chat Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja talks about his love for gangster movies
Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s first film Aaranya Kaandam , a gangster movie, was one of the top films of 2011. “I want to make films that are exciting. They should entertain. I expected Aaranya … to do well commercially too,” he says.
Kumararaja has finalised an idea for his next film, and is expected to start filming soon. “My second film may also take off from a violent sequence, but it’s going to be an entertainer. Gangster films are exciting,” he says.
Thiagarajan Kumararaja is a college drop-out from Loyola where he studied visual communication. He participated in a one-minute film competition for the prize money and made Becky that won the first prize at the Ability Fest 2005. He went on to make a five-part documentary on South Indian Temples titled Sthala Puranam for Vijay TV, before turning into a full-time filmmaker. He was into copy-writing and ad film making too. “Recently, I was even thinking of becoming a car mechanic because I find it fulfilling,” he says quite seriously.
As a filmmaker, he says, it’s still a challenge to find the right actors and producers. “Jackie Shroff, who played a pivotal role in Aaranya , was the only actor who said ‘yes’ to the role. I go for actors, who do precisely what is expected of them. This way, it doesn’t affect the harmony of the film.”
Kumararaja who watches a lot of gangster movies ( Satya , Company , Deewar , Godfather , the films of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie are some of his favourites) is also fascinated by Indian mythology. He also enjoys the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, Sergio Leone, Anurag Kashyap, and the new crop of directors.
“I am inspired by Indian mythology. For over hundreds of years we have been hearing the stories, which stem from a deeper understanding of the human psyche. The Mahabharata is the best story ever. It makes you believe that impossible things can be made possible. There is magical realism.”
About the current trend in Tamil films, he says the space for interesting films is growing. “In Paruthi Veeran , the rustic hero, clad in lungi and plain shirt, joked, entertained, and stole the hearts of the audience. It is this reality you can relate to, with some drama, that defines films. Dhanush in Aadukalam was noteworthy too. I want my films to bridge the gap between commercial and artistic cinema. There is no scope for realism in cinema. With editing and dubbing, we manipulate reality and what we offer is cinematic reality. But, it has to be consistent as we have seen in films such as Thevar Magan , Mahanadhi , Paruthi Veeran and Vaagai Sooda Vaa .” He calls Tamil classics such as Thiruvilayaadal , Kappalottiya Tamizhan and Baga Pirivinai timeless.
He says globalisation has brought universal appreciation for cinema. “Films that work in Mumbai, work in Kerala and Chennai too. The human emotions are the same…greed, violence and love. The films get a stamp of approval everywhere.”
These days, Kumararaja is exploring Chennai. “I take different routes every day to get to my office,” he smiles. He encourages young filmmakers to make films that present life as they see it. “Books, classics, anything can inspire you to make films. Understand the medium, let the drama unfold, and have total control over it. Become a creator and not a mere listener. And, if you are mad about cinema, there is so much information on the Internet. You can watch movies on YouTube too.”
Kumararaja wishes he could work with Vadivelu. “Though I’m not sure if I can come up with a script that will suit him, I’d love to work with Vadivelu. He has exceptional talent that is still untapped.”
He holds Godfather as the foremost example of a great gangster film. He says, “It has everything…situation handling, downfall, revival, code of conduct… characters that are good and bad, and brilliant performances. It has all the drama. It demonstrates the power of a brilliant idea.”