Director M. Saravanan speaks to Subha J. Rao about his Ivan Vera Maathiri, set to hit the screens on December 13, and his growth curve

Director M. Saravanan struck gold with his very first outing in Tamil. Engaeyum Eppothum packed in a potent message and raked in the moolah. After two years, he is back with the romantic thriller Ivan Vera Maathiri, starring Vikram Prabhu and Surabhi. The film releases on December 13.

Saravanan, 37, has always maintained that he believes in making films that convey a thought or a concept. “Why do we make films? To communicate something, right?” he says. “It need not be life-altering. It can be love, anger… any emotion. But you must know what you want to say, and say it well. It can be in the format of a commercial film, but it must be classy and sensible,” he adds.

Saravanan also believes in experimentation. Engaeyum Eppotdhum began with the climax, yet kept viewers engrossed with its non-linear narrative. For the city-based Ivan, the director treads new ground — it is a romantic thriller. “I wanted to do something very different from my last film. I did not want to carry that baggage forward,” he says. He took three months to come up with the script and a year to shoot.

The director says he likes to showcase a city’s character on screen. If Engaeyum… threw the spotlight on Tiruchi and Chennai, this one is set in singaara Chennai. “Every location was chosen after great thought. I did not want to stick to the usual places,” he says. For an under-construction building, the crew travelled to Padur on OMR, instead of settling for the more-popular ones near Gemini flyover.

The lead players

Speaking about the film, Saravanan says it is about five characters played by Vikram, Surabhi, Ganesh Venkatraman, Vamsi Krishna and Hariraj. He zeroed in on Vikram after seeing the trailer of his debut film, the superhit Kumki. “He suited my script. I signed him even before Kumki released. It helped that the film was a huge success,” he says. “I felt I could mould him as an actor. The best part is that Vikram surrenders to the director’s vision. Whatever you demand of him, he gives,” he says. As for the heroine, Saravanan felt Surabhi was perfect for the role. “We put her through workshops. We decided her look. She put in a lot of hard work and has come up with a good performance.”

The director always discusses his script with his close friends and assistants. “I always seek their opinion. If they raise an objection to a point, I will go back and rework it. I respect criticism,” he says.

So, how satisfied is he with the final product? “I’m happy. So is the unit,” he says. Does Saravanan feel he’s grown as a director with this film? “Yes, I am more confident and feel I have better clarity now,” he says.

During his free time, Saravanan catches up with the latest films. “In recent times, I loved Thanga Meenkal and Onaayum Aattukuttiyum.” He also meets up with other young directors to track trends.

What’s next on his radar? “I’ve not really planned anything. I don’t want to get slotted. I travel, I absorb new influences. I also look within for new ideas. That way, the output is always fresh,” says Saravanan.

Filmi dreams

I grew up watching films in Kumaran Thiraiarangam, a touring talkies in my village Varagoor, near Namakkal. Films were the only entertainment and were given great importance. That was probably when I decided to make a career in the film industry, and started assisting A.R. Murugadoss. Sadly, today, even the lone touring talkies back home has packed up. But, my folks are delighted that a boy from their village has made it big.

Character call

I invest time in creating my characters. They are what draw you to a film. I loved my leads in Engaeyum… I created them with a lot of love, and embellished them with traits that would endear them to the audience. Two characters that have made a great impression on me are Dhanam of Azhagi and Michelle of Black.

Native touch

I have not really watched the films of foreign masters. I don’t even know many of their names. My idea of a film is something that is deeply rooted in my culture. Something that comes from within me.