After 15 years of struggles and rejections in Tamil Film Industry, debut director Jagan Vijaya came up with Asia's first split screen film Beginning as his own production. His clarity about various crafts involved in filmmaking and his efforts in making a split screen film are just amazing. He thanks his friends and family members who stood by him all these years and supported him in the production of this prestigious project. This split screen film Beginning is literally the beginning of a new era in Indian film industry. Director Jagan Vijaya is also ready to produce more interesting films in future under his production banner Lefty Manual Creations.
The director gave an exclusive interview to FilmiBeat and spoke about the challenges and nuances involved in the most unique filmmaking process. Let's see what the filmmaker tells about his Beginning.
What is the reason behind doing an entire film in Split Screen?
I wanted to simultaneously tell two stories that happens at the same time frame. I wrote the complete script keeping this as the basic idea. I was not at all convinced with the concept of telling it as one scene after the other. In other words, we are presenting two films at the ticket cost of one. Audience may find it difficult at the beginning to get hold of the two stories but within just five minutes they will automatically get connected to it. In fact, I wrote the script in a way to feel the connection while watching. To a certain point, it will be clearly two separate films for the audience and while the connect happens they will realise the need for the split screen. The script demands the split screen storytelling and we didn't choose it just for the sake of doing an experimental film. I'm sure that the audience will get an extraordinary movie watching experience.
Why did you chose Vinod Kishan and Gouri Kishan as the lead actors?
I was looking for a brilliant performer who didn't do such an innocent character in his earlier films so that it will automatically create a wow factor for the audience. Vinod Kishan perfectly satisfied all my expectations and his powerful eyes impressed me a lot. We did a 10 days workshop exclusively for him and his co-operation was just tremendous. In Gouri Kishan's filmography, this film will be a milestone. I felt that her look was tailor-made for the role of a young girl working in a software company. She got a great scope to deliver variety of emotions in this film and she just nailed it with her terrific acting.
What are the kind of films you want to do in future?
I don't want to limit myself to a particular genre of films. I already completed the writing process for 10 scripts, where each script will have its unique way of storytelling. And I would love to experiment a lot, particularly in the screenplay of my films in future. Irrespective of the genre, you can expect soulful and meaningful films from me.
How editor CS Premkumar came on-board for this project?
He is already a well-established and brilliant editor with a tremendous experience of editing 20+ films so far. I narrated the entire script to him thinking whether he will like it or not. But to my surprise, he just loved it and appreciated me a lot. He immediately accepted to work as the editor of the film. He is the first person who came on-board to this film. His patience and dedication towards the film can't be explained in words. If we make any changes or remove any particular shot in one side of the split screen, we have to equally work on matching the duration on the other side. It's a minute frame by frame process which takes a lot of time. Improvisation in all the other departments of filmmaking will get fulfilled only when an editor understands the exact reason and CS Premkumar is a master in the craft.
Apart from editing, he helped a lot in promoting the film. He is the only reason we completed the project without compromising on the idea of split screen. He believed in the script and his energy level always motivated me whenever I was feeling down. I can assure that this film will make the entire industry talk about his editing skills. He suggested me the other technicians and guided me throughout the process as a senior technician in the industry. We completed the shooting for one story, locked the editing and then started shooting the other. We faced a lot of changes while filming the second story and we use to come back to edit the first story accordingly. It was like a never-ending, back and forth process but our editor handled it really well. It took nearly 4 months for the editing process alone and we are extremely happy with the perfect output delivered by our editor CS Premkumar.
Do you think this idea of Split Screen will work for theatre audience?
Of-course! This film is purely made to deliver a fantastic theatre experience for the audience. We enjoyed it to the core while watching the complete film on big screen. I'm sure that audience will love it and movie buffs will definitely re-visit the film to understand more about the nuances of filmmaking. In every department, the amount of work involved for the film is twice or even more when compared to other films. According to me, planning is everything when it comes to a film production. But we really struggled a lot when it came to a split screen film for the first time.
Even though my technicians were well-versed in their own departments, we couldn't come to a proper conclusion about the number of days for the entire post-production process. We did dubbing alone for 50 days and it was essential to bring the quality. It took 25 days for Vinod Kishan and 15 days for Gouri Kishan to complete their portions in dubbing. Music and sound mixing played a major part in this film. Amount of work involved in these departments were too heavy.
Cinematographer Veerakumar spent a lot of time with me in shot division and rehearsals, which in turn helped us to improvise the visual storytelling and minimise the challenges in production. This is his debut feature film as a cinematographer and nobody will believe it after watching the film. His brother Chezhiyan is already a well-established cinematographer andfilmmaker. KS Sundaramurthy is our music composer. He composed music for the project with an idea of keeping the music subtle . There are lot of important emotional sequences where he chose silence as the key element and it brilliantly worked out on screen. Tony did the sound mixing for us. His work is equally important to the music composer in this film. We worked for almost 75 days for the sound mixing. .
What is your take on lobbying in film festivals?
Our film got selected in 15 film festivals so far, among which we won in 4 festivals already and awaiting the final results for the rest. As of now, we didn't face any lobbying in film festivals across the globe. We haven't applied for many Indian film festivals yet and that may be the reason.
What is the scope for such experimental films?
If audience really like a film they will just celebrate it and their interest to watch more good films will automatically increase. Famous producers, actors and directors should come forward to promote good films and its makers. They shouldn't think only about the monetary benefits they get in promoting these films. If this happens small budget and experimental films with interesting screenplay will create wonders at the box office.
Tell us about the difficulties you faced during the production of the film.
Since I wrote the script, it was easy for me to work by having both the stories in mind. But practically, it wasn't that easy for all my crew members to remember what exactly happens in the left screen when we are working on the same duration for right screen. It took more time for me to make them understand and that was the only major difficulty we faced. I enjoyed the writing process and completed the entire script in just 16 days.
Kalki's Ponniyin Selvan novel was the inspiration for me to write the script in this particular pattern. The three legends of Indian cinema- MG Ramachandran, Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam tried to make a film on Ponniyin Selvan novel for a long time. The novel has its prime focus on at least 5 major characters at the same time frame. I see this as the major challenge for the three legends in converting Ponniyin Selvan novel into a film. This thought pushed me to write two stories with an interesting screenplay and we successfully executed the idea as Asia's first split screen film. Finally, director Mani Ratnam is now ready with the much awaited magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan 1 and I am eagerly waiting to witness its magical screenplay.
What is your favourite experimental film and why?
Even after the release of many films with dialogues, Charlie Chaplin believed in his unique screenplay and came up with Modern Times, a film without dialogues again. I personally see that as the best experimental film. Nenjil Ore Alayam by the legendary director Sridhar is my another favourite film. I just love the film again because of the brilliant screenplay. So according to me, experimenting with unique and interesting screenplay is everything.
What is your take on big budget films becoming flop at the box-office?
Some well-established film producers, actors and directors do a lot of false promotions for their big budget films. They celebrate success party in just 3 days of their film's release just for the sake of confusing audience's minds and bringing them to theatres. Because of such fake success party stunts, audience who didn't like those films will start thinking that their opinion was wrong. They are also made to believe that the film which they don't like is a blockbuster, which again prepares them to go for another big budget film irrespective of the quality in content and making.
Literally these so-called big films are cheating themselves and the audience with such false promotions. It is also the audience's mistake who keep wasting their time and money on such big films but not looking for an alternate small budget film which is really good in all aspects of filmmaking. A good promotion should be based on the true content of a film. It shouldn't focus only on the business of a film.