Nishanth Kalidindi, who made the recent outlandish entertainer, Kadaseela Biriyani, is a self-made filmmaker. He hasn't assisted directors, isn't aware of how mainstream Kollywood functions, and yet, has managed to deliver a film that has turned heads in the film industry.
"The only set I have ever been in is my own. I learnt filmmaking by watching films. As a kid, I loved watching Rajini sir's films, and got exposed to Hollywood through Star Movies and HBO. The thirst to consume quality cinema grew. I searched for all acclaimed international films and saw them. They sculpted my perspective of cinema," says Nishanth.
The film has captivating performances from its lead cast, despite them all being new. Nishanth attributes it all to their theatre experience. "All of them come from the theatre background. The Malayalam actors were chosen from Act Lab in Cochin, and Vijay Ram, who plays Chikku Pandi, was selected from Koothu-p-pattarai. I had previously co-produced a play with Koumarane Valavane of Nasir fame. All this experience comes in handy in helping me get the best out of my actors," explains Nishanth.
The hilarious tongue-in-cheek humour and the characterisation of the psychotic antagonist Johan Kariya, are major attractions in the film. "My co-writer Vivekanand Kalaivanan poured in the humour essence into the narrative, while I was more concerned about style and pace. The humour you see on screen is born from who we are. We talk like that in real life and some of these jokes don't really land that well in our circles (laughs). So, we were sceptical about using it in the film, but we are glad that the audience liked it," says the filmmaker.
On the conception of Johan Kariya's character, Nishanth says, "Periya Pandi and Chinna Pandi are villains themselves, as they are sabotaging the life of their brother for personal gains. So, we needed someone more brutal to spice up the story. Johan, the son of the Pandi brother's target, is psychotic from birth and has zero empathy. His tragic childhood also elevates the effect of his violence."
He adds that they were careful to get the representation right. "I have seen several psychopaths in my life. I took inspiration from them all to design Johan. Usually, when a child is raised by a highly narcissistic parent, they turn into sociopaths, and these highly functional sociopaths usually end up raising psychopaths. We used this vicious circle as the backstory of Johan," the director says.
Questioned about the parallels between Kadaseela Biriyani and Malayalam filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery's works - like the toxic masculinity of the leads, for instance - Nishanth says, "I am a big fan of his cinema. But our film was written before the release of Angamaly Diaries, and it wasn't inspired by any of his films. However, the transition of ambient sound into background music is an idea we picked up from his work."
A section of the audience expressed discomfort with the level of violence in the film, and the filmmaker says that was indeed the desired effect. "Violence is meant to disturb you. I am glad the audience feels that way. The gore in my film is implied. You only get a distant view. Baahubali, for instance, showed more violence than we did. The beheading scene in the second part was shot so specifically to depict the valour of the hero. I don't align with the celebration of such violence," he says.
The only star associated with Kadaseela Biriyani is Vijay Sethupathi, whose voice-over is part of the film. The idea for the voiceover was an afterthought, according to the director. "We initially edited the film without a voiceover. Later, we felt that adding it would make the narrative more interesting. We screened the film to Vijay Sethupathi sir, and he liked it a lot. He offered to do the voiceover and cameo, and tweaked the dialogues to suit his style. His portions were shot separately and added to the film. We were particular about keeping this a secret as we didn't want the audience to be disillusioned by promos featuring him," he adds.
Kadaseela Biriyani's final cut was ready as far back as in 2018, way before the release of Super Deluxe, but it apparently went through an incubation period. Nishanth assures that his next won't take as long. "I have been carrying this film for a long time and have been waiting for it to reach the audience. As that is done now, I am ready to start my next. I haven't signed the project yet, but I am confident that you can expect an announcement soon," he concludes.