A young audience interacts with two young actors and a filmmaker who have done things differently

Balaji Tharaneetharan: A director who rewrote the rules of cinema by making Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (NKPK), where the hero loses his memory just before his wedding. Ashok Selvan: An actor who made an unconventional debut as lead in Pizaa 2: The Villa. Vivek Rajagopal: An actor who made a name in short films and is now trying his luck on the big screen with Oru Modhal Oru Kaadhal.

The three of them got together on stage for a recent panel discussion on Tamil Cinema — New Wave and Its Success Formula. The session was moderated by Trijai Nerthi.

The interaction started with Balaji speaking about NKPK and how he went about making a film without stars. “With a story like mine, I did not have the option of going to the stars. They might have laughed and sent me out. Also, I like my actors to rehearse and be part of the film 24x7. That was possible only with a young team.”

Ashok was asked about the challenges present-day actors faced. “The challenges are the same. In fact, there is more competition now because cinema is looked at as a proper profession, there are more people trying to make an entry. As for breaking stereotypes, he said many people wondered if he was doing the right thing by taking up the role of a serious writer for his debut as lead. “But, yes, playing boy or girl next door is a safer option, because it is easier to make an audience connect,” he said.

Vivek was asked about the trend of short film makers taking up regular features. He said they came with the rich experience of directing a film themselves, without assisting anyone. “They have the practical knowledge and the confidence that comes from having made something that is already popular on social media and television,” he added.

Balaji then spoke about the need to be faithful to the genre of the film. “A masala film needs songs, action and comedy. That is expected. It does not make sense to introduce songs and action in a film that is small and beautiful,” he said.

How much importance does the industry give to scripts? Said Ashok: “I was recently approached by a top director who narrated just a line. There was no ready script. I refused the offer. Script matters the most when making a choice.” What about luck? “I won’t say no. But you should be well prepared to receive and make use of that luck,” he said.

Must movies only convey messages? “Not at all. Cinema must primarily entertain,” said Vivek. “You need not force-feed a message; go by the flow of the script,” he said. He also spoke of how space in theatres had reduced for small films that might have otherwise stood a chance.

Other topics discussed included censorship, anti-smoking messages on the screen, efforts to reduce piracy and using social media for film promotion.

When a query was raised about classifying films as dark comedy or art, Balaji said it was time we stopped labelling films. “Is the story engrossing? That’s all what matters,” he added.

The event was organised as part of Outlook 2014, Media Matters.

The event was put together by the School of Communication and Media Studies, M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai, and the PG Department of Visual Communication, Hindustan College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore.

There was also a workshop by RJ Krishna of Radio Mirchi on Radio Jockeying.