National Award-winning filmmaker Vetri Maaran, who is celebrating his 46th birthday on Saturday, is one of the new formidable voices in Tamil cinema. A disciple of iconic director Balu Mahendra, Vetri Maaran has succeeded where his mentor didn’t. While Balu Mahendra was a revered filmmaker who made some high-quality movies, he doesn’t have many box office hits to his credits. However, Vetri Maaran is one of the most commercially successful filmmakers today.
Vetri Maaran’s last film Asuran, starring his regular star Dhanush, had grossed a whopping Rs 100 crore at the box office. It is no mean feat for a filmmaker who usually makes emotionally heavy movies, which don’t follow the established grammar of commercial cinema.
So how does Vetri Maaran strike a fine balance between art and commerce? Hear it from the man himself.
Write, write, write
“Filmmaking is writing. Keep writing scripts over and over again. I have the liberty to make a movie without writing. But, I am not sure how long I can keep doing that. It is like Swega hitting sixes without footwork. If you lose the form, you can’t gain it back. So, we should play like Dravid. If you have your basics right, even when you are out of form, you can still deliver what you aspire for. Everybody should write. People tell me that they get stuck in the middle and can’t complete their scripts. Somehow, you should finish the script you start. The most gratifying feeling for a scriptwriter is when that person writes ‘The End’ on the script. Right or wrong, finish the script. And you should rewrite the story at least 10 times and share it with your friends for their opinion. Write, re-write, and forget. Do something else, go back to the script and write again. Writing is the alpha and omega (of filmmaking).”
Finding great stories
Vetri Maaran has shown a great interest in adapting Tamil literature for the big screen. His landmark films such as Visaranai and Asuran were based on Tamil novels. His upcoming films Viduthalai and Vaadivaasal are also based on existing literary materials. “Writing and cinema are two different mediums. Not all great novels have become great movies. But, some average novels have been turned into great movies. We should see whether a novel has a cinematic quality. For me, the main goal is to understand the world a novelist has created and convey the intentions of the novel in the same way as intended by the author.”
Job-satisfaction is important
“Balu Mahendra sir used to tell me that the only thing in our control is to make a movie to the best of our ability. But, the commercial success of the film is an accident. I give my 100 percent in everything I do and I also make my team do the same while making a movie. If the audience connects to the film, we are happy with it. But, we should always have full satisfaction in the job we have done.”
Location, location, location
In Vetri Maaran’s films, the location is a character in itself. And having a clear idea about the geography of the film and establishing it at the very beginning is key to a strong narration. “I can’t tell a story without establishing the geography of the story first. For example, I would have established the geography of the village in Aadukalam when Dhanush and his friends try to escape from the police raid at the beginning of the film.”
When you become a filmmaker
Vetri Maaran believes that a person stops experiencing his life as it is the moment he becomes a filmmaker. After he or she writes her first draft, everything and everyone becomes just an idea for the script. “Learn, experience, and debate. Watch a film, argue over it and repeat. The moment you start writing a script, you are closing yourself from life’s experiences. The End you put in the first script is also the end to your life’s experiences. From then on everything becomes a source to your script. My wife used to tell me, that ‘I won’t cry, because you will turn it into a scene in your film.’ Even before she points it out, I would have kept it as a scene in the film.”