“Ours’ was not Big-Budget. But We Got the Core Right” Interview with Creator of Nila Nila Odi Vaa

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What’s my first reaction to the name Nila Nila Odi Vaa?

I was thinking, is this even an apt name for a web series?

It sounds so old school.

I know that there were totally 4 web series released in (Free to watch) VIU.

And I make it a point to see what’s happening in all the four?

I was telling myself just 1 or 2 minutes, I am going to stay in every series, And whatever that keeps me longer, I am going to watch it fully.

Nila Nila Odi Vaa was my 4th in the list.

I soon start playing it,

And let me tell you, within a minute or two, I sensed the maturity.

I am not a filmmaker. I am not very critical about the technicality.

But I am a very sensible viewer. Pulling me in and making me watch the 4 episodes released till now, in a flash is no easy task. Especially when you have budget restrictions. Especially when you have a huge responsibility that this being one of the first web shows launching the platform VIU in Tamil.

Creator Nandhini exclaims “Everyone assumes we have been given a much bigger budget than the other web series. That is not true. But I made it a point to spend every little bucks in the frame. I did not take any money, because I wanted a resurrection. Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru was way back and I knew that web series and digital platforms are going to be the future. Making a small budget film for the theatres is not working. How many days can we run it? How many films are released every week? One of the main advantages of making a digital film/web series is that, the shelf life is mostly infinite. As a creator, that is very very important for me”

I then ask her, “Mam Don’t spoil it for me. But tell me instead, How Ashwin reacted, when he read the entire script” ?

Ashwin himself is a short film director. He is a script person. He could see the scope readily but then he was bit concerned about his character in the Vampire world. There is obviously a twist in the middle and in the end, but not the way that you think, and probably this was what Ashwin was also skeptical about, but he could eventually see and appreciate his character travel.

And you said, the budget was little more than what you expect in an independent project, How did you manage the production affairs?

Yes but wouldn’t say that the budget is very comfortable, but we have been given a very reasonable amount, the current norm for a Tamil web series. (I have no idea what that norm is and she wouldn’t tell me the exact amount :D) But production has to be controlled extensively. My Make Believe productions came in handy. We are already Ad filmmakers. My husband Shukdev takes care of the affairs and we put him as the executive producer for this series. He was there in and out taking extreme care of the production and I must say this here. Tackling Union proved to be a big big problem. This is not a feature film, but they wouldn’t understand. They demand always for an extra buck, citing rules and regulations. Even when you have a less cost route, they would compel to spend more on the unnecessary, they just don’t give a damn whether it is a series or a small film.

In that case, You must have shot in schedules. How long did it take. I heard it was around 50 days?

I pitched the project in July. In January we started shooting,  after a month of pre-production which involved seeing locations, buying props, finalizing actors and roughly the shooting took about 40 days. If you include the patch works, then it is close to 50. We wrapped up in 3 schedules with a week break in between. Towards the end, we decided to shoot freestyle without unions.

Lets talk about Visuals, what did you say to your Cinematographer?

Well Vijay Armstrong is not a big fan of horror films. So he was dodging me when I pressed him to see Vampire movies. Then I showed him some good references and we finally settled on one film that will act as a visual reference. It was Agni Natchatram. That is quire weird I know, but barring the blurs and bleaches, I wanted him to give a similar look. If you take Agni Natchatram, it will have a dark contrast lighting, but then you will witness love, comedy, fight, everything. I think we kind of pulled it off, giving a unique lighting set up, and lets not forget, we did not use much of union lights, we relied on practical sources, which is quite challenging, since you cannot control practical lights easily. And Yeah we sort of achieved a unique look in the process. We shot in Sony Fs7 with Cp2 lenses.

And tell us more about the tattoo house. The exterior is a different place right?

Yes and the Tattoo studio is a set up obviously. We shot on locations near EVP. Towards the middle you will get to see a cage, which we did it with the help of Art. So barring a few critical locations which we manged to create, the rest are as usual shot in normal shooting houses.

It has been a week. How do you assess the response for Nila Nila Odi Vaa?

Actually the marketing is yet to start. Viu is waiting for a few things,  I guess. Still the press releases are yet to happen, but we have already started getting feedback from Facebook sources. People are liking it. They are asking me when is the next episode. And I am telling them it is on every Friday. I wanted to share this in particular. More than this being bit unconventional with the vampires and stuff, at the core this is a love story that anyone can connect with. And I really believe that as long as your story connects with your audience in any way, be it through characters or emotions, no matter how weird the story or the storytelling is, people are going to endorse it.

You are done with your web series. They are a lot of people attempting to make a web series. What advice will you give them?

As usual the basics has got to be important. We have to tell this loud. Content is always the king. There is no bypass. For a show that’s got be continuous, you have to make people addictive. How are you gonna do it? First content and then the production value. Whatever amount you have, make sure you spend it for the craft. People are going to flock to your work like never before. At the end of the day, if they come back and ask you, when is your next season, then it means it is a clear win!


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