How it happened
It all started when I was 7. I acted in a play in Vidhyodaya School. My family and teachers understood my interest in theatre and extended their support. I learnt Carnatic music from Seerkazhi Subramaniya Iyer. Though I’m not a good singer, I’m grateful to him for making me understand the beauty of classical music. I learnt western music initially from Mrs. Lazarus and then from the late Handel Manuel and Victor Phillip. I met Suhasini when she was directing her serial “Penn” and did a small role in it. My interest shifted from theatre to cinema, from acting to directing at that point. She advised me to join the Film Institute and took me on as her assistant in Indira. She recommended me to Mani Ratnam following which I worked on Iruvar and Dil Se.
My first independent break came from Seventh Channel and Telephoto films. I am grateful to Narayanan, Mala Manian, Suresh Menon and Revathi who helped me strike out on my own. I did “Anbulla Snegidhiye” for Madras Talkies. I also wrote “Mitr – My Friend”. After this Mani Ratnam called me to work on Yuva and Ayitha Ezuthu, helping me to get back into the film scene. Kanda Naal Mudhal happened after a long struggle. Since my attempts at making a film failed, I decided to get married. Exactly 10 days after I got engaged, I got a call from writer E. Ramdass to meet Venkat who in turn put me on to Prakash Raj. After listening to the story, Prakash said he would produce it. “This film has to be made. I don’t know how, when… but move into the office tomorrow with your team,” he said. I can never forget that day in my life.
How it felt
The first thing I asked Prakash was if I could tell Mani Ratnam about this. He smiled and asked if he should call him himself. I said ‘no’ and rushed to tell him. I then met cameraman P.C. Sreeram, who agreed to work on it. Editor Sreekar Prasad, Lakshmi Narayanan, Yuvan Shankar Raja, Thamarai, Thotta Tharani, E. Ramdass, Kalyan and Gafar, all stood by me through my first journey. Showing the finished product to my mentor Mani Ratnam and Suhasini was indeed a proud moment for me. He said ‘good’ in his inimitable, precise way and Suhasini also liked it. My family and in-laws loved it too and that made me very happy.
How life changed
My personal life is the same. My family does not give me special treatment just because I am in the film industry. I don’t go out too much, but love to relax at home. I am learning to cook. I enjoy watching movies and meeting family and friends (We have just 200 friends and 300 relatives). I do get recognised sometimes, and people are always encouraging. It makes me feel good. I am writing my next script and it’s turning out well.S. R. ASHOK KUMAR