Ranjith Jeyakodi, director of Puriyadha Pudhir, talks about the struggles of a debutant filmmaker – from convincing producers to braving financial trouble
Puriyadha Pudhir, Ranjith Jeyakodi’s debut film, which released last week, was completed in 60 days. But never in his wildest dreams did Jeyakodi imagine that it would take three more years to release the film. Initial frustration aside, the directors reveals that he ‘accepted the phase’. “I couldn’t help it, it was out of my control. As a director, I’d done my job, but there was nothing I could do about the delay,” he says, “I completed 48 days of shoot two years ago, and to wrap up the remaining 12 days of shoot, I had to wait for a year and a half.”
This is how cinema works, Jeyakodi adds knowledgeably, “nothing is easy here. I learnt the art of waiting during that period.”
Jeyakodi approached many production houses with his script for Puriyadha Pudhir. “Many wanted a comedy track and a happy ending,” he rues, “also, except Vijay Sethupathi, we couldn’t approach other heroes easily. The actors may have liked our script, but there were several people in between. We had to get past all of them. That took time, but producers would tell us to come with a hero’s call sheet.” The other requisite that producers insisted upon was a ‘hit genre’. “It was the period of horror comedy. Wherever I went, they wanted one such script,” explains Jeyakodi.
Finance was a concern, too. “They wanted a script on a ‘small budget’,” reveals Jeyakodi, “PP was the third script I wrote, for the first two films would need to be made on a big budget. And nobody was willing to invest money on a debutant director.”
But not matter what, first-timers must not lose heart, says Jeyakodi. “When the budget is settled, producers would also ask for other elements like comedy and songs. And when you complete a film after overcoming many challenges, some may release immediately while others may take three years. Some others may not release at all.”
Commenting on the crop of directors who take a plunge without assisting someone, Ranjith, who worked with director Ram on Kattradhu Tamil, says previous work experience is mandatory for debutant directors. “You learn the practical aspects of filmmaking only when you work with other directors. My dad is an ex-military man and my brother works for the armed forces. But, I wanted to make films. After completing Viscom, I joined director Ram’s team of assistant directors. That stint helped me a lot.”
Finding the right actor
“I met Vijay Sethupathi in a coffee shop and narrated the story,” begins Jeyajodi, “At that time, Soodhu Kavvum had just released. He was a popular hero. He told me that he cannot take up the film for the next couple of years. I just requested him to listen to the story. He agreed to work on the film after listening to the script, but told me to wait. Towards the end of 2013, he called me and said that he had dates for 45 days. I utilised that opportunity and completed the major portions of the film in 48 days. I just had 12 days of shoot left. And for those 12 days, I had to wait for a year and a half. The film was also mired in financial crisis. So, I was waiting indefinitely.”
Jeyakodi also had support in the form of Vijay Sethupathi. “He was not fed up at all,” says Jeyakodi, “He said, ‘padam varala na enna ippo? We will work together again.’. He is a positive person. A knowledgeable actor. The film was earlier planned for 70 days, but Vijay Sethupathi was so quick, he completed it in 60 days.”
Release and reviews
While waiting, Jeyakodi travelled a lot, read many books and also wrote the script for his next film. The toughest part was waiting for the release to happen after completing the film, he declares. “You have to answer many people. As I couldn’t face people, I went into a shell, but ensured that I was not lonely. The problem was, I couldn’t actively work on my next film too, because I would be asked about my debut film. Rebel Studios was the first producer, and JSK Films’ Satish later took over the film. I didn’t show the film to any other producer. I was very protective about my film. Only Vijay Sethupathi and I had seen the film until Satish took over. He handled the issues very well, and released it.”
“Everybody has a right to their opinion,” declares Jeyakodi when asked about the mixed reviews for his film. “But when it comes to online reviews, there is no respect for a filmmaker. Respectful criticism is what we would like. Also, a reviewer should understand the nuances of a film, and should take the responsibility to explain those nuances to people. But no online reviewer is a professional here. They pass random comments. In my case, many watched it with the notion that this was a three-year old film. There are many films in Tamil cinema that were long in the making. They should watch films without presumptions.”
Ranjith’s next is of the crime travel genre. “Will start shooting soon; it is a multi-starrer. I want to be a versatile filmmaker by not getting stuck on a particular genre,” he says,
The Ranjith Jeyakodi interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.