I am amazed that Atlee works 18 hours a day: Assistant director Karthikeyan Shanmugam

Assistant director Karthikeyan Shanmugam shares interesting details about Ajith, working with established directors and much more.

Published: 09th December 2019 09:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th December 2019 09:48 AM   |  A+A-

Karthikeyan Shanmugam with director Atlee

Karthikeyan Shanmugam with director Atlee

Express News Service

When did you realise cinema was your calling?

It was my father who told me to sign up for a course at the Government Film Institute. I thought he was joking. But he went to the extent of getting the application forms. I applied but got an offer to study microbiology and I studied it.

I knew seeing films alone is not enough to make them. But I also kept reading this weekly column by Shahjahan Gani called Siragukal Tharum Chinnathirai Kalai in Dinamani. It spoke about filmmaking and its nuances. That information gave me the confidence to take a step forward. After my Masters, I applied at the film institute. This time, my father told me not to as the industry is riddled with piracy issues and theatres are being converted to wedding halls. But I went ahead anyway.
What have you learned from your directors?

I learnt how not to do certain things after working with my directors. Except for Kannan sir and Atlee, the rest were newbies when I worked with them. So discussing the script with them was informative.

From Kannan sir, I learnt the importance of wrapping up a film fast. Kalees sir and Atlee lay a lot of importance on casting and performance. Atlee works for more than 18 hours a day for hundreds of days. How he does that still intrigues me.

What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?

During Aalwar, Ajith sir went around taking photographs of those working. Until the person received the photo, they did not know if they were shot. He took one of me and gave it to me with the words, ‘With love, Ajith Kumar’.

What’s one area of filmmaking you had a tough time with, but are better at now?

I am still getting a grasp of CG work. Even now, I would not say I have learned it completely. It takes a level of skill to get the output we require. For that, we have to be clear with what we are looking for.

What is your take on present-day cinema?

The makers are too business-minded these days and that takes a toll on the quality of the films. Earlier, there were many off-beat films made by those who didn’t worry about the financial outcome. But now, they are keen only on profits, and are adding unwanted elements to a film to bring in more people.

Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?

It has to be a new face or an upcoming young actor. My story demands someone who is not stuck in the image of a hero and can do what the story demands he do. If I work with a star, I will have to tweak it to match their image and that would spoil my script.

Karthikeyan Shanmugam

Films worked on: Aalwar, Aval Peyar Thamizharasi, Saguni, Oru Oorla Rendu Raja, Ivan Thanthiran, Boomerang, Kee, Bigil

Directors worked with: Chella, Meera Kathiravan, Shankar Dayal, Kannan, Kalees, Atlee

Main responsibilities: Art department, programming and scheduling


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