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Filmmaker Mysskin talks about his latest movie 'Psycho'

Beauty and the beast: A week after the release of Psycho, filmmaker Mysskin talks about its politics, philosophical subtext, and the polarised response

Dark, raw, eccentric are some of the adjectives thrown at Mysskin to describe his brand of cinema. Dig deeper and you will realise that he is an unexpectedly humane filmmaker, who treats characters with tenderness, even if they have cruel intentions.

Mysskin is not a provocateur, but a disrupter. He likes to ‘disrupt’ the collective consciousness of the public through his craft. His movies define their own logic, and he writes his own rules when it comes to questions of morality and ethics.

Perhaps the best definition of Mysskin’s world comes from the filmmaker: “I was dreaming on a piece of white paper with the help of a pencil,” he says with a warm smile, at his Alwarpet office.

He is a changed man. He has mellowed, both as a filmmaker and person. But what hasn’t changed are his little idiosyncrasies, influenced by philosophy — something he quickly admits, “I know I’m meandering with my answers, but I hope you get the essence of it,” settling down to dissect (no pun intended) Psycho. Excerpts from an interview:

Your movies explore the deeper, darker side of the human psyche with one common motif: guilt — be it Onaayum Aattukuttiyum (OA), Nandalala or Psycho. Why is it a recurrent theme in the larger framework of your oeuvre?

No human is without flaws and we are designed to commit mistakes and crimes.

I believe God [not to be taken in a literal sense, but symbolical] created us to be part of a play. What sort of play, you ask. To go through a cycle wherein (s)he does things they might not be proud of — some of the actions will come back to haunt them. When (s)he is cycled through life experiences, they look back at themselves and their slip-ups. Which is why guilt is not sorcery, but illumination. Guilt is not something to be guilty about (laughs). That’s what I have been trying to address in movies.

In my life, I have committed a lot of mistakes. When you begin to question what is right and wrong, we invariably think about ourselves being morally upright.

Maybe I am not objective enough to look at my own movies from a vantage point. Once I’m done with a movie, I take it out of my system and move on. It could also be because I’m influenced by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. What they have been insisting in their books is: forgiveness is divine.

So, it’s safe to say that Psycho is the guilt of a psychopath? Probably for the first time in Indian cinema, we get to examine what a serial killer goes through internally, with such bone-chilling details.

Psycho is not a whodunit, but why done it (laughs).

I wanted to delve deeper into the inner emotional state of a serial killer. I could’ve scratched the surface, showing what happens outwardly thereby giving him a cause. But you need to understand the significance of the first shot.

It opens with the point of view of the killer, the protagonist as well as the audience. So, I made the audience travel with him. I could have taken a sublime route, but Psycho is direct in its approach. That’s why people are arguing and debating. Indirectly, I made audiences stand in his shoes by pulling off the biggest trick or lie.

Which was?

Giving the serial killer a character arc.

Any movie is about the hero’s journey. Take Thevar Magan for instance. You could see Sakthi completing his arc when he becomes a Buddha, when he’s taken to prison in the end. Psychopaths don’t have a character arc, says John Douglas in his book Mindhunter. They cannot be changed or reformed. Their trauma is so bad that there’s no sympathy or empathy left in them.

What if somebody walks into his life, pouring unconditional love and value that he becomes a changed man? I wanted to give an arc for a psychopath. I have taken a leaf out of the Angulimala fable. But in Psycho, Dagini (Aditi Rao Hydari) is the real Buddha and not Gautham. In fact, Dagini is a deity in Tibetian Buddhism.

Do you think the audience will get these Buddhist subtexts?

See, it’s not the artist’s job to convey what (s)he’s trying to convey. Appreciating art is also a learning process that requires constant effort.

The theatre is a place where you develop localised-intelligence. It’s a place where all your thoughts and bodily movements are contained to figure out what’s happening on screen. If the audience is aligned with the first 10 shots of the movie and if the filmmaker has properly aligned his shots, then there forms a localised-intelligence — the reason why I consider the theatre a place for spiritual awakening. On the other hand, why do they have to understand a movie in the first place? If they don’t get it, let them struggle.

Reviews have been divided for Psycho and some people have been sticking to their guns...

Either they’re hating it or loving it. There’s no middle ground. This is the second time this has happened to me after Pisaasu.

People who call it a “bad” movie are more pure-hearted in my opinion. For them, the movie somewhere has disrupted their social consciousness, making them feel uncomfortable. Or, they completely understood the movie (laughs). I’m puzzled by the response, but it also gives me a high.

The polarised response stems from the fact that we have been conditioned to tales where the hero vanquishes the villain, to restore light in the world. Ram has to kill Ravana, right?

Even in Ramayana, Ram says, “Indru poi naalai vaa.” Isn’t that one of the greatest lessons on forgiveness?

Why should such a monster be forgiven is a question that I keep hearing from people. In fact, I presented the audience’s point of view in my movie itself.

But they haven’t seen what Dagini saw in that hellhole. She becomes a witness to his soul gradually reducing. What remains at the end is a child in him. The violence, I believe, was a big shock for the audience.

Aren’t your movies a reflection of society, with the strong presence of sex workers, transgenders and people with disabilities?

I grew up with a lot of restrictions imposed on me. But when I started reading literature, the taboos I grew up with seemed fake. Had I listened to my mother, I wouldn’t have made Pisaasu. What I realised with my little understanding is...those who are oppressed are the ones to be celebrated. It’s a simple philosophy I practise.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 11:56:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/filmmaker-mysskin-talks-about-his-latest-movie-psycho/article30710271.ece

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