When Thiagarajan Kumararaja made Aaranya Kaandam , he was awarded, not rewarded. The film was celebrated across the country since it was considered the first ‘neo-noir’ film in Tamil cinema. Naturally, any filmmaker would have felt the urge to cash in on its popularity. However, Thiagarajan Kumararaja almost disappeared and ended up as a ‘one-film wonder’.
After nearly eight years, the director is back in business, with the upcoming Super Deluxe , which, he claims, is a ‘no-genre’ film. What took him so long? He doesn’t have a concrete answer. In between Aaranya Kaandam and Super Deluxe , he was occupied with a script that took two years to complete, but never materialised. “The pleasure for me is in the writing process, which has its own challenges. But the industry and investors are not adventurous like me,” he said. Kumararaja formulated the overall narrative structure before approaching directors Mysskin, Nalan Kumarasamy and Neelan to write individual parts of the screenplay. Asked why he collaborated with a battalion of writers, Kumararaja nonchalantly said that he was “lazy”.
What’s equally amusing about Super Deluxe is the fact that none of the writers, except Kumararaja, know what the other person has written. “It was a conscious decision to leave it that way. We don’t want to reveal the details because it would seem biased,” he said, clarifying that the film is not an anthology. Super Deluxe , by his own admission, is a fresh attempt in narrative storytelling.
In a sense, the film might receive a polarised response from the audience. “It depends on how the audience perceives it. One may burst into laughter while the other might be in a state of shock for the same scene. Which is why I said it doesn’t fit into any genre.”
If something excites Kumararaja, he’s game for it. For one, he asked cinematographer PC Sreeram, who was supposed to crank the camera, to shoot it in film format. In fact, he even asked Anurag Kashyap, Dhanush and SJ Suryah to write the screenplay for one of the parts, as he found them “interesting”. On the surface, Super Deluxe is about 13 characters and how they overlap with one another. “The story begins on a high note from the very first scene. Nobody can guess where the story is headed to. Instead of the word ‘puzzle’, it’s more like connecting the dots,” he added.
Featuring long takes, it appears as if Thiagarajan Kumararaja wants to capture time on the screen. “I’m more concerned about capturing the emotions right. For instance, Aaranya Kaandam had sequences of actors performing mundane, day-to-day activities.” Music is something that has influenced him a lot.
For Super Deluxe , Kumararaja is working with composer Yuvan Shankar Raja again. “The album has a mishmash of all genres of music, including a retro flavour, a bit of jazz, and contemporary music as well.”
The film boasts of names like Vijay Sethupathi, Fahadh Faasil, Samantha Akkineni, Ramya Krishnan and Gayathrie in lead roles. Kumararaja feels that Vijay Sethupathi, who plays a transgender called Shilpa, is the most versatile actor today. Lately, Tamil cinema has been criticised for its insensitive portrayal of transgenders. While admitting to the fact, Kumararaja said that the film is not about the issues faced by the community. Casting a male actor to play the role of a transgender has often received mixed reactions. In fact, Vijay Sethupathi himself was hesitant at first. “There’s nothing Vijay Sethupathi can’t pull off right? Shilpa is a transwoman, so I felt Vijay would do justice to the character,” said Kumararaja, adding that actor Fahadh Faasil is the exact counterpart to Vijay Sethupathi.
Having had a bitter experience with the Censor Board for Aaranya Kaandam , Kumararaja is convinced that his new film would probably get an ‘A’ certificate. “I’m not making movies for kids or family audiences. This film is meant only for ‘mature’ audiences. And by mature, I mean those who can accept such films.”