On her inspiration to explore the OTT platform
I’m a big fan of the OTT platform. Six years ago, I discovered OTT and realized that it is easy for people like me to explore what is done from Israel to Korea to Iran to Canada to US. When I was asked to join these four excellent directors, I was initially kind of intimidated because I’m so rusty, I haven’t directed in a long time. But I thought it was an opportunity I should not pass up, for me to go back and dust all my technical and oratorial abilities. For that I have to thank the lockdown! Since I was free, I could not say no to Amazon.
On the experience of shooting during the lockdown
It was very difficult. We were under complete lockdown.Our office was closed due to the lockdown, and we couldn’t get out of the house and do anything. So, I decided that it has to be shot within the premises that I am familiar with and known to be safe. My cinematographer and I had exactly 24hours to prepare for our shooting. So, that way it was tough. I couldn’t meet my editor for the final edit. We did multiple versions online. I had script sessions over WhatsApp call with the music director and with actors like Kathadi Ramamurthy. With Shruti (Hassan) I had script and reading sessions over Zoom. She was in Bombay and later in Hyderabad. Her portions had to be shot in Hyderabad where the lockdown wasn’t as total as in Chennai.
The unit was very small. Amazon gave us strict instructions that there should be only six people in front of the camera. The others had to wait outside. We were shooting in residential areas while Sec 144 was still in force, so if five or six people had gathered, we would have been reported. But somehow, we overcame all these hurdles.
On inputs from Mani Ratnam
Of course I took suggestions from Mani. I ran my idea past him. He thought about it for three days before giving me the go ahead to write the story. After I wrote the story, he edited it and cowrote a few scenes. He’s credited as co-writer. So it is Mani Ratnam and Suhasini who have written the story and he is very much a part of it.
On women telling the stories of women
There is no question of man and women when it comes to telling stories, I think it’s all the same. Having said that, women have more responsibilities in the family than men. So, there are many points of view that women take into account. Caring and nursing ability comes naturally to women. When we write a story, we look at emotions from a slightly different point of view. Other than that, I don’t think being a woman or a man makes you different kinds of writers.
On working with Shruti
Shruti is a very bright girl. She started blossoming a little late. We all started acting by 18 or 19, but she finished her studies and went to the US to learn music, so she started late. She is a very smart person and multi-talented. She can sing, write and she can also think. I have seen her as a child and I have seen her as an actor now. When I called her and said ‘I am writing a role for you, I will write only if you agree to do it’, she said ‘go ahead akka, please write it’. I was happy. Her character was kind of based on my uncle’s background. He was born when my grandfather was 48 years old. Shruti plays a late child. We did rehearsals over Zoom. It was good, working with her
On going digital during the lockdown
I did 21 days of Naam Kaam which I started from my NGO. Our NGO keeps people together and keeps them peaceful and happy. I realized that the whole world was losing calmness and peace. I thought we should go digital. From the Naam foundation I stepped outside and tried to keep people calm at least for one hour a day. I did this live every day and it continued for more than 21 days. It was a great experience. I talked to entrepreneurs, psychologists, doctors, musicians, actors - we covered almost every profession during the 21 days. I also learnt about hosting and going live on Insta and Facebook. I started learning Hindi and French online, and had Zoom meetings. Without the digital platform we couldn’t have finished the Amazon film.
On her mother taking to acting
I came up with a story about a mother and daughter. I told my mother I would write it only if she would agree to act, because I wanted to shoot it on my iphone. Someone was needed to play my daughter, and I spoke to Ahana Krishna. She agreed to shoot her portions from Thiruvananthapuram. My mother had a big role in the film, with a lot of dialogue and expressions. It was about how older people deal with the pandemic in a philosophical and humorous way. The film will be released soon. Since she had already acted in it, when I asked her if she would act in the Amazon film too, she readily agreed. She only had to appear in the last scene. My father was also supposed to act, but unfortunately, he fractured his collar bone, and had to opt out. I asked my mother if she was willing to act with another person as a loving wife, and she said yes.
In real life as in the movie, my mother is a tough cookie, but a very affectionate person. She makes the best coffee in Madras. In both the movie and in real life, she has three daughters who she has brought up so well. My elder sister is a doctor, I’m an actress and my younger sister is a teacher. All of us owe our success and confidence to her. It was easy working with her.