CV Kumar, the man with the Midas touch, doesn’t believe in the binary of realist and escapist cinema. For him, films come from someone’s reality.
CV Kumar likes to take up things that challenge him. That is why he stepped out of his comfort zone—production and simultaneously ventured into a lesser known arena—filmmaking. “My debut project Maayavan was more of an eye-opener. I learned what I shouldn’t do as a director, and that helped me a lot in my second film, Gangs of Madras. In fact, I decided that I will make my own film after producing 14 other films,” smiles Kumar, whose home banner Thirukumaran Entertainment, boasts a track record of churning out commercial blockbusters in a short span of time—Attakathi, Pizza, Soodhu Kavvum—and so on.
Kumar never worked as an assistant director but insists that cinema drives him. “Not the business side of it,” he quickly adds. “But I know what it takes to make a movie work at the box-office. It is all about choosing the right script and nurturing the fresh talent,” he says.
An avid movie buff, Kumar used to watch Rajinikanth films back-to-back on weekends around the late 90s. Recalling his early days in Chennai, the filmmaker says he learned multimedia, sound design and scriptwriting, so that somewhere down the lane, he gets a chance in movies. “I am a simple Madurai guy, who came to this city to pursue M.Sc in Psychology. My family is into travel and tours business and a trip that I took to Los Angeles in 2010 inspired me to start a production house,” he tells us.
CV Kumar clearly seems uncomfortable with the ‘Kingmaker’ tag he is associated with. “Idhellam inniki varum, naalaiku pogum,” he laughs. But whatever he does is driven by sheer passion, Kumar assures. “For a fact, I know this movie making business doesn’t come with profits alone. Hit-o flop-o, nalla padam-a irukkanum. My films belong to a middle-of-the-road cinema. They are not your conventional crowd-pullers. I wanted to make technically-sound cinema, irrespective of the genre, too,” he says.
Kumar never wanted to direct films and calls himself a reluctant filmmaker. “I was so bored with my production routine that I thought why not try something different and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I used to discuss scripts with my fellow director friends, and they persuaded me to try my hand at direction. Since I have produced films, I understand the process and come with a plan of action. We work on a tight budget and strive to give quality content. Ever since I can recollect, I have been watching films and reading novels. They help me in multiple ways to conceptualise a core script,” he smiles.
But Kumar is drawn more towards production, which gives him the ultimate creative high. “A director’s job ends with finishing the first copy, whereas, the producer has to take the film forward from thereon,” he says.
What made him write Gangs of Madras? “It is a revenge drama, inspired by a bunch of reports published in newspapers, told from a woman’s perspective. The story is about a couple who get caught between two drug mafias,” says CV Kumar, who was particular that he make a gangster film with a female protagonist. “I was clear about what I want to convey, but how I was going to translate my thoughts on to the screen was my only concern. Maayavan was based on a script by Nalan Kumarasamy, while Gangs of Madras is my own. The Censor Board gave me an ‘A’ Certificate and I was happy with it. I didn’t tone done the violence because I wanted the film to be real and raw,” he says.
Kumar auditioned more than 100 girls and found Sai Priyanka Ruth apt for the role. “I am more comfortable working with actresses who can speak Tamil,” he adds.
But why Priyanka? “Well-known heroines might not adapt to this character, but new faces are easy to mould. Priyanka was fluent in Tamil and delivered her lines without mistakes. Before starting the shoot, we made sure she was trained in stunts. She also pulled off action sequences effortlessly without a body double. We shot in and around the narrow lanes of north Madras. I was particularly impressed by her mental strength. For example, say, she hit 10 men, it seemed real,” shares Kumar.
Why did Kumar title the film—’Gangs of Madras’, and not ‘Gangs of Chennai’? “Chennai is still Madras to a lot of people, including me. I am used to calling the city that way, and I am sure many have a better connection with ‘Madras’ compared to ‘Chennai’,” he grins.
CV Kumar is pleased with the unanimous favourable response Gangs of Madras has garnered so far. “I knew the audience would like the film, but wasn’t sure how the press would respond. These days, it is hard to guarantee a hit or predict a flop. But as a director, I was confident that I had made a good film. Of course, I keep track of all the reviews. Critics always watch a film differently, and I can never understand all that,” he smirks.
Can we see him collaborate with superstars someday? “I am not sure if I could afford them. Though I am a huge fan of Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, I want to go with films where the script is the ‘hero’,” he signs off.