‘I have all the flaws of my film’s characters’

Debutant director Vishal Venkat who has made heads turn with his film, Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal, speaks about his journey, the film’s, and what he believes lies ahead for him

Published: 08th February 2022 07:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th February 2022 07:31 AM   |  A+A-

Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal

The film is getting plaudits for the casting that includes actors like Nasser, Bhanupriya, and Ilavarasu.

Express News Service

Remember Ajith’s highly underrated 2000 film, Mugavari? It was a film about Sridhar, an aspiring music director whose middle-class family throws their entire weight behind him and allows him to pursue his dreams. For people trying their luck in the world of cinema, families like the one in

Mugavari are the stuff of dreams, but for filmmaker Vishal Venkat, it isn’t really. “My parents and friends had struggles of their own, but they all supported me when I was making a space for myself in the industry. If not for them, I am not sure I’d be here right now,” says the filmmaker, whose debut film, Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal, has come out to largely positive reception. 

Having initially pursued a cricketing career with passion, Vishal candidly admits that he dropped that idea when he realised he didn’t have that ‘extraordinary’ talent that would help him make the cut. The debutant director prides himself in this self-realisation and shares that dialogue-writing is not quite his forte, and this is why he asks someone else to write them for the scripts he writes. For SNSM, it was Vishal’s good friend, guru, inspiration, and college senior, Manikandan, who wrote the dialogues.

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“It is important to know what we know and what we don’t. It is easy for me to ask someone to write the dialogues, but the difficult part is to see them feel the same excitement I have. Manikandan’s excitement sealed the deal for me. Also, it is important that the writer and dialogue-writer reach a middle ground. There needs to be a lot of give and take. With Manikandan, I gave him the liberty because I know how good he is, and there is a sense of mutual trust.” 

Vishal, who began writing and directing street plays during his college days, cherishes the friends he made during those times and reveals that, in some ways, Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal was a result of him wanting to make a film featuring them. “We used to hang out in a tea shop in Chennai, and I wanted that group to be in a film together. Be it Mirchi Vijay, Manikandan, Praveen, or Rakendu Mouli, I just wanted to do a film with all of them, and the scope of Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal just got bigger,” says Vishal, whose stints with directors Madhumitha and K Chandru not only shaped the filmmaker in him, but also allowed him to explore a lot within the scope of the medium.

Apart from working in films, Vishal also worked in certain channels where he honed his ability to cut engrossing TV promos. The director also assisted Madhumitha while she was directing the weekend episodes of Bigg Boss Tamil and through this work, he also got to work with Kamal Haasan. “Standing alongside him for those shoots was surreal because it was his Anbe Sivam that inspired me to do street plays, and from there, I went on to do short films, and helped with projects like Moone Moonu Vaarthai, Naveena Saraswathi Sabadham…,” says Vishal. 

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Vishal calls these detours life-changing experiences as they helped him understand his strengths and weaknesses. “I ticked a few boxes I wanted to, and then, engaged in a bit of self-exploration as I traversed through non-fiction television programs, reality shows, and advertisements, before returning to the mothership of cinema,” says Vishal. But what prompted him to put pen to paper during the lockdown? “My parents wanted me to get married, and I wanted to have a film on the floors before doing it,” says the debutant, who apparently had a couple of heartbreaks before embarking on writing Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal. “I was supposed to do a film with Ashok Selvan even before SNSM, and there was a socio-political satire with Yogi Babu that didn’t materialise despite the actor liking it. But then, things finally fell in place for SNSM.” 

The film is getting plaudits for the casting that includes actors like Nasser, Bhanupriya, and Ilavarasu. Vishal, however, admits that the show-stealer Nasser and Bhanupriya were not his first choices for the roles. It is the confidence given by the production house that made me believe that these actors could be approached for my film. I should say that the film sought the casting it wanted because even Ashok is someone who found his way into SNSM,” shares Vishal, whose debut film talks about themes like grief, death, rage, and atonement. While it does delve into dark themes, the overall takeaway from the film is one of hope. “Though I am indeed someone who likes the dark space, SNSM is a philosophical subject that talks about life’s purpose. My leads were all flawed characters, and all their flaws are inside me.” 

This is a theme that Vishal wants to further explore even if he attempts completely contrasting genres in his next.  “Do I do something different because the audience has certain expectations of me, or do I do something similar? Well, I am still figuring that out, but I do have an idea for an action-oriented film that will surely have a philosophical angle to it. I like talking about the human psyche, and hope is an important feeling that reminds us that we are not as bad as we think we are,” signs off Vishal.


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