Go, see ‘Ko'. Especially, if you are a press photographer of the print variety. There's ample vicarious satisfaction that can be derived all through. For others, it is a reflection of today's political and societal ‘tamasha', sadly termed the ‘trends in life'. The theme is so scorching topical, in the days of Anna Hazare and the poll season. It belongs to that genre of movies where the connoisseur and the ‘mass' type have something to cheer about, subject-wise and cinematically.
Director K. V. Anand, who was in the city as part of the film's promotion, says autobiographical elements abound in the movie, in an exclusive interview with Metro Plus. His tragi-comic experiences while working as a freelance photographer for India Today, The Illustrated Weekly of India and in Kalki came in handy.
“It's not only my experiences, but my friends' too, with orthodox photo editors. If you give them a photo with mood, light and shade, they ask, ‘why is it that one half of the face is not seen?” he remarks. The scene where Jeeva is confronted by the photo editor in the film and the ensuing hilarious dialogue actually happened to Anand in 1989, he said.
As in the movie, Anand had often been threatened by lackeys of politicians. “Once in Rajapalayam, while working for Kalki, I was chased by the goons of an MLA and while running, I changed the film in the camera and put in a blank film. They caught me, and exposed the film. But we published the pictures, which were safe with me. But there is absolutely nothing autobiographical about the two girls in the movie,” insists Anand with a chuckle.
Talking of dialogues, Suba and Anand have infused the comic element, without resorting to inane comedy, christened slapstick. So, you have such anti-climax moments when Jeeva, fresh from a heroic scene, tells Karthika he has ‘something to tell her'. She is all ears and romantic, when he says, “Can you lend me 1,000 bucks to give you all a treat?”
Anand does not believe in ‘professional comedy' in films. “Situational comedy is my cup of tea,” he says. Likewise, no contorted faces for villains here. Remember the classical ‘One can smile and smile and be a villain?
The face of villainy is handsome in ‘Ko' (meaning leader). You will never guess who the real villain is till nearly the fag end.
Photography gets its due and it's almost as important a theme as corruption and politics. Recent photographs taken by the Photography Club of Madras, started in 1939, have been used as a film collage while showing the credits. “The idea is that they are pictures taken by the hero,” he explains. Cinematography consumes Anand. Early in life, bitter at not getting a regular photographer's job he sought to become P.C. Sriram's ‘shishya' and assisted him.
His first independent assignment, ‘Thenmavin Kombathu', a poem on celluloid, (cliché all right, but true) won the national award. ‘Shivaji the Boss' had his cinematography as also the Hindi ‘Josh'. Yet, Richard M. Nathan cranks camera for ‘Ko'. Why has he not, as a proven seasoned cameraman, done it himself?
Without hesitation, he says, “When you become both cameraman and director, you will kill one of them. I did not want that to happen. Each is a full time job. When I am the cameraman, even at the last minute, I still keep improving the shots. The director, meanwhile, has his share of the job, trying to make the film as a whole, as well as he can, organising last minute work. The producer must get his money, after all. That is why.”
His first directorial venture was ‘Kana Kandein', which made waves. Having directed the hit ‘Ayan' in 2009 and now, ‘Ko', will Anand the director delete Anand the cameraman from the film scene?
“No, no,” he stresses. When I don't have a script to make into a film, I will be a cinematographer. I am open to both.” As if to accentuate the point, he speaks about the Phantom-Flex camera that was used in the climax scene in ‘Ko', which works at six times the speed of the normal camera.
“It is still in demo mode and we borrowed it from the makers in Singapore just for two days. They told us there is no guarantee that we will get the shots right. But we got all the shots filmed. There is exchange of fire and I was not content with just the usual ‘dishum dishum' stuff. I wanted to show the journey of a bullet, which can be seen, in slow motion, with the 2,800 frames-per- second shots.
Characterisation is one element which few writers and directors care about. In Ko, that's carefully done so that each one's words and deeds are inkeeping with the kind of characters that they are msde out to be by the writer. Casting is another plus point. Ebullient Jeeva suited the lead role but Ajmal's is indeed the plum role, where he has scope to emote. Having to portray diametrically opposite emotions, and body language, he does the role very well. Piya Bajpai and Karthika do their very different roles well. Kotta Srinivasa Rao and Prakash Raj don roles that they are familiar with. Down to the small time thug, casting is just right.
Netherlands and China
Richard M. Nathan's photography takes you to beautiful Netherlands and Northern China. “In the Netherlands, labour is very expensive, so we had to cart the equipment ourselves. All of us had to trek 14 km for the shooting of that song,” says Anand. The visuals are striking. Ice sculpture in China is a sight to behold, the gigantic life size buildings and animals, between which the hero and heroine dance.
But does the story really need those songs? Aren't they out of place? “Well, this lighter element is needed for a large section of the audience along with the serious part of the film. For film festivals, about 25 minutes of the film will be cut (read songs) when we send the prints,” Anand says.
The Rs.12 crore ‘Ko' sure has ‘dum'.