something that eventually will reach to all. It’s the director’s responsibility  that the final thread remains the same for all.

Engagement value+ Directed Audience!

It’s important to realise the core audience and add engagement value accordingly in a film is what manikandan suggests. Taking the example of his film kutrame thandanai, he directed this film catering only to a small group of audience that formed it’s core. In the quest to reach wider audience, if he had added humour or song or something else, the core audience of his film would’ve definitely been lost.

How Layers were Achieved?

He feels it was more of a necessity than voluntarily doing it. This is because, he says “ I removed songs, fights, standalone comedy tracks and most of all, Villains from my films!” since in a film, villain is an opposite pole for the whole story, he had to stack in layers to compensate for these. He says “filmmakers like him cannot afford to make mistakes even in a single scene as it becomes too noticable for people to point them as there aren’t even a hero and a heroine the audience would see in a film like kaaka muttai. Hence, the layers in his films that increase the depth of his films.

“Thinking in Images”

While writing for a film, manikandan suggests thinking in images increases the visual touches in a scene. He says “ I don’t think in stories or dialogues, but in images”. He uses the analogy  “only if you write in one language, you can talk in the same language”. Meaning, only if one thinks in images would be able to portray the images on the screen perfectly!

Watch the video for more such insights!

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