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Bejoy Nambiar, Karthick Naren, other Navarasa filmmakers on helming films aimed to recreate different emotions

·6 min read

Streaming giant Netflix is all set to take a big leap forward in its regional segment this year, when it drops its 9-part Tamil anthology Navarasa on Friday. The assemblage of films is put together by Mani Ratnam and Jayendra, who have come forward to make this as a contributor to the struggling cinema workforce during this pandemic. Navarasa's profits have directly been pushed to the unskilled labour in the Tamil film industry, with every actor, actress and technician doing their bit for free.

At Firstpost, we speak to four different directors who have worked on the series, making films aimed at four different emotions.

Karthick Naren, who has directed Project Agni featuring Arvind Swami and Prasanna in the lead, was one of the very first directors to board the project. "This is the script that I had in hand for a long time. When I came in, I had just one question in mind - whether the 'wonder' rasa was still available out of the nine. When the answer came as a yes, we fixed it." Karthick had already discussed this idea with Arvind Swami during the shoot of his long-gestating Naragasooran, which helped him convince the actor and bring him onboard. "My film is filled with conversations, so we needed two people with equal class to be pitted against each other. Arvind Swami sir and Prasanna were the perfect fits to it." Project Agni belongs to the sci-fi genre, which the director feels will get more approachable to the audiences with the ongoing OTT bloom in India.

Edhiri, directed by Bejoy Nambiar, is definitely one of the most interesting films in the list with a solid pre-release buzz, mainly because of its star Vijay Sethupathi, and a supporting cast that includes veterans such as Revathy and Prakash Raj. "I like to delve into multiple lives through my films, even when it is two different worlds coming together. I was one of the first in the roster, and I immediately chose 'Rowdram' (anger) as my rasa. However, two days later, Mani sir called me and told me that Arvind sir wanted that, so I took 'Karuna' (compassion), because it was diametrically opposite to Rowdram. It is not something that would come easily to me, so I thoNught I could challenge myself and bring out something new."

Mani Ratnam has himself penned the story for Bejoy Nambiar's film, but what happened during the preparation stage totally took the director by awe. Though the film's screenplay is penned by Bejoy himself along with Arpita Chatterjee, with the dialogues written by MK Mani, Vijay Sethupathi pulled off an entire rehaul of the dialogues, rewriting it for not just his portions but for the entire script. Because of this, Vijay Sethupathi has been credited as the associate dialogue writer for the film. "I started enjoying this process so much that I started recording it. I remember this instance for a scene which was originally in silence - Vijay Sethupathi wrote a passage for it, if it works we will use it. I had written it as a silent scene, but went on to use the passage. Now when I see the film, I feel that the film would have been incomplete without the passage. And this didn't stop at the prep, it moved onto the shoot as well. He kept giving me so much, I was spoilt for choice. It really opened my eyes a lot," Bejoy reveals.

Sarjun, who has impressed with his short films such as Maa and Lakshmi before moving onto his feature works, has picked up the emotion of courage for his film in the series. Titled Thunintha Pin, the film stars Atharvaa and Anjali, and revolves around a Special Task Force Officer. "Owing to the title (which means 'beyond courage'), we look at how the character reaches the pinnacle point of courage. I am someone who likes the shorter format, mainly because we can get to the point quickly and not waste much time. I also don't have to wait for a year or two to get my product out." The script for this film too, is written by Mani Ratnam, and was shot in Acchankuri which lies in the Tenkasi - Kerala border. "I made my other short films in a jolly and jovial manner, but this was different. The story itself is worth a feature film, and can be extended into a full-length film with shoot planned over 40 days." Sarjun says that he does have an idea to make an anthology of his own, with four different films put together. "I have already started pitching it," he says.

If one had to pick the most interesting title out of the lot, it would have to be Inmai by Rathindran Prasad, a film which stars Siddharth and Parvathy Menon. Explaining the title, the director says "Inmai is not a word which you would use separately, as it means 'devoid of'. It comes across with another word such as Pugazh-inmai or Porul-inmai. Basically, we wanted to make a film on fear that didn't fit into the usual tropes of horror or a thriller, and resemble a Shakespearean tragedy. Both Siddharth and I are big fans of Shakespeare, which we came to know when we started conversing with each other. When you look closely into his stories, he usually exaggerates one particular emotion and goes really deep into understanding that emotion. So, we wanted to explore that space." Though Rathindran has directed two films in Idhu Vedhalam Sollum Kadhai and Boomika, this will be his first official release.

On picking the cast for the film, Rathindran says "It was Siddharth who came up with the idea and suggested Parvathy for the film. And she turned out to be such a darling. I hadn't seen any film of hers except Uttama Villain, where she had a very small role. When I suddenly jumped onto a Zoom call with her, I could feel that there couldn't be a better person than her to play the character of Wahida. Later on, I myself asked her to suggest a film of hers, and she came back telling me not to watch any of her films. She wanted a fresh approach for the film, and that came out superbly. We as a trio had a great time working together."

Arvind Swami, Vasanth, Priyadarshan, Gautham Menon and Karthik Subbaraj are the other filmmakers who are part of the nine-episode anthology series, which is all set to stream on 6 August worldwide. Suriya, Yogi Babu, Pragya Martin, Ashok Selvan, Ramya Nambeesan, Bobby Simha and Aditi Balan to name a few are the other actors who are part of Netflix's much-awaited anthology film.

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