From the cast to the tunes, he gets it right

Shakespeare’s famous lines, ‘‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,’’ are relevant across time and place. Likewise, they hold true for filmmaker, writer and producer Gautham Vasudev Menon. For, he may have looked at the world around him as a stage because the characters in his films are drawn from his real-life experiences.   

Born to a Malayali father and Tamilian mother, Gautham had the advantage of both languages. He fondly remembers the different kinds of music he was exposed to while growing up, which honed his musical sensibilities and is reflected in his films.

Besides music, he was interested in films and the two that resonated with him were Mani Ratnam’s Nayakan and Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society.  After watching Nayakan, Gautham was thinking of making movies that would grab the audience’s attention through its language and personalised language.     

 However, he went on to pursue engineering in Pudukkottai, where his knowledge of Tamil took wings, and he began entertaining the idea of filmmaking. Thereafter, he got a job and he spent half his time watching films until he decided that he wanted a career in cinema.  

And then began the struggle. Like those before him, he knocked the doors of producers and tried meeting people who would mentor him. And getting those meetings was not easy. Then his mother, through a friend of hers, introduced him to Rajiv Menon, who was then working on advertisements, and Gautham got a small job there. He was also a part of the crew of Rajiv’s first film, Minsara Kanavu, thereby gaining a first-hand experience in filmmaking. 

 Soon, he got his big break with Minnale, with Madhavan as the lead. The film was a commercial success. Gautham’s musical sensibilities proved to be his strength with some unforgettable numbers composed by Harris Jayaraj and the beautifully rendered ‘Vaseegara’ by Bombay Jayashri.    

 His next film, Kaakha Kaakhawas a hit and placed him on the cinematic map as a director of merit, and established Suriya as a star. 

Gautham’s films are applauded for their good casting and songs that go on to become chartbusters. He says, “I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented music composers like Illayaraja, A R Rahman, Harris Jayaraj and so on. He recalls working with Illayaraja and impressed by his work, he says, ‘‘Illayaraja wrote the score sheets of his music himself and recorded the music with a London-based orchestra for the film Neethaane En pon vasantham.’’

For his characters, Gautham draws inspiration from real life. Most of his female characters are largely based on his mother, sister and wife.  While making Vaaranam Aayiram, the filmmaker was dealing with the loss of his father, which had left a void in him. He was working round the clock to incorporate a bigger role for the father in his film.

Gautham was pleasantly surprised and touched when Suriya visited him in Chennai and tried on the look for the father’s character. He hadn’t expected that Suriya would give wings to his sentiments and deliver remarkable results. The film was all the more poignant because the emotions and moods on screen overlapped with the ones in his personal life.

Recalling what Stanley Kubrick once said, “A film is — or should be — more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what is behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” Gautham adopts a similar view in the way he handles the movie — though he has a storyline worked out in detail, he leaves the climax with an open end — and he also allows his characters to define his climax.

When he crafted Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, based on a real-life incident, he invited the real Jesse to watch the movie and she was overwhelmed with the way he had moulded her character. Besides, the movie had two endings, one is what the hero wanted it to be, and the other, what the director wanted. 

With Ajith in the lead in Yennai Arindaal, he brings out the sensitive relationship between a father and daughter — he opens up the world of little joys, and in an instant, the viewer is transported to their own childhood days. It is the moments of every day when captured well on the big screen that tugs at the heartstrings of the audience. And Gautham has more than succeeded with his sensitive treatment of various subjects and relationships in his films. 

His latest movie, Dhruva Natchathiram, which stars Vikram, has been long awaited. On talking about the making of the film, he says, ‘‘It is the cast and crew who add spice and life to the otherwise tiring days of the shoot’’. Narrating the fun times they had on the location, from singing in restaurants, much to the amusement of onlookers, and the quick-witted repartees they shared, spoofs of dialogues and making fun of themselves, he adds, “It is then that you realise that the camaraderie that one shares with the team lights up the day’s work in many ways.”

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From the cast to the tunes, he gets it right


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