Here is a filmmaker who wants to do things his way, without any interference. Meet Sasikumar whose Easan released recently.
It all started with Sethu. The common link between Bala, Ameer and Sasikumar. Thereon, the three cult filmmakers turned the focus away from the city to tell stories straight from the heartland of Tamil Nadu — in all its earthy glory and local flavour, its rootedness inspiring filmmakers from all around the country, including Anurag Kashyap.
While the first two reinvented star personas to suit their dark tales, Sasikumar did something all the more daring. He not only chose to work with fresh faces for his first film, he also produced it all by himself. Subramaniapuram happened. And the Tamil film industry is still reeling under the impact of the rustic Madurai films.
As everyone else turned towards other parts of the state for inspiration, Sasikumar returned with a city-centric thriller. Yet again surprising you with his choice of actors, theme and treatment.
Easan, that released last month, is like Ardh Satya set in modern day Chennai. But for a longish 35-minute flashback sequence, it's a riveting revenge drama shot slickly. A contrasting second film.
“I didn't want to repeat myself,” he says, sitting in Madurai, in a telephonic interview. “I wanted to try a different genre.”
Incidentally, Anurag Kashyap is remaking his Subramaniapuram in Hindi. “Yes, I watch his films too,” says Sasikumar about Kashyap. “I also watch Ram Gopal Varma's films. I can't say I am influenced but there's always something to learn. You need to tell me if you see any influences. I've tried to do everything in my own style.”
He seems to have done quite a bit of research for Easan, borrowing a lot of elements from real life. Like the Stephanie incident when a girl returning home from a nightclub fell victim to drunken driving. “Yes, but I didn't have to take newspaper clippings and such because these incidents… Stephanie was one such many years ago, continue to happen and probably even happened on New Year's Eve on East Coast Road.”
So does Sasikumar hate the city? Easan is full of anti-city sentiments.
“No, I have no animosity towards city people. I came here in 1997. Good people also exist. I also show a Good Samaritan who helps the family from the small town. The assistant commissioner in the film is also a good man.”
Yet, the boy avenging the wrong done to his sister blames the city for all that happened despite instances of harassment happening in the small towns too.
“Yes, sexual harassment happens even in small towns but they know they are doing something wrong. They know God will punish them. Here in the city, they don't fear God. They think they are God.”
It's an interesting thought, no doubt, to compare faith in God in the small towns with faith in the system in the city. It was an idea that he had been working on since Nadodigal.
“That's when I had decided I wanted Samudirakanni and Abhinaya for this project.”
Abhinaya has a speech and hearing disability in real life too. Sasikumar says it wasn't a challenge at all. “She can lip-read. You just need to talk to her clearly and slowly to explain a scene. But you need to do that to all artistes. In fact, she would pay 100 per cent attention to what I am saying. Because she concentrates on communicating with one person at a time, there's no way she could get distracted, like other artistes.”
We talk a little more about his kind of cinema and what he's looking to do. “Well, I hope I don't repeat myself but I think you will be able to spot some common themes — violence and realism.”
He has three films planned for the year, including Porali to be directed by his friend Samudirakanni. “I also want to do a full-fledged commercial film but I want to do it my way.”
What gives him the confidence to put his own money into his projects? “Like you said, just confidence. I don't want any interference. I want to do things my way.”