Dialogues in Mani Ratnam's films are known for their brevity. In CCV, it was a little different. Was it because of you?
No, not that way; it was all aimed from the character's perspective only. They are gangsters and not very well read. They would speak in a specific way. But the dialogues might sound a little different from the usual meter because of the collaboration. It was not a conscious decision. Ultimately, we followed what sir felt right for the story.
You are an engineer from BITS, Pilani. At what stage did the film bug bite you?
The film bug bit me strongly when I was in my second year undergrad after I saw Roja. I couldn't bear it. I wanted to be a part of such a process. I had shared my thoughts with few of my friends. Thankfully they didn't laugh at me. When I wrote GRE, I also applied for film schools in the US. Thinking back, I had been a film lover since my childhood days. My mom is a film buff and my chithappa and mama also love films. When we all get together, we only talk about cinema. Therefore the film bug must have been there in me for a long time. But at that stage, I had never thought of films as a career choice at all.
When you chose film as your career, was your family okay with it?
Definitely not! My father was apprehensive if I was faltering. It was a natural fear. But I had the support of my mom. As I mentioned earlier, my uncle also supported me. Ultimately it worked.
Now, what are they saying?
They were quite settled with my career choice in 2001-2 itself. They have accepted it and are absolutely delighted. In Atlanta, Georgia, fifty members from my family had watched the film last week. Need I say more?
After you got back from Florida after your MS, have you been working only with Mani Ratnam?
No. I had directed a Telugu film Chukkalo Chandrudu. I also worked with Kamal sir as a line producer for two years. And I had collaborated with Shaad Ali in Hindi. I have been in touch with Mani sir always. In between I also did other projects.
Besides OK Kanmani and CCV, have you acted in any other films?
I feel I have not acted in this film itself (Laughs). No! I have not acted in any other film.
Was your role in CCV written keeping you in mind?
No, we had not thought about casting options for this role. We referred by the character name and kept going forward. At one point, sir told me, "You do this role". I thought he was joking. Then I knew he was not. It was his call.
Compared to OK Kanmani, in CCV, you are there almost throughout the film. How was your acting experience?
It was an awesome experience to have been surrounded by such talented actors like Jayasudha, Prakash Raj, the four heroes, Jyothika, Mansoor Ali Khan and others. They are all such seasoned performers. It was fun and also lots of learning.
I think it was the first day of shoot when we had the combination scene of all the actors. Just after 30 to 45 minutes into the shooting, we realized that the film was going to be good. We had all the good vibes and there was no slump of process anywhere. The performance of all the artists was good. We knew they were doing their preparation well and were thinking about their contributions. They also liked their respective characters and there was an excitement when the director's input enhanced the performance. This was not just for the artists but the technicians as well. Sometimes, these things happen in the right manner and you know at that time, everything was going on in the right track. There was trust on the script and the roles. These things were an indication of a film shaping up well. I felt that throughout.
You have been working with Mani Ratnam for a long time. What do you like in him and what you don't?
Mani Ratnam empowers us. He gives the feel that we are the master of our work. He creates a trust that whatever we do, it is out of our liking. You can walk out and say, "I did this for the film". There is no silly ego issue or place for mediocrity in his sets. He makes us work happily. He brings out the drive in us. If there is a difference in thought from his idea, he gives the opportunity to express it. Ultimately, we feel like we have done everything to our satisfaction. This is applicable for all in his unit from top to bottom. I feel this is the trait of a great director. It has to be innate. We are also trying but I think it has to come naturally. He is phenomenal in that.
He does not let us sleep. That's the only thing. He is the first person to be at the sets. We need to match his physical energy too.
What is your next plan? Would you be directing or acting?
We are talking about the next script. I am in talks for my next directorial and also for sir's next. We will soon firm up.
All the best, Siva Ananth!