LIFE

`Malayalam cinema should retain its identity'

Tamil filmmaker Vassant, who has several hits to his credit, says that Malayalam cinema, known for its aesthetic merits, should not imitate works in other languages. In a chat with N. J. Nair. A filmmaker should be aware of social issues and be well-versed in politics and literature. More importantly, he should understand the complexities of human relationships.

Malayalam film directors have apparently a lot to learn from Vassant. This Tamil director is never in a hurry to make films.

He waits patiently till he comes across a good subject and works meticulously on the script. Unlike many of his peers, he shoots the film only after the script is finished.

And Vassant is not ready to concoct stories to project superstars, compromising on his commitment to make films with messages.

Starting with `Keledi Kanmani' in 1990, Vassant has made nine films. His debut film put to test the histrionic and musical skills of S. P. Balasubramaniam; the singer was out of breath, rendering a song, in the movie, with long stanzas.

All the eight films Vassan has made, including the latest, `Yeh Nee Romba Azhaga Irukkey', have been runaway hits.

He was in the State capital to shoot `Thakkayin Meeth Nanga Kankal', a telefilm for Doordarshan.

Vassant's tryst with cinema began while he was a freelance journalist. He used to meet K. Balachander frequently and discuss cinema. The young journalist went on to assist the veteran director. By then, Vassant had also established himself as a short-story writer.

From Balachander, Vassant learnt that the director is no mere ring master.

A filmmaker should be aware of social issues and be well-versed in politics and literature. More importantly, he should understand the complexities of human relationships, Vassant learnt.

He assisted Balachander for 9 years on 18 films, starting with `Sindhu Bhairavi'.

Like his guru, who has played mentor to actors such as Kamal Hassan and Rajnikant, Vassant too has introduced many artistes, including Jyotika, Simran, Surya and Suvalakshmi, to filmdom.

`Thakkayin Meeth Nanga Kankal', based on a short story by S. Kandaswamy, too has new faces.

"I get good results from newcomers. Moreover, I can mould them the way I want," he says.

Vassant prefers making films with stories inspired by real-life experiences. "Directors, however, should also be open to adapting good works of literature."

Vassant has an ear for music and his films invariably have melodious songs.

"Malayalam cinema has good songs. I have a special liking for the incidental scores written by Johnson and the songs of V. Dakshinamoorthy," he says.

Vassant's film, `Rhythm', was screened at the Soorya festival in 2001.

He likes Malayalam films, but finds the new works pale imitations of Tamil and Hindi productions. "Your cinema should retain its identity," he says.

K. G. Santthosh

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