Director Susienthiran, whose Genius was released last Friday, already has two more films wrapped up and another in its first leg of shoot. For someone who works so quickly, the filmmaker seems quite unhurried in conversation as he sits down to discuss his latest film and more.
A sports film, a coming-of-age film and now, Genius...
Yes, it’s about our education system and how we’re sucked into. Bharathiyar’s lines — Kaalai ezhuntha udan padippu, maalai muzhudhum vilayattu — is the crux of Genius.
We heard that the script of Genius was written for Vijay.
I don’t write scripts for actors. I saw a person in a tea shop and wrote this script based on him, 11 years back when I was an assistant director. After Naan Mahaan Alla, Vijay sir asked if I had a script. I narrated this to him. He liked it, but since it was about an abnormal character, he was hesitant. I also narrated it to Jayam Ravi. But eventually, I realised my script would work better as a character-based film rather than a hero-centric one. The lead actor is there only for the first ten minutes, and the majority of the film is in flashback.
When Roshan sir (the film’s producer who also plays the lead) met me, I thought this script would work for both of us as it would help reach him to the family audience and give me the sense of satisfaction of doing a film with a message. That’s why even the way we’ve put the message forward is mild and not preachy.
With Genius you’re collaborating once again with Yuvan after five years. You’ve also worked with Ilaiyaraaja in the past. How similar or different are they?
Raja sir will be in the studio at seven in the morning, rain or shine. Yuvan konjam somberi (laughs). But what’s common is, if they sit down to compose, they can come up with tunes pretty quickly. In the first sitting for Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai itself Raja sir gave me three tunes; and for Aadhalal..., in two hours, Yuvan gave me four tunes. The passion they both share for music is tremendous.
Yuvan and I share a good wavelength and those who’ve seen Genius have praised his music.
You seem to wrap up films extremely quickly.
Some directors shoot a lot of footage and end up having to edit a six-hour film down to two hours. So a film that’s meant to take months, ends up taking years. I finish a film in eight months. I also only take three months to complete a script, while others usually take six months to a year.
Your films tend not to have strong female characters. Why is this?
That’s not always true. Aadhalal... had a strong female lead, and my upcoming film, Angelina, is female-centric. It all depends on the story. I’m not keen on showing love portions unless it’s necessary for commercial reasons. I don’t like to glorify love as by doing so, we’re spoiling the youngsters. These days, 11-year-olds are getting into relationships.
After Naan Mahaan Alla with Karthi, you opted for Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai. After Rajapattai with Vikram, you did Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer. So more than working with heroes, you seem to prioritise the content.
The script is the deciding factor. It decides whether a hero is needed for the film. Also, I can’t go to an established actor without a good script. Actors are smart these days and don’t really believe in frequent collaborations. So, if the right script comes my way, I go for a huge star.
A word about your upcoming directorial ventures.
Angelina is an investigation thriller about youngsters. Champion (working title) is about sports in North Madras; it will also talk about violence. Kennedy Club is about private sports clubs and what happens during their 50th year celebrations.
You’re also making your onscreen debut with Suttu Pidikka Utharavu.
I’ve wanted to make a full-fledged action film ever since Naan Mahaan Alla and Pandiya Naadu. But a script didn’t materialise. That’s when Suttu Pidikka Utharavu’s director, Ramprakash Rayappa, narrated his script. It had very little dialogue and a lot of chase sequences and action. I wanted to be a part of such a different film, and so agreed to act in it.