Mafia director Karthick Naren on making a Narcos-style film for Tamil audience, and his next with Dhanush

Sreedhar Pillai

The most-talked-about director in Tamil cinema today is Karthick Naren.  The 25-year-old short filmmaker-turned-feature director's claim to fame is the critically raved sleeper hit Dhruvangal Pathinaaru (2016). Now, his third feature is all set to hit theatres. Mafia is releasing this Friday on 21 February.

Between his first and the next film, he made the sophomore project Naragasooran, with Arvind Swamy, Shriya Saran, Sundeep Kishan, and Indrajith, which is yet to release owing to financial issues and tussle between the producers. Karthick's frequent Twitter run-ins with one of the producers, Gautham Menon, has kept him under the spotlight.

Today, the controversies are behind him as he says he is a calmer person, and his focus is clearly on his big-ticket film Mafia- Chapter 1, starring Arun Vijay, Prasanna, and Priya Bhavani Shankar. The big news is that he is already working on the script of his next film, with Dhanush. In an exclusive interview, Naren opens up. For a newcomer, after getting critical acclaim for Dhruvangal Pathinaaru, it must have been frustrating that your second venture Naragasooran never hit the screens. And now your third film Mafia is your second release in four years? I would say it was a great learning experience for me and things didn't go my way, and I was not as cool as I am today. Well, I can do little about it, and no point in fretting and fuming about it as I have become calmer, and willing to take life as it comes. I'm sure soon, Naragasooran issues will be sorted out soon, and the film, which has been censored (certified), will release. Anyway, I have moved on, and my priority is now Mafia.    So how did Mafia happen? I have to thank my parents and my close team, who wanted me to snap out of the Naragasooran episode. Later, I was able to find a very supportive producer in Subaskaran sir of Lyca Productions, who enabled me to get in touch with Arun Vijay and Prasanna, who agreed to do the film after hearing the script. It is a very special movie for me, and I 'm looking forward to its release this Friday. I can understand your frustrations for the last four years. But now, you wrapped up a big action movie like Mafia in record time. >How do you feel? After I finished the script and the actors came on board, the project started rolling in the first week of July 2019, and in seven months flat, the film is hitting the screens. I'm delighted that this time, everything seems to have fallen in place. We shot the film for 33 days, out of which 30 were in Chennai and three days in Thailand. How do you manage to make a big commercial film in such short time, and what is your process? I first write down my basic thread point-by-point, and then string it together as a screenplay. I do a lot of research, and for me, pre-production work is very important. Since I started as a short filmmaker, I know the importance of the budget, and try to stick to it. For that, you need thorough planning of your script and execution.

Is it true Mafia is sort of a Tamil Narcos? And will there be a sequel to Mafia - Chapter 1? Narcos is my favourite series on Netflix. The basic thread may look similar, nothing more. My story is set in Chennai, and it is a high-octane action drama, sort of a cat-and-mouse mind game between two guys. As the promo says, it is the hunter versus the beast. It's a non-linear screenplay but has been made in a way where a story is told in a commercial entertainment format as I have to reach a wider section of the audiences. Hopefully, it will turn into a franchise, depending purely on its box office success. There are four songs in the film. What do you have to say about the music? Yes, they are in the background as narrative tools that take forward the screenplay. Let me explain. The first song is along with the titles, which reflects the mood. Then there will be character introduction, like 'Vedan Vandhaacho' song for the hunter, and another song for the beast character, and finally one in the climax. Instead of increasing the length of the movie through scenes for back stories and characterisation, it is communicated via song clips.

There has been so much criticism about the portrayal of leading ladies in recent Tamil cinema. What iss the role of Priya Bhavani Shankar in your film?

Let me make it clear: Priya's role is very crucial to the plot, and in fact, she is the second protagonist in the drama. These days, it is hard to find a Tamil-speaking heroine with great acting skills.

What about Arun Vijay and Prasanna's roles in the film?

Arun Vijay fits the character of the Anti-Narcotics officer perfectly with his towering physique, and at the same time, is a smart guy. Prasanna, as the antagonist, is ideally suited for that role, and the supporting cast has done a great job. I do not want to say anything more as you will understand their chemistry when you watch the film. The trailer looks slick, and the trade is expecting a huge opening for Mafia. What is your expectation? I had my share of criticism that I make multiplex-kind of films. So it is a conscious decision to make a stylised entertainer, which all sections of the audiences will like. The run time is under two hours (112 minutes), and it is important that the film is a commercial success for all of us, if we have to make more movies.  Now, you are doing your next with Dhanush. Tell us about it.

It is early days to talk about it as we will start the shoot by June. I'm in the process of locking the final script. For me personally, it is a great feeling to do a film with Dhanush, one of the finest actors in the country.

All images from YouTube.

Also See: Dhanush has a busy year ahead with Karthik Subbaraj's upcoming film Jagame Thanthiram, Karnan, and Aanand L Rai's Atrangi Re

Director of Rajinikanth's Darbar seeks police protection, alleges 'trespassers' demanding money for losses

Naan Sirithal movie review: Hiphop Tamizha's film has simple, sweet messaging but a wafer-thin plot

Read more on Entertainment by Firstpost.