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Director Lingusamy: My ability to spot good cinema is still intact

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Director Lingusamy chats about his current Tamil-Telugu bilingual project with Ram Pothineni and why he is wary of OTT platforms

Lingusamy is busy executing something he is doing for the first time in his 20-year-old film career: writing a story.

“Honestly, most of my hits, be it Anandham, Run or Paiyaa, never had any solid stories,” says Lingusamy, in a candid interaction at his Valasaravakkam office, “They all had a collection of good sequences and a screenplay. Now, for the first time, I feel like there is a strong storyline in my current film with Ram Pothineni [RAPO19].”

This comes after a couple of not-so-favourable outings for the filmmaker; his Suriya-starrer Anjaan (2014) was among the most-panned films of the decade.

“I have been enjoying my shoot time with Ram, who is a big star in Telugu. Our camaraderie is very warm and along the lines of the working relationship I enjoyed with the likes of Suriya, Vikram and Madhavan,” he says, adding that he is shooting a whistle-based montage song composed by Devi Sri Prasad at the moment. Ram might be his hero, but Lingusamy is very gung-ho about the villain, played by Aadhi. “After the release, he will reach greater heights,” promises Lingusamy, who singles out Vijay Sethupathi’s villain performance in Vijay-starrer Master among his recent favourites.

Big screen craze

The last couple of years have been slow for the director, who has patiently worked on his upcoming Tamil-Telugu bilingual, unlike some of his peers who have got busy with OTT projects. Lingusamy admits that he is yet to warm up to the OTT craze. “I can only see myself as someone who makes films for the theatres. Even as a viewer, I find it very hard to watch content on OTT platforms.”

He has made just three exceptions in the last year and a half, watching Soorarai Pottru, Sarpatta Parambarai and Malayalam film Home. “I find these virtual platforms too crowded. For me, theatre-going has always been a fun, happy experience, like indulging in a wholesome meal, while OTT comes across like a quick snack at a fast food joint.”

The road travelled

Many Tamil directors from the 2000s have fizzled out, but Lingusamy continues to soldier on, despite both hits and failures. “I believe that over the years, my cinematic taste and the ability to spot good cinema is still intact. That is what has kept me in the industry till now.”

That taste, he believes, is not just a result of reading and watching: it is from being in good company. Lingusamy’s struggling years in Kollywood saw him staying in mansions that were populated by aspiring directors, teeming with ideas.

“Everybody staying in those rooms would be connected with cinema,” he recalls with a smile, referring to names like Vasantha Balan, Balaji Shaktivel, Nanda Periyasamy, Brinda Sarathy, Nagulan Ponnusamy and Mani Bharathi, all of whom were aspirants back then.

“We would discuss each others’ scripts for days. I have even contributed ideas for Shankar’s Kadhalan, even without his knowledge, through his assistant directors. Back then, if one of us had a spark, 10 others would contribute to it, and we would keep fine-tuning it. We didn’t have money or luxury, but our dreams were big. That is why the first films of all these directors are their best work; it contains inputs from so many people who have contributed inputs unknowingly to it, without any jealousy or motives.”

It is those friendships he has harboured from then till now that has kept him in good stead. “I am not extremely intelligent nor do I possess great cinematic knowledge, but when you land in good company and are enthusiastic, you will get things done. If you put in 51% effort, the world will conspire to give you the other 49% for a film project to materialise,” he adds philosophically.

Keeping one updated is a key aspect to longevity, he feels. “Director Balaji Shaktivel used to tell me, ‘Moola la thoppa vizhunduda kudathu (Your brain should not develop fat). A filmmakers’ exercise is by watching films in theatres and engaging in everything he did before making it big, and the realisation that what he knows is but a drop in the ocean.”

Whenever he is not thinking of scenes or is busy with meetings, Lingusamy’s favourite activity is not binge-watching but comfort films.

“I watch evergreen classics like Sholay, Mother India, Lagaan and Titanic. I watch them like I’m watching them for the first time, and it gives me great happiness. Whenever I watch Nayagan, I think to myself: Will I ever make a subject like this someday? At the same time, whenever a Ranjith or a Vetri Maaran makes a great film, I watch them in awe. There is still so much to do…”



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