He may have been Mani Ratnam’s blue-eyed boy when he worked as his assistant director for many years, but actor Siddharth says he’s learnt more from first-timers than he has worked with the older, more venerable veterans. “I’ve learnt loads from debutants than from the masters. It’s because the masters are set while for the debutants, it will always be the first film they’ve made and this wait will weigh on their heads. They will overreach themselves frantically. And this fascinates me,” said the actor, who delivered the Gollapudi Srinivas Memorial Oration recently. “Cinema is a living, breathing contradictory being. The root of all evil and all good is the director,” he added.
Explaining how he considered himself ever-so-slightly worthy of delivering an oration of this magnitude, Siddharth explained that much like Gollapudi Srinivas, even he began his career wanting to be a director. Reflecting on the years that he had apprenticed under Mani Ratnam as an assistant director, he stated, “My filmography as an actor is 25 films and counting, of which 14 are with first time directors. And that is my only qualification to be here. Here’s the thing about debutant directors. They’re overconfident, impatient first timers. A lot of people think that making a film is about a great idea or one great emotion. You couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s a vocation that has to be seen from close quarters to be understood,” he said to raucous laughter.
Most producers will tell you that the Internet is the single biggest threat to their box office collections, but for directors, especially aspiring, hungry-eyed first timers, it’s a whole other ball game. At least that’s what actor and producer Siddharth firmly believes in. The Enakkul Oruvan star said, “Producers will judge you based on who you worked with and your script. There is no one way to prove your mastery to a producer. The Internet and short films broke all this. The film went digital and the camera went from being super expensive to a ubiquitous commodity that you could do pretty much everything with,” he said and added, “There used to be a time when people spoke about how a film does well in a particular centre, either A, B or C. Now, the Internet brings everything to people on the first day. As an actor and a producer, short films have been the biggest change. They’ve made an impact because they tell you that a director knows his craft. There’s no excuse any more to not make a picture anymore. Honestly, influence and resources aren’t excuses today.” Reflecting on another vicious tragedy that has befallen most first timers - having their first films shelved and stuck in the cans indefinitely - Siddharth said, “There’s no greater tragedy than to have your first film aborted. My heart goes out to all the people who have suffered due to economic and political reasons. I hope we can find a solution within to bring these films to us because they have a story to tell. And I’d like to hear them someday.”