Rathina Shiva, who made his directorial debut with Vijay Sethupathi’s Rekka four years back, seems to have his priorities clear. “Novelty is not a criterion for a film to strike a chord with audiences. The secret lies in the packaging,” he says.
This comes in response to my question about why he chose to follow up his rather underwhelming debut film with another film in the same genre. "Nobody cares about repetition. All that gets asked is how well your last film did," he says. Did he not feel tempted to show a little variety with his second film? "Why would I go fixing something that’s not broken?" he shoots back.
"There were flaws in Rekka, I agree. But it was a fun outing for Vijay Sethupathi, and the target audience loved it. Since then, every actor and producer I have met, has wanted me to do another ‘commercial’ film in the same space. You can only supply for the demand."
And in any case, Rathina Siva doesn’t mind. “I have no qualms about being labelled a director who does only basic, mainstream films. These are the films that connect with the layman. I would love to do all my films in the same genre, unless the trade and audience thinks I need to change."
If his directorial choices are a direct offshoot of industry demands, does he have a film he thinks of as a dream project? "My next film will be my dream project. It will be of the same genre as Rekka and Seeru. But rest assured, I will address all the complaints. Believe me, I want to become a specialist in the genre (laughs). When something is your forte, why throw it away for something you are not comfortable with?" he asks.
To further justify his conviction, he cites the example of actor Pandiarajan. "He was doing family dramas all through the late 80s and the 90s. Were they not hits? How about today, for example? Almost 60 Tamil soaps are running in the 30+ TV channels now. How different are they from each other? And yet, each of them have takers, right?”
I ask if he believes that filmmakers have the responsibility to shape the taste of the audience. "We are no one to judge or shape. The audience come for emotional investment and entertainment. You just need to give them that, with the right blend of reimagined cliches.” Rathina Siva compares his filmmaking philosophy to life itself.
"See, we go home every day to the same family. We go out to work, despite the same annoying traffic. Life goes on, right? Even in this monotonous existence, the joy is in the small pleasures. My filmmaking style is like that," he explains.
He goes on to talk about Seeru. “‘Seeruvor Seeru’ is a line from Bharathi’s Puthiya Aathichudi. It stresses on the need to get angry at the right place and the right time,” he explains. “The script was not written with Jiiva in mind. After finishing the final draft, I approached three or four top actors, but all of them had their hands full. I learned that Jiiva was interested in doing a fullon commercial action script. I rewrote a few portions to fit him into the film’s world." I ask about his rumoured upcoming project with Vijay Sethupathi.
"Now that I know what the audience want and don’t want from him, I will be more confident in my handling of him. But it will still be another commercial film, that will satisfy everyone. I wasn’t kidding when I said I want to become a specialist in this genre," he signs off.