‘Mafia is inspired from my favourite Netflix series Narcos’: Karthick Naren

Karthick Naren

Karthick Naren   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The 'Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru' filmmaker, whose next movie starring Arun Vijay and Prasanna, releases on February 21, discusses his return to Tamil cinema after a gap of three years

Sentimental is not the word you would use to describe Karthick Naren. He comes across as someone with conviction in his craft, which is evident in his short, precise answers.

Only once during a 30-minute-long press interaction to promote his upcoming film, Mafia: Chapter 1, does he break character — and it is for this joke: “You know how in [Tamil] cinema there are sentiments. In the last three years, I have grown a sentiment too. It is to not name my films starting with the letter N,” he says.

A taste of reality

The weight of these words is not lost on the floor, which, at the moment, laughs along with Karthick.

Having made his début in 2016 with the critically-well-received Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru, the 25-year-old filmmaker started work on two ambitious projects — Naragasooran and Naadaga Medai. One is completed and the other is halfway through, but neither film’s prospects of releasing looks bright.

The filmmaker’s Twitter outburst with director Gautham Menon some time ago was what that brought out the issue behind Naragasooran to the fore.

Karthick admits that the ordeal was “an experience” and adds that he bears no ill will or anger towards Gautham.

“We cannot keep hold of the emotions within us. I have evolved as a person. Whatever happened had to happen for a reason. It has made me a calmer person, and no matter how much we think and ponder about it, we cannot undo what happened,” he says.

Karthick Naren

Karthick Naren   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Though he prefers a philosophical reply, Karthick reveals he found it difficult working on Mafia initially with the fate of Naragasooran still unknown.

“The main difficulty was in disconnecting from [Naragasooran]. As a filmmaker, the journey begins when we start writing on a paper, and ends only when the film releases. When I started writing Mafia, my mind was still stuck with the world and characters of Naragasooran. I had to get out of it and I had a good support system, be it my parents or my team,” he adds.

It is also a reason why Mafia is “a special film” for him.

Arun Vijay in a still from ‘Mafia’

Arun Vijay in a still from ‘Mafia’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Mafia, Karthick says, is a Westernised take on the gangster-drama genre. But the story unfolds in Chennai. The protagonist, Aryan, a narcotics officer, is played by Arun Vijay and the primary antagonist, whose name is touted as The Beast, is essayed by actor Prasanna.

“It will unfold like a cat-and-mouse game. It is a story of two people who are both moral and ideological opposites. It is a battle between the minds of these two characters. Mafia is more brains than brawns,” says Karthick.

Priya Bhavani Shankar and Thalaivasal Vijay among others are included in the supporting cast.

Into the mafia world

The director has never shied away from admitting to being influenced by the filmmaking styles of Christopher Nolan and Mani Ratnam.

Mafia, in particular, will also bear their influences in its narrative pattern. However, the script itself is an inspired take on something Karthick calls his “favourite series on Netflix”.

Arun Vijay in a still from ‘Mafia: Chapter 1’

Arun Vijay in a still from ‘Mafia: Chapter 1’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Mafia is kind of inspired from Narcos. The common thread of the story is what that is similar between them, nothing more. The film will follow a non-linear screenplay,” he adds.

The filmmaker admits that Mafia will be attuned to the commercial demands of mainstream cinema. For this purpose, the film includes four songs — a factor that would seem at odds with the film’s overall style considering what we witnessed in its trailer. Karthick defers, though.

“I see songs as a narrative tool. There are four songs in the film, but it will be part of the screenplay. What would otherwise have required four additional scenes can be conveyed through a song. Only when a song does not set with the screenplay will it become a speed-breaker,” he says, adding, “Even the background music will have Western influences like EDM and trance music.”

Karthick Naren (left) with Arun Vijay while filming Mafia: Chapter 1

Karthick Naren (left) with Arun Vijay while filming Mafia: Chapter 1   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Jakes Bejoy is the music composer for Mafia.

The film was entirely shot in Chennai save for three days, when the crew shifted to Thailand to film an action-sequence block.

While a few mainstream filmmakers bemoan the lack of adequate shooting spots in Chennai, Karthick offers a different take.

“Since my roots are from short films, I have this habit. Whatever space we get, we convert it into a location. We do not worry about whether we will get permission or not. In Mafia, I have shot many sequences in guerrilla style. People in the area should not know that we are shooting, only when they come to know will there be crowd and interference,” he says.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 10:53:22 PM |

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