June 2, 2022, turned out to be an unforgettable date for Tamil cinema fans. That’s when director Lokesh Kanagaraj revealed the connection between Kaithi and Vikram, which was to release the following day. Incidentally, editor Philomin Raj was supposed to make this announcement during the audio launch of the film, but did not. “In the heat of the moment, I forgot to do it.
However, Lokesh wanted to leave it that way and eventually made the reveal a day before Vikram’s release,” shares the editor. Vikram has three parallel tracks involving its three lead actors for most of its runtime. The film, of course, takes place in the universe of Kaithi and is a spiritual sequel to Vikram (1986). It must not have been an easy fit to handle a film of this magnitude and one whose length stretches to three hours. Philomin notes that the shared vision of the team helped.
“We decided to treat the first half as an investigative thriller. So, I went only with close and mid shots, and avoided the wide shots as much as possible. For instance, the interaction between Amar (Fahadh) and Vikram’s daughter-in-law is composed entirely of closeup shots. In the entire sequence, we used a wide shot only when agent Tina catches the falling cup.
Similarly, Amar and Bejoy’s interrogation scene also shifts to a wide shot only when the latter loses his cool and gets up from the chair. Employing such techniques help the audience enter the psyche and world of the characters.” Philomin is a rare editor who goes an extra mile for all his films. For instance, he studied a lot about guns for Vikram, read the case histories of advocate Chandru for Jai Bhim, and researched about police training colleges for Taanakkaran.
“I want to be completely loyal to the films I do. It would be criminal of me to work on a soccer film if I don’t even follow the sport. Reading a lot about the world a film is set in, helps me in setting the mood right on the editing table,” says Philomin. Interestingly, the editor addresses people by their character names while talking about his films, instead of going with the name of the actors.
“Once the script is given to me, I read it multiple times and envision the entire film in my head even before the footages reach my editing table. In the case of Vikram, I was thorough about the timeline without need for a mind-map and this helped me improvise the screenplay of Lokesh. For instance, the intro sequence of Amar hadn’t included a conversation with Gayathrie in the script. It was supposed to occur after a few minutes. I sandwiched the scene between the intro sequence to give a wholesome picture of Amar’s world.” Philomin believes that a good editor must not have a rigid style of working.
“If my work doesn’t get noticed in a film, I consider it a success, as my job ends with improvising the story and polishing the screenplay, overshadowing them would be a blunder.” He feels that the rapport he shared with Lokesh ensured that none of the scenes or important shots was wasted. “We both know how each other think. Lokesh knows the kind of shots I will be using in the film, and he doesn’t even waste time shooting the rest.
Likewise, I understand the importance of every scene made by him and I won’t cut them off just like that. I believe that’s the reason why we don’t have deleted scenes in Vikram.” Getting a violence-heavy film like Vikram censored without losing its essence is a tricky business. But Lokesh and Philomin were prepared to face the board. “We focussed less on the aftereffects of the punches and gunshots. This saved the film from turning gory. However, the censor board surprised us by muting a few words and giving cuts in the least expected places.
Luckily, unlike Master, the censor sheet released by the government didn’t have spoilers of Vikram.” Whenever the film takes its own pace to unveil or set the mood, like the first half of Vikram for instance, the person to face the blame is the editor. Philomin feels that many less-informed reviewers make this mistake.
“Films are a collective effort and an editor can’t alter the momentum of a project just like that and certain films are cut in a certain way for a reason. One can’t box every film under the same template and draw comparisons,” he says. As a parting line, he borrows a line from the man Kamal Haasan, “Indha madhri audience oda approach irukkave kudadhu nu sollala. Illama irundha nalla irukkum.”