Mysskin talks to Udhav Naig about how he seeks to reinvent himself as a filmmaker with his upcoming Onaiyum Aatukuttiyum for which he has turned producer too
Mysskin’s sixth directorial venture, Onaiyum Aatukuttiyum, is about redemption. And after the debacle of his previous film, Mugamoodi, one would think perhaps this is what the filmmaker is in need of. “I felt wounded. I didn’t take the audience seriously last time around. My mask came off during this journey,” he says and adds, “Onaiyum Aatukuttiyum mirrors my own journey of taking the wrong road, feeling lost and wounded, and finally getting redeemed.” And, interestingly this time, he plays the central role of a murderer, who turns into a good man just before he is taken to the gallows. “As the title suggests, it is a very simple film, one that will bring out the wolf residing within a lamb and the lamb trapped inside a wolf,” he explains.
This redemption has not come cheap. He has had to pay a hefty price, quite literally. Miffed with artistic interventions from those who foot the bill, the filmmaker was forced to become a producer by floating his own banner, Lone Wolf Productions. “I like taking risks. Making the film and waiting for the audience’s reaction after the first show is an experience in itself. I do understand that it is an expensive risk, but the experience is worth it,” he says.
Is he compounding the risk by casting himself in a project where he is trying to redeem, or should we say reinvent, himself as a filmmaker? “The role was intense. When I was discussing the film, my assistant remarked that I should do the role myself. I also had a personal reason. I had put on too much weight and it would be an opportunity for me to get fit once again. Besides, I didn’t want to go through the whole process of narrating the script to various actors and then having to hear a ‘No’. When I cast stars, they come with baggage. I am here to do sincere movies. I would like to make sure that my audience is completely engrossed in my drama. I like working with young actors, even aspiring ones, because I can easily mould them.” Despite the reported clash of egos during the release of Nandalala, the filmmaker has collaborated again with veteran composer Ilaiyaraaja. He says, “What we have is a very special understanding. In fact, when someone was doing the title cards, the person wrote “Pinnani Isai” (Background score) Ilaiyaraaja. I argued that it should be “Munnani Isai” (Foreground score). I have left 90 per cent of my film empty so that he can fill it up with his music.”
How crucial is Ilaiyaraaja to this film? “If a person is made to sit blindfolded in the theatre, s/he would be able to discern the musical narrative of the film. This film needed a mature composer, capable of communicating the meaning of the word ‘redemption’ through his music. There are not many who can do that.”
Mysskin has managed to build a fan base for himself over the years, which constantly refers to him as an auteur. How does it feel to be hailed as an auteur? “I am not trying to be humble, but a filmmaker such as Hitchcock is called an ‘auteur.’ He evolved a style of his own, after making films for decades. When people try to define me like this within such a short period, my immediate reaction is to resist it,” he says.
Does he really believe that he has no style of his own? “Composing a shot is like life and death for me. For, I feel regular life is mostly boring. The time between action and cut is the most interesting. And, when the film comes together in the third act, when my characters are restless, I don’t want to see the actors’ faces because they lie. This is the reason why I focus on everything but their face. Yes, there may be repetition and it is deliberate. What is wrong with it? But, when I see people writing in blogs that I am an auteur, I feel embarrassed.”