Interview With

Sarjun KM

Sarjun shot to limelight with his two short films Lakshmi and Maa. He is now debuting into feature film section with this week's release Echarikkai Idhu Manidhargal Nadamaadum Idam (EIMNI) that features veteran Sathyaraj, Kishore, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and others. In a chat with Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Sarjun talks about his first feature film and also his next with Nayanthara.

Your debut directorial feature film will be released this week. What are your thoughts right now?

I am a little tensed and nervous. I had started the film two years ago and after a long struggle, it is finally hitting the screens. Till now I am known as a short filmmaker only. I need to see how the audiences are going to respond to me as a feature film director.

What kind of a film is EIMNI?

It is a complete commercial entertainer, a thriller with a small thought to take home too. Watch the film without any expectation and you will enjoy it. There will not be any controversies in it. If you think that Echarikkai is from the man who had done Lakshmi and Maa and come into the theatre expecting a controversy, it will not be there. It is a different subject which has been dealt with differently. It will keep you engaged for the two plus hours and when you leave the cinema hall, there will be something to take home.

What would Echarikai..'s USP be?

I would say it is the screenplay. There will be many twists and turns in the film. Until the climax, you cannot say who is going to change into which direction.

Is that why you titled the film this way?

We have explored the gray side of the human mind. However good we all are, there sure will be a small element of selfishness in all of us. We will not decide on anything without this element coming into play. When a decision is taken because of selfishness, how it affects the people around is the concept of the film which led to naming it this way.

Priyanka Ravindran did the screenplay in Maa. Has she worked in Echarikkai too?

In this film she has helped me, she has done the additional screenplay. She was like a consultant in this film. After this film only, we worked in a full fledged manner in Maa.

You seem to have an ensemble of talented cast in Echarikkai. How did you manage to bring them on board?

When you finish a script, sometimes, the face of the artists will automatically sit on to the characters. That's how the casting for this film happened. The characters demanded those artists. Kishore plays David and I could not have found a more apt artist for that role. Varalaxmi plays Shwetha. Sathyaraj sir plays a retired cop. All the characters have a charm and also the artists have a terrific screen presence. There is a new boy Vivek Rajagopal; he has done a wonderful job. His character will fall under the realms of the grey region.

Please tell us about the technical team

Sudharshan Srinivasan has done the cinematography. He has done Lakshmi and Maa with me. He is also working with me in the Nayanthara project. Music is by Sundaramoorthy and again he was with me in the short films too. To sum it, most of the people who worked with me in the short film, have worked in Echarikkai too.

One can say that your short films Lakshmi and Maa are your entry cards into filmdom. Can you tell us about the plus and minus of it?

Plus is, I got recognized. Normally, it is rare to get a lot of recognition through short films. In that sense, my short films got me noticed and people came to know I exist. That really helped. I don't think there is any minus from it. There would always be criticism for any work and I would only like to learn from it. Therefore, I don't see any negative in it.

Both Lakshmi and Maa created a lot of stir. Were you prepared for that? Did you expect such a response?

For Lakshmi, I never expected. I never had any such idea and I made it as a regular short film. I did not have a feature film in my kitty too, then. I casually did it but I wanted to explore something new in the short film which others had not done. Be it the screenplay or the treatment, it was different. That's the reason, I even brought in a black and white tone. But I never expected it to cause any stir. After one week of release only, everything began.

For Maa, I expected it. It was planned and shot. We knew that the subject of teenage pregnancy would create a stir. We had shown a positive angle to the issue.

Lakshmi was about a day in a girl's life. But Maa gave a solution.

How did you counter such criticisms? You made it with a conviction and when it was challenged, how did you handle it?

Of course, there was nothing new in it as we have always seen people getting roasted or trolled in social media. But when it came to me, I was not ready to handle it. The best thing for me was not to talk about it. People were seething with rage then and would not have listened. If I had talked then, it would have backfired. I also sought advice from Gautham Menon sir who asked me not to talk then but talk at the right time, which, happened after Maa. I started giving interviews only after Maa.

How did Nayanthara come on board your second film?

KJR Studios Rajesh had seen Maa and appreciated it. He asked if I had any story for Nayanthara and preferred if it were in the horror genre. I told him two different lines and he liked one. He got me a sitting with Nayan ma'am in two days wherein I narrated her the story. She had also seen Maa and told me that I had handled emotions well in the film. There was also 'my' touch in the story and she liked it a lot. She said, "This is how we need to do the film". That's how this project happened.

What is the update on your film with Nayanthara?

We have completed one schedule and two more schedules are pending. We are starting the second schedule next week. The final schedule will be in October. We are planning to release the film before the end of this year.

Have you named the film?

No, not yet. We are yet to name it. We are scouting for a suitable title.

All the best Sarjun!