Kishore Rajkumar's voice trembles with excitement as he begins speaking about his directorial debut, Naai Sekar. Kishore, seen in minor roles in numerous short films and features like Kaithi, Kee, and Imaikka Nodigal, identifies himself as an actor primarily, and Naai Sekar, too, originated as a project in which he was to star as the lead.
As it eventually metamorphosed into a feature-length script and the budget and logistics expanded, roping in a commercially viable 'hero' made more sense and that's when Sathish entered the project. "Once Sathish came in, he brought in AGS Productions, Anirudh Ravichander for a single… it all happened," Kishore says, barely able to believe that he has pulled off the movie.
"The production house's previous movie was the 180-crore budgeted Bigil. It's unbelievable that I have directed a movie for them. Likewise, when we approached Anirudh sir for a single, we asked him for a song that some filmmakers might have refused. He, however, insisted on giving an original for Sathish's debut as a leading man. He heard the situation and began composing immediately. This movie is special for so many reasons!" he adds.
Though Kishore hasn't assisted any filmmaker, he believes he was always doubling up as an assistant director all the while. "Even when acting, I would be involved in story discussions and dialogue writing and editing," he says, adding that all of it came in handy in making his debut. The first day, in particular, was a surreal experience for him.
"As someone who hails from a short film background, the idea of sitting in front of a monitor while actors perform 10 meters away from you felt alien to me. I sat there, confused about the working environment. I then stood up, walked up to the camera, and started directing the actors. After that, I don't think I sat in front of a monitor," he says.
Kishore retained not just his filmmaking methods, but also several of his teammates, including Ram Pandian, the editor, MS Jones Rupert, who scored the film's background score, and more importantly Praveen Balu, the film's co-writer and cinematographer.
"Praveen had a pet dog and we used to hang out at his place, watching cricket and movies; we would sometimes try to speak the dog's mind aloud as a joke. In this film, we have tried something similar, using Siva's voice as the dog's thoughts," he says.
The film’s trailer hints at an outlandish premise that thrives in silly humour. We see a man gradually turn into a dog, while the dog begins to do, well, things that a man would, ranging from smoking a cigar to… driving a car.
"There's a scene in Mayakkam Enna, in which Dhanush is insulted and told to act like a dog; that's where the idea of Naai Sekar comes from. Look, we are used to watching goons flying in the air when the hero's punch lands on them; that’s not humanly possible either, but we have accepted them in our films, right? Cinema endrathe oru silly vishayam thaan. All that matters is how audiences are encouraged to connect with the characters
From seeking out films on festival days as a fan to now having his own film come out on Pongal, the journey has been special for Kishore. "Bayangara happy and excited," he says, his voice still trembling with excitement.