FILMMAKER and screenwriter Vetrimaran is visibly elated. His experimental thriller, Visaaranai (Interrogation), has made it to the 72nd Venice International Film Festival in the competitive section. It is a first for Tamil cinema, something everyone—from his co-producer Dhanush to director Anurag Kashyap—have been celebrating on social media.
Of course, Vetrimaran is no stranger to fame, what with his second movie, Aadukalam (2011) bagging five National awards. Centred around rooster fights, it was a gritty film that was critically lauded both in the country and abroad. The 39-year-old had admitted to being inspired by his roosters at home as well as Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Mexican thriller, Amores Perros, which featured savage dogfight scenes. “The concept needs to strike a chord. That’s when I began researching and reading books like The Roost,” he recalls. Meanwhile, Visaaranai, which will premier in Venice in September, is based on the autobiographical book, Lock Up, by Chandrakumar. “It is about truth and justice, and is a story that can happen to any one of us. It took place during the early 80s and is still relevant,” adds Vetrimaran, who has reportedly shot the entire movie in prison. And while there have been reports about its hard-hitting nature, the director laughs it off, emphasising that his is a “regular feature”, adding, “If I can’t grow while making a film, I am unable to work on it. I have left a few scripts because of this.”
The back story
Choosing not to reveal any more about the storyline, he recalls how he had contacted Dhanush, who was busy with his other commitments at the time. They mutually decided on him going ahead with the project. “We were supposed to go on floors with Soodhadi (starring Dhanush and produced by his banner Wunderbar Films) in March. I then told him about doing Visaaranai first, as it excited me. He was in favour and came on board to produce it,” says Vetrimaran. That their respect for each other goes back a long way is evident. In fact, their next film together is Vada Chennai, about the underworld.
”Visaaranai stars Dinesh and Aanandhi in the lead roles, with GV Prakash composing the music. This year, the only other Tamil film that will be screened at the Venice Festival is a documentary on actor Rajnikant’s fan following, For the love of a man. Earlier Mani Ratnam’s films have been screened here, but not in the competition category, reveals the filmmaker. And are the celebrations continuing this weekend? “Now that I am a teetotaler, it rules out the usual opportunities to spend time with the gang,” Vetrimaran confesses. He prefers, instead, to focus on his other passion – homing pigeons. The filmmaker races about 100 pigeons each year. “And I seriously want to get into farming soon,” he adds.
Rule of thumb
Talking about promising new filmmakers, he refers to Manikandan of Kaaka Muttai, the critically- acclaimed movie he co-produced with Dhanush. “The film tells you that you don’t need a love interest to make a film work. All you require is a strong emotional connect.” Having directed Polladhavan in 2007, which many have compared to Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, he is choosy about his subjects. “I just capture emotions and stories and leave it to the viewer to interpret. I purposely try not to convey a message, but the movies are in my language,” he concludes.
Visaaranai is scheduled to release in October.
Need to know
While he is currently reading Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy, Vetrimaran makes it a point not to watch movies or read books when making a film. He connects with Akira Kurosawa’s and Shakespeare’s works and is all praise for the 2014 Malayalam film, Iyobinte Pusthakam (Book of Job).