Art & Entertainment

Sriram Raghavan Says He Is The Maker And Viewer Of His Movies: 'I Take Both Chairs'

If there was a magic pill that would let one forget the movie and watch it afresh, he would take it, says director Sriram Raghavan, regarded as the master of the thriller genre in Indian cinema.
Sriram Raghavan Photo:

If there was a magic pill that would let one forget the movie and watch it afresh, he would take it, says director Sriram Raghavan, regarded as the master of the thriller genre in Indian cinema.

Raghavan, known for films such as “Ek Hasina Thi”, “Badlapur” and “Andhadhun”, says while it's tricky to be both the audience and the maker, he likes to “take both the chairs” when working on a project. The director said he is aware that his latest cinematic outing “Merry Christmas” received a mixed response.

“I am definitely conscious of the viewer sitting in the seat while I am editing because I am also the viewer, so I take both the chairs. Sometimes I watch my whole film as the viewer in the edit room and I wish there was a pill with which you can just forget the movie and watch it afresh, but I can’t do that. I simply spend time watching the movie again and again,” Raghavan told PTI in an interview.

“Merry Christmas”, a thriller with elements of dark humour, romance, a murder and a bit of Christmas magic, starred Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi. The film, shot simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil, follows two strangers Maria (Kaif) and Albert (Sethupathi) who cross paths on Christmas eve. It is streaming on Netflix.

Some viewers praised the film, while others had issues with its “pace and ending”, which were risks he willingly took.

“They had an issue with its pace but it was a risk I took because if I tried to hurry this movie, it would have lost the basic flavour. There are some people for whom the ending didn’t work. But that was a choice, the ending works for me. I had a couple of other endings also. We were even thinking of shooting two endings, one for Hindi and one for Tamil,” he said.

Raghavan finally decided to go ahead with a similar ending for both the versions and abandon the alternate ending as it was “more verbal”.

The filmmaker has turned ambassador for Red Lorry Film Festival, a curated cinematic universe by BookMyShow. It features some of the best international movies under one roof from April 5 to 7 at Maison INOX at Jio World Plaza and Maison PVR at Jio World Drive, Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), Mumbai.

Raghavan, known for his eclectic taste in global cinema, has curated a list of seven films that he would want cinephiles to see. These films include “Dark Passage” (1947), a noir drama starring real-life couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, “The Lady From Shanghai”, also a 1947 film and featuring Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles, as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 slasher classic “Psycho” and 1972’s “Frenzy”.

The list also includes “Blow Up”, the 1966 classic by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni that inspired many filmmakers and has been hat-tipped by Kundan Shah in “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”. “The Last Night of Amore” in 2023 and this year’s release “The Sleeping Woman” are also part of the movies that Raghavan recommends as part of the festival.

The filmmaker, a graduate from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), said the job of picking these titles was tricky but fun.

“You probably have never seen ‘Psycho’ on the big screen. I did manage to see it once in the film institute. I thought it would be great to watch the movie and wonder how it was when it came in 1960. It’s definitely a collective experience, glorious black and white and great music,” he said.

Both “Andhadhun” as well as “Merry Christmas” tip their hats to French cinema and literature. While the Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer was inspired by the French short film “The Piano Tuner”, the basic premise of “Merry Christmas” has been attributed to French novel “Le Monte-charge”, which was also adapted into a movie by the title of “Paris Pick-Up” (1962).

Asked about the soft corner he seems to have for French cinema, Raghavan said while he grew up largely on Hollywood movies, he got an entry into French cinema while studying at the FTII.

“What was interesting is that they also love Hollywood but when they make a gangster film or a heist film, they have a very unique non-Hollywood take on everything, including performances and story.

“Now, of course… Japanese cinema would be completely (unique) on its own. I have been a little partial towards French cinema because I have seen so many great ones there like Jean-Pierre Melville and Francois Truffaut,” he said.

Raghavan is currently busy with his next project “Ikkis”, a war drama starring Agastya Nanda and Dharmendra. Based on the life of the youngest Param Vir Chakra recipient Arun Khetarpal, the film will be released on Prime Video after its theatrical run.

“We have already shot one major schedule with Dharmendra and now we are working on the Agastya portion… Then we have got the war scenes coming up,” he said.

It is an unusual project for Raghavan, a departure of sorts from thriller movies he makes and he admits taking up "Ikkis" was a deliberate choice.

“When my producer was narrating it. I asked, ‘Who is doing it?’ and no one was attached. So I said, ‘Can I give it a shot?’ There was something in the story that I found truly compelling and worth trying,” he said.

“It is also great for me to not think about the ways to hide a dead body,” he said, referring to the plot of his films in the past.