Direction Dreams: Our industry has many heroes but few actors
In this edition of Direction Dream, Inigo, an erstwhile associate director of Ajay Gnanamuthu and PS Mithran, opens about his aspirations
In conversation with Inigo
Films worked on: Demonte Colony, Irumbu Thirai, Hero
Directors worked with: Ajay Gnanamuthu, PS Mithran
Main responsibilities: Associate director, Art Department, Dubbing, Poster design
When did you realise cinema was your calling?
My father worked at Loyola College, and we stayed in the staff quarters. There was an unused auto nearby, in which my friends and I would sit and chat for hours. I would tell them stories and notice that I could hold their attention when I was narrating something. As I grew up, when I went to Loyola, I learned about Vis Com, but my parents wanted me to pursue a career in science. I knew my heart was always with filmmaking and I convinced them to enrol me in the college. That's where I met Ajay Gnanamuthu, my senior, and realised that his relative is a family friend of ours. Our friendship started there, and we began working on short films.
What have you learned from your directors?
Usually, ADs speak of directors not treating them well, but fortunately, a harmful hierarchy doesn't exist in the teams of both directors I've worked with. PS Mithran anna is a brilliant storyteller and he can convince anyone to come on board. His knowledge of many topics is commendable, and during free time, he would teach us a lot of things like staging and writing. He is also caring. I was not feeling well during an important shoot, but he asked me to leave and took over the responsibilities I had. He would always encourage me to write and has even asked if I would like to direct a film written by him. Ajay, meanwhile, is more of a friend to me. He taught me the basics of filmmaking, right from our short film days. I think I would have spent more time at his house than mine.
What’s the oddest or most memorable thing you have seen or done as an AD?
On the last day of Irumbu Thirai's shoot, the team was at VGP for a song sequence. I was busy with post-production but wanted to be at the sets to thank everyone who had worked behind the scenes. Set assistants don't get their due despite being the first to be on the sets and the last to leave. Mithran anna saw me and hugged me saying that we had finished the film. That was a moving moment for me. During Hero, I was busy with postproduction when the film's audio launch happened, and I couldn't attend it. Everyone from the team suddenly kept calling me. I was told that Sivakarthikeyan sir had mentioned me on stage. I thought they were joking around until I saw the video for myself. It was a huge deal for me.
What’s an area of filmmaking you had a tough time with, but are better at now?
VFX was new to me, and while shooting, we had to blindly trust those who would work on the graphics. We need to know what that team is capable of, and at the same time, make sure that not everything is left to be done during the post-production. I have learned to maintain that balance now.
What is your take on present-day cinema?
The freedom that anyone can make a film is great. We get many gems from the unlikeliest of sources because of it. Going from film to digital is a major cause for that as it reduced the cost of production. OTT has opened avenues for non-star films. Balu Mahendra sir might have been more celebrated had he been making films now.
What's a change you wish to see in Tamil cinema?
Earlier, scripts were chosen by production houses, but in the last couple of decades, heros have started taking control. When a debutant director pitches a film to a producer, the question asked is whether a hero has been finalised. When we pitch it to an actor, we get asked if we have a producer. More transparency would be useful. Story theft is also quite common. Directors are expected to know how to write stories. I hope this mentality changes.
Who would be the dream cast and/or crew for your debut project?