He gets lost. Really, really lost.
It’s been well over a year since a Gokul film hit the headlines. The director has been hiding away, hard at work on his next film Kashmora, a film that he promises will transcend all genres. “I’m sure I sound arrogant when I say something like that, but honestly, that’s exactly what the film is like. I truly cannot think of one genre that the story will fit into. It is going to be one hell of an experience.”
A law graduate, Gokul has long nurtured a passion for movies. He cannot remember a time when he wasn’t writing stories, scripting them, or making a play out of them. “It was natural for someone like me to direct a film. Once I finished law school, I knew that it was time to give the real thing a shot. RB Chowdury sir gave me my first break and there has been no looking back.”
Gokul’s claim to fame may have been the wackiness that is Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai Balakumara, but it is his debut film Rowthiram that is still close to heart. The film was borne out of his frustration with society as it is now. “I was eager then. Eager to share the story of this man who did what he believed was right. A violent man, you could say. But one who believed in using it for the betterment of the system. All that he wanted to do was to set everything right. His way might have been hard for others to comprehend. But that wasn’t what I wanted people to see. I wanted them to see the fire burning inside him and be inspired. I wanted them to wake up and see the world for what it really is.”
He had high hopes for the film, but it failed to do that well at the box office. Something that Gokul is still coming to terms with. “What I don’t understand is, Rowthiram was made with pureness of spirit and mind. I made an honest attempt. Everybody I spoke to, they told me they liked it. But it didn’t get to the place I had expected.”
His love for poet Bharathiyar meant that there were several references to his work in the film. The Rowthiram theme was based on one of his works – Menmai Paduvai Manamey Kel. “I’ve long been an ardent admirer of his work. It so happened that the title and a song were from his works. Though this song had a lot of meaning, it was Maalai Mangum Neram that got the most airtime and followers. I found it quite confusing.”
At a school event much later, for which he was a guest of honour, Gokul got to see the impact this song had on the audience. “The students performed a dance for the theme song. Whether they really understood it or they just wanted to please me, I don’t really know. But, it made me happy to know that it had some reach.”
The mysteries of box office aside, Gokul prefers to spend every waking minute on perfecting his craft. “I can confidently say that I have no interests outside the film world. Right from a young age, I’ve been working on plays, scripts and what not. I’ll be slightly disturbed if I don’t have some idea that takes over my life. Cinema is not just love for me. It is an all-consuming passion.”
This passion comes with a price, of course. But not the kind you would know. Gokul gets lost. Really really lost. He has limited his travel these days because he tends to wander while driving his bike. “While writing the script for Rowthiram and Idhaba, I’ve frequently found myself in places far away from my intended destination. It’s a funny story really, but quite dangerous. Now that I’m in slightly better circumstances, I’m thinking about getting a driver.”
Gokul has fond memories of Idhaba, too. “The script writing for this film was a memorable experience. We coined ‘Kumudha Happy Annachi’ and ‘Friendu Love Matteru’ lines while discussing the story casually. Everything was free flowing…from the way the characters were etched to the two romantic tracks. I would say that I had absolutely no inhibitions while writing this one.”
Vijay Sethupathi, he feels, breathed life into the character he’d written. “He’s got such great potential and comic timing. He was initially a bit nervous about whether he’d be able to pull off the character, but as you can see, he did a great job.”
Needless to say, it was a laugh riot on the sets. “I was lucky enough to be working with such an amazing ensemble cast. From Pasupathy to Ashwin, everybody fit into their roles beautifully. That’s one of the reasons it clicked, I think.”
The response to the film was overwhelmingly positive, with most of the one liners from the film, going on to become cult favourites. It’s something that Gokul finds great joy in. “Even two years after the film released, there’s a huge response to the film and its dialogues. I’ve got people still telling me that they adore the scenes in it. For the most part, I don’t let it all get to my head. But I must admit, I’m extremely thankful that I found recognition. An artist needs feedback to go on, no?”
Working with Karthi is what he’s looking forward to the most right now. The shooting for Kashmora begins quite soon, and contrary to reports, the film isn’t entirely about black magic or horror. “There’s not much I can tell now without revealing the entire story. But what I can tell you though is that the film traverses almost all genres. It is a story like none other. No inspirations here,” he adds with a grin.
The lead role in Kashmora is a perfect fit for Karthi as Gokul believes that the former’s histrionic abilities would add a new dimension to his script. “I did not write the role with anybody in mind. But once I met Karthi, I could not see anybody else in it. It is going to be a pleasure to work with him. Nayanthara too, of course.”
Kashmora, Gokul tells me, will be the biggest film of his career. With a tinge of pride. “Not only in terms of budget, but also the story, cast and everything else. This one is huge. It’s bound to be challenging and I love that it is so.”
The Gokul interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.