Its not every day one gets to have a long chat with Vineeth Sreenivasan. The man is like the movies he directs. He talks straight from his heart with a clear sense and with clarity.
Vineeth wears several caps. He conceives the story. He writes his scripts. He directs films. What do you see yourself as, I ask him curiously? Vineeth takes a deep breath and says confidently, “All my films start with an idea and the rest fall in place.”
From his first film, Malarvadi, to his latest Jacobinte Swargarajyam (JSR), which is released in India on Friday, Vineeth has come a long way. All his movies stand tall and his admirers are loyal and vociferous.
This interview was planned at the last minute and Vineeth looked exhausted but despite the obvious fatigue, he springs to life when I ask him about the challenges of filming and his prodigy Nivin Pauly who is now the biggest sensation in Malayalam film industry.
You don several caps. You conceive a story, write scripts and direct films. What do you see yourself as?
I see myself as a complete filmmaker. I enjoy every aspect of filmmaking, be it writing or directing. When I take up a film, it is my duty to ensure that it reaches the audience effectively. For any director, every movie is a challenge, and in order to conceive it the way you want, it is always better if you take up all these roles together.
Tell us about Jacobinte Swargarajyam (JSR)?
The movie is based on a true incident that happened in the life of my close friend, who is residing in Dubai. When I heard that story long ago, I found little essence in it that could well be made into a film. Some ideas are like that; it has the potential to be transformed into a full-blown film. While some look promising as an idea, they do not develop at that point of time, but it can haunt you constantly. That’s how JSR happened, and slowly the thought process began to take shape in my mind before I had the complete story to write the script. It took some time, but here we are now at the theatres.
How tough is to place an idea on paper for the first time?
Writing for me is painful but, at the same time, it is fascinating and exciting. At times, you are clear about what you want to write, and at times you become completely blank. However, the real high is when an idea comes together. As you are writing, you don’t know where it was and you suddenly see it happening and the characters stand in front of you as you write. I enjoy that process completely.
How difficult was it to shoot a movie like JSR in Dubai?
I think that’s a wrong notion. Frankly, it was far easier to shoot in Dubai than in Kerala. Initially, we faced a few difficulties, but that’s part of the game. The moment we got the nod to go ahead to shoot, it was easy. I must thank Nobel Thomas, the producer and the real strength of JSR. To make a film like JSR, I had to do a lot of research. It’s not like a book where knowledge alone is enough. In cinema, you have to translate that knowledge into execution.
It may be a coincidence, but most of your films have the same technical crew members. Why is that?
I enjoy working with them, because I need not explain to them what I really want to convey. I am more comfortable working with them, and we often end up having an open discussion on how we can make a scene better on the screen.
How much have you evolved as a filmmaker in the last six years?
I am in that learning stage where you still want to push yourself to the wall. Every movie is a new learning experience for me. Movies happen from observations and experiences and quite often we forget to see what’s happening around us. I have been hooked on cinema since childhood. Nothing much has changed in those years. My knowledge, curiosity and ability remain the same as they were before.
You are someone who has been successful since releasing your first film. How do you handle the pressure of being Vineeth Sreenivasan?
The pressure is always there from the time I start writing the script till the movie hit theatres. But over the years, I have learnt to take things by the stride. I honestly believe that every movie is a team-work and I am quite lucky to work with some amazing people who are still standing by my side. They are the real force of Vineeth Sreenivasan.
A movie does not deliberately try to please its audience, yet a director hopes that the picture will be accepted by all who see it. So what is the greatest challenge a filmmaker faces while making a film?
Life puts people in very different but interesting circumstances and a filmmaker’s greatest challenge is to capture the authenticity of life as it is lived. This is what I have been trying to do for the last several years. I don’t fool the audience and, instead, I respect the audience for their intelligence and sensibility and for their own life experiences. Through my movies, I want to share with them what I think about it. It is a very respectful process. Audience these days are mature enough to judge your film. When some- thing is shown to them that touches their lives, they get back to me. My approach is to be loyal to myself, to the medium of cinema and to the audience
Nivin Pauly is your prodigy. He is now the biggest sensation in the Malayalam film industry. How do you analyze his growth as an actor?
I am really happy to see Nivin grow as an actor and reach great heights. I still remember those days with him while shooting Malarvadi where I had to explain in detail to him about every scene. Now, when he gets a script, he knows what a director expects him to convey and, believe me, he excels above your imagination. He is such a delight to watch on screen, and he is an actor with exceptional intelligence.
Your wife, Divya, is an integral part of your filmmaking process. What is her contribution to JSR?
She is a critic, first. She will be the first to read the draft of my script. She also has a long-distance perspective. She was a great help when we shot JSR, especially the song sequences.
What’s next after JSR?
Honestly, I am blank. My only focus now is JSR and its release. It’s a family movie and I call upon all audiences to go with their family members to watch this film and support us.
Looking back at your journey, how do you rate yourself as a filmmaker?
I don’t think I can evaluate myself as a filmmaker. It is the audience who should evaluate my work. Ever since I made my debut in 2010, I have been trying to do films that I believe in.
Photo credit: Niranjan Nair