The story of how the quiet and unassuming Prasath Ramar made it to Tamil Cinema, is perhaps more interesting than that of his film Enakkul Oruvan. The man shuns the limelight, and finds it terribly distressing to even stand in front of a camera for a family photograph. “I am a very shy man. I think the camera can capture that shyness for all to see. Left to my own devices, I might fake it and be outgoing. But the camera is all seeing. I know it’s weird, but that’s how I’ve always felt.”
So, staying behind the camera is a much better proposition for Prasath. This way, he’s more in control of the things. “You must be glad we didn’t sit down for a face to face interview. You’d be lucky if you could get more than a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ out of me.”
Karthik Subbaraj went to the same school as Prasath in Madurai and the duo became fast friends. Unlike Karthik, whose passion for all things Rajinikanth is very apparent, Prasath gravitated towards the movies of Kamal Haasan. Thevar Magan in particular, had a deep impact on him. “At that time, I was a Kamal fan. Only later, I became a fan of cinema.”
In quite the coincidence, his debut film borrows its title from a Kamal Haasan movie. Prasath says, “We didn’t know what we would call it till we wrapped up shoot. When we came up with this title, Kavithaalaya Creations graciously let it go.”
After school, Prasath knew he would have to put his filmmaking dreams on hold for a while. “Family commitments,” he shrugs, and moves on. He worked in banking sector and even held a job in HR in the city for a few years. Then, after a long time, he ran into Karthik Subbaraj again. “Naalaya Iyakkunar happened. I assisted Karthik on all his short films. We had a great team – Manikandan, Alphonse Putharen, Vijay Sethupathi and Simhaa. We were strong.”
The rest of this ‘team’ have made it to the silver screen and Prasath Ramar is the latest entrant. “I feel a great responsibility to keep up with them, in terms of my work. Other than that, I don’t see any expectations being placed on me because I’m friends with them. Mostly because, nobody knows me yet. I’m not famous,” he shrugs, and adds as an afterthought, “till now.”
Towards the end of their stint on the reality show, Prasath quit his day job, and walked out without a word. “I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was quitting lest they try to change my decision. It was a huge gamble – giving up my steady job for a shot at the movies. But it was do or die time.”
Despite his lack of formal training, he found it easy to work on Enakkul Oruvan, mainly because he was surrounded by people he considered ‘friends’. He’d worked with Santhosh Narayanan, Leo John Paul and Gopi Amarnath on Pizza. “CV Kumar was a mentor and Siddharth never ever treated me like a fresher. They were all professionals and yet, they treated me as an equal and not a first timer. Direction is a challenge for me, but I had a better time as I chose to tackle it in the company of close friends.”
Also, it was only during Enakkul Oruvan that he realized his friend Santhosh was a ‘genius’. “Siddharth used to tell me that Santhosh was a brilliant talent. It was only during the composing that I realized that my friend was a huge huge talent. Eppovume close ah irukkaravanga paththi namakku theriyaadhu.”
Of course, it was Santhosh who introduced Lucia to Prasath. “Santhosh told me one day that he was working on a Kannada film. Back then, I didn’t have a very good idea about the Kannada film industry. But since it was Santhosh, we all decided to watch it.”
Pawan Kumar didn’t have much to do with the Tamil version, says Prasath. “And that’s what I like best about him. For a creator to be okay with someone else toying with their idea is unheard of. Also, I have a lot of respect for this guy. He made a crowd funded film, that too in the Kannada industry. I don’t have the guts or else I’d have done it here. I went to CV Kumar didn’t I?” he laughs.
But he is hesitant to call Enakkul Oruvan a remake of Lucia. “Technically it is the right term. But, the way I look at it, EA is my interpretation of Lucia. The original was an experimental project with a lot of intellectual stuff in it about life and dream. But I was more interested in what I could take away from it. I looked at it as a love story with a fantasy element. I wanted the Tamil audience to see and learn, rather than force people to think about the heavy intellectual stuff.”
Enakkul Oruvan is as much an experiment as its original, tells Prasath. “As a director, I’ve put my stamp on this film. This is my debut and it’s a remake. There are a lot of questions about the decisions I’ve made so far since it is a contentious subject. I only hope that my version wins just like the original.”
Prasath’s quest to do things his way wasn’t without struggles “The temptation to take certain things from the original was great, of course. Everything about the original was perfect – why search for new elements when the old is perfect was something I heard often. But I held on to my beliefs and my bound script. I told them all…we are going to make my script. Not Pawan’s.”
The real struggle, though, was in getting the cast to act just right. “There was a line the actors and actresses had to toe for this movie. Every character had dual roles in this project, and it had to be handled delicately to ensure that they don’t go overboard.” Aadukalam Naren comes in for particular praise from Prasath. “I’ve known him for a long time. His role is neatly written and he has performed extra ordinarily well. He’s a lucky charm for us.”
When he’s not tweeting heartrending Murakami quotes, Prasath keeps company with books of every kind possible. “I’m not partial to a particular kind of literature. I love them all. Right now I’m reading Piramil Padaippugal, and it’s doing a good job of keeping the pre-release nerves away.”
Enakkul Oruvan releases on March 6.
The Prasath Ramar interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.