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From The Inside: A Director’s Memorable Script-Narrating Sessions

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The strange, the funny, and the downright absurd.

As a filmmaker, I’ve had the weirdest experiences when narrating scripts. A narrating appointment comes when you least expect it.

The message, for one, is almost always incomplete:

Thambi, naalaiku onbadhu manikku herokku kadhai solra

[Brother, you have to narrate the script to the hero at 9 am tomorrow]

The identity of the hero, the time, the venue – almost everything would be shrouded in mystery, something to find out along the way.

I received one such call to narrate a script to a popular actor, successful in both Telugu and Tamil movies. His wife, incidentally, was an actress.

I landed at the hero’s residence in Hyderabad an hour earlier, dreaming about this bilingual super-hit that would surely happen, and wondering if Anil Kapoor would be a good choice for the Bollywood remake.

The hero walked in. He was too tired, he said. His wife would listen to the narration instead; she was a good judge of scripts, I was told.

I began:

“Open panna…”

The couple’s little daughter walked in. She wanted to use the bathroom. The actress excused herself, sat the girl on the potty, told me to continue.

I can wait, I said.

She wouldn’t hear of it. So, I narrated the whole script to the actress, and her daughter on the potty.

The title of my script, incidentally, was Bangaaram.

*

The other memorable narrating session happened with a director who is known for his good visuals and music. He instantly liked my script, and wanted to record my narration to play to his producer. That night, he took me to a small studio. The mike was placed and checked, and when everything was set, he turned to leave. I’ll be back in an hour, he said, telling me to begin.

I refused. I wanted a listener.

The director immediately brought in the security guard to sit in on the session.

I began my narration.

The guard fell asleep.

It could have been my script, of course, but I like to think that it was the air-conditioning and the plush cushions.

*

Perhaps the strangest of all audiences I’ve had is a popular Tamil director and actor, whose memories made him famous. I met him at New Woodlands to narrate my script. He was lying in bed, with a pack of incense sticks. And through the whole session, he pulled the sticks out one by one, and smelled them.

The director and I are close friends now.

*

Recently, I was to meet a hero famous both in Tamil and Hindi industries, much sought after for his boyish good looks (and romantic scripts). He had flown down to Chennai to take part in the promotions for a multi-starrer. My producer pulled all strings to fix a date for the narration.

At Park Sheraton (now Crowne Plaza), just as I was walking towards his room (with near-perfect lobby music), I received a call from my producer. The financier of our project did not want this hero, he said. He wanted someone massy, local.

“What do I do now,” I asked him.

“Narrate it in a way that he will reject the script,” the producer said.

I did just that.

It was quite like making a fantastic cup of coffee and splashing it all over his face.

*****

Director John Mahendran is the son of renowned director J Mahendran. He has directed a few movies including the Vijay-starrer Sachein, and has written the dialogues for Kaashmora and Motta Shiva Ketta Shiva.

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