SR Prabhakaran: ‘Films over ₹10 crore budget cannot release with 50% theatre occupancy’

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As work resumes on films post relaxation of restrictions, we embed into director SR Prabhakaran’s shooting spot to get a pulse of his untitled Tamil suspense-thriller project

Dressed in casuals, a young woman walks into a room where the city’s top cop is seated. They exchange an animated conversation and it appears that at the end of it, the young woman — who we decipher is an ACP-rank officer — cannot complain about a lack of motivation to pursue whatever it is she has been tasked with by her superior.

All of this is happening at Mani Mahal in the Wallace Garden neighbourhood, just off Greams Road in Chennai, where filming is underway for director SR Prabhakaran’s yet-to-be-titled project. Starring Tanya Ravichandran as the young Crime Branch officer, this suspense thriller was one of the first to resume shooting following relaxation of restrictions by the Government of Tamil Nadu. The State, in its most recent directive, allowed upto 150 members of a film crew, including technicians and artistes, to work at a shooting spot.

Full occupancy

Predictably, Prabhakaran is preoccupied with work; his face buried in sheets of papers containing dialogues and scenes. Strangely though, he is not restless, considering the fate of his previous film — Kombu Vatcha Singamda (KVS) — starring M Sasikumar is still undecided. KVS was up for release before lockdown protocol was enforced in March.

Ask Prabhakaran if he is excited about the prospect of theatres re-opening on November 10, given that it provides a window to release his film, and he opts for a measured response. “KVS’ release will be based on theatrical availability. It is a B&C centre film,” he says, pointing out the film’s target audience: rural market . “There are very few OTT subscribers in those markets, so it doesn’t make sense to opt for an OTT release,” he adds.

SR Prabhakaran

Prabhakaran says that KVS will be held for a time period until when the Government deems it okay to allow 100% occupancy in theatres. “I don’t think films made on a budget of ₹10 crore and above can afford to take the risk of releasing when it is just 50% occupancy,” he notes.

His own man

While KVS occupies a corner of his mind, Prabhakaran is excited about the upcoming project as it also marks his debut as producer. “I did not want to be reliant on heroes to make a film. Often, when I pitch a story to a producer, it so happens that their insistence on heroes comes in the way of executing a story the way I envision it. When you are your own producer, that won’t be the case,” says Prabhakaran.

Tanya Ravichandran

This film too, like KVS, is aimed at a theatrical audience. The director remarks that the second schedule of filming will begin in the week after Deepavali and that the crew will be heading to Kerala, Pollachi and a hill station — likely Kodaikanal — before returning to Chennai to film the remaining bits.

Tanya, the granddaughter of yesteryear actor Ravichandran, last seen in the Vijay Sethupathi-starrer Karuppan (2017), is evidently picky about her roles considering how little of her we have seen in films; it is something she agrees with.

“Maybe, you will see me more [in films] from next year. I have had the opportunity to listen to many scripts during lockdown,” says Tanya, adding that she is excited to play a cop.

But a police character, especially ones that are designed to work in the Tamil cinema universe with its stereotypical tropes, comes with a set of challenges. Tanya, however, has not really spent a lot of time learning the body language. “The director is a very good teacher. I am following his vision for the character,” she adds.



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