Mike Muthu steps off stage
If there ever was a familiar face in Chennai’s theatrescape, it has to be Michael Muthu, known to everyone as Mike. The founder of Boardwalkers, Mike’s journey in theatre began way back in 1991, with Jesus Christ Superstar, which he staged right after he graduated out of Loyola College. 25 years later, Mike has a lot more grey in his hair but his enthusiasm — be it for staging his next production, or his zest for long solo bike rides to Rohtang Pass or simply catching up with his primary school friends for a ten-day 'chill vacay' at Berijam Lake every year – remains intact. Although Mike did dabble with directing for the big screen with Girl (2002), the film had to be shelved. This time around things have fallen into place, and Mike will venture into directing a bilingual (English/Tamil) thriller titled The Way Things Are/ Theeviram, which he describes as a complex relationship between two estranged childhood friends.
What’s the inspiration behind the story?
It was a photograph I saw, of a young Palestinian father, with the bodies of his dead three-year-old twin daughters draped over each arm, wailing, his eyes filled and overflowing with tears. It was a tragic picture which evoked empathy and anger. What is that devastated and destroyed father now supposed to do? Forgive? Forget? Go on with Life? How? These are some of the questions that our film raises.
Why choose film over stage?
The story was originally intended to be produced as a theatrical play, but I figured it would make quite an interesting film. So I added a few more scenes into the storyline and made it more cinematic. Then I met Sameer Bharat Ram, a young film producer (Uriyadi), who agreed to produce it. We had originally intended to make only an English version of the film; the decision to make a Tamil Version came from Sameer. We then put together a cast which could perform both in English and in Tamil, rehearsed both versions for more than thirty days, and when we were ready, we finally went to shoot.
What’s your thoughts on cost cutting?
An actor has to lose himself in the character he or she is playing. Lines are supposed to happen automatically, without thinking, pure muscle memory, and that can come only with rehearsals, hours and hours of rehearsals, which is very common in theatre, but a rarity in Indian cinema. The benefits of rehearsals are enormous, everybody knows their lines, they understand their characters, all props are available, costumes are in place and the production team is working like a well-oiled machine. And then, when we actually start shooting, all shots end with one take, followed by a safety, and we move on to the next shot. We save a lot of time, and time is money in the movie business.