Balaji Kumar looks like the suave, well- presented villain one would find in an urban-thriller. With his long hair that is liberally sprinkled with grey and a confident stride to boot, the director of the soon-to-release Pooja starrer, Vidiyum Mun, is intense, especially when talking about things that matter to him. But don’t let the intensity fool you. This fan of the thriller genre is an easy man to talk to.
The Chennai-born, Bangalore-brought-up and currently Los Angeles based filmmaker says he’s been drawn to Tamil cinema for a long time. And now, with a new wave of films like Aaranya Kaandam, Nadula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom and Pizza hitting the theatres and succeeding, Kumar seems to have found his footing.
“I’ve always wanted to make Tamil films. I make it a point to visit India once a year, so I constantly see changes happening, especially in Chennai. Everytime I meet friends, they’d say, why don’t you do a film, we’ll get you the money.”
But why a Tamil film now?
There’s something called the Golden Era of cinema. In Hollywood it happened in the late 70s to early 80s. Right now, there’s a second wave happening and it’s in Tamil cinema. A lot of interesting cinema is happening – Aaranya Kaandam, NKPK. But none of these films resembles each other. They are so different from traditional cinema. It’s the uniqueness which is the common thread. That’s why I felt it was the right time to make a film here. Also, I had a good idea, a good script which I thought would work well in this language.
And that is Vidiyum Mun. Tell us something about the film.
Vidiyum Mun is unique in a way, that it’s a complete classical structure. It’s the first time, to my knowledge, that a film in India is consciously made with a three-act structure. There are no male protagonists in the story. Four men, for three devious reasons, are in pursuit of two women, in one day. Who are these four men and what these three reasons are and how these two women are tangled up with these people? I don’t want to call this Tamil cinema, but I want to call it a Tamil language film. The difference is subtle. The movie only deals with emotions, it doesn’t deal with sentiments, because sentiments are very regional.
It’s a thriller? What is it with you and thrillers?
Suspense-thriller is my favourite genre. A thriller keeps you engaged and you feel like you are a part of the film. That’s the illusion the filmmaker gives you. And also because they give you a chance to explore the dark side of humanity, which is something that never comes to light. Vidiyum Mun is layered with thrill and suspense. I wouldn’t describe it as a whodunnit. It is a whydunnit.
How long did you work on the script, considering it is your first Tamil movie?
It only took me six weeks to write the English draft. But the Tamil draft took me nine months. We worked seven hours a day religiously. There were five of us, including two writers. They literally wrote volumes of dialogues and I would pick the best. It was very important because I like to strip away everything and make it simple. I like to find the simplest path to achieve something in my writing. That stark simplicity counts.
After Vidiyum Mun, what next?
I’m actually working on a Bollywood thriller next and, it’s a medical thriller, which is going to explore death. It has a bit of supernatural element in it too. I am in the process of getting rights for a book. But I can’t tell you yet because it’s under negotiations. I can tell you it’s a Japanese novel and a thriller.