Gautham Menon: ‘Dhruva Natchathiram will be an event film bringing audiences back to theatres’

The director speaks about his next two films releases, on lending his voice for a COVID-19 documentary, and what he foresees in the future for filmmaking

Gautham Menon has been among the busier filmmakers this lockdown, having directed a short film (Karthik Dial Seytha Enn) and putting out a few music videos (‘Oru Chance Kudu’, ‘Karuvizhiye’ and ‘En Kaadhal’) on his YouTube channel.

This week, he is set for a new beginning. He will debut as a narrator in Discovery Plus’ documentary, COVID 19: India’s War Against the Virus. In a virtual chat with MetroPlus, the director reveals what he has been upto these days and how the pandemic will affect the working pattern of the film industry. Excerpts:

How have you managed to put out content, despite the challenges of the pandemic?

There have been lots who have either suffered or have been displaced. But despite all those happenings, most of us have found that space at home with our loved ones, and got back to doing things that we should have.

The uncertainty about the current situation is what is bothering. Whatever I did was not because I thought ‘let me do something’ but because I woke up feeling passionate about something. A lot of writing has changed keeping in mind the situation. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

What were your key learnings from the documentary?

I sort of weaned myself away from TV news, because there were so many things floating around. To learn is why I said ‘yes’ to narrating this documentary which was filmed across the country and brought forth multiple perspectives. It talks about the origin of the virus from Wuhan; how Kerala managed to contain the spread, and how health experts handled it. It was lovely to sit back and watch, and step in to do the Tamil narration for an English script.

 

You are known for your (surprise) voice-overs in feature films. How different was this??

We wanted it as straight-forward and personal as possible. But it shouldn’t sound too colloquial as well. So, it was a nice balance we tried to strike.

As a feature filmmaker, how do you view documentaries?

I’ve been fascinated by documentary filmmakers than the films themselves. I love that they have stuck to that and kept away from the lure of showbiz. Since we filmed Queen six months ago as a web-series, and now, having put out shorts and music videos to audiences, I’ve been open to the idea of coming away from being invested in a feature film, and exploring such content.

What changes do you foresee on the filmmaking front?

Nobody wants to explore or experiment much, because they want to be safe… I feel a lot of scripting will change to suit controlled environments. Producers are actually calling and saying, ‘Quick ah edha pannalama? Is there something we can finish in a controlled space in 30 days?’

With social distancing norms and masks being the new normal, how do you plan to shoot?

I’m open to change and adjustments. Also, I’m not a big-budget filmmaker as such. We’re already in a writers’ rooms and creating content for OTT platforms, and there is work happening on existing feature films. I’m trying to not let the writing be affected too much; I’ve a foreign schedule planned soon, and I’m hoping things will get back to normal.

Do you factor in the pandemic and lockdown while you are creating content?

When you are setting up a new scene, you’re always thinking, ‘Will the audience wonder if this was before or during COVID-19?’ That bothers me, honestly. I wrote a half-hour short recently, and I wasn’t sure if I should set it in the middle of masks and less crowds. I ended up not using masks nor mentioning timelines.

Finally, what is the status of your upcoming projects?

We’re waiting to get back to filming. For Joshua Imai Pol Kaakha, I have 10 days left, mostly involving action and chase sequences. Then, there is Dhruva Natchathiram which we’re editing currently. We have seven days of shoot without Vikram sir, and it will hopefully be one of the event films that will bring audiences back to theatres this year.

 

COVID-19: India’s War Against the Virus will premiere on Discovery Plus on July 16, followed by telecast on Discovery Channel on July 20 (8pm)

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