Game Over director Ashwin on signing Taapsee Pannu, and why he wants universal appeal for his bilingual thriller
Director Ashwin says he chose Taapsee Pannu for Game Over because she 'is capable of justifying the vulnerability of the protagonist'.
Short film director-turned-feature filmmaker Ashwin is upbeat about the reception of the trailer of the Hindi version of Game Over. But at the same time, the comparatively lesser views of the Tamil version upsets him.
“I felt the vibe in the Hindi trailer launch itself. Guess, they liked my filmmaking style and treatment. But at the end of the day, I made the film for our (Tamil) audiences so the lesser views upset me. However, I know that these days in Tamil cinema, films without stars only pick up slowly with the positive word of mouth," says Ashwin in an exclusive interview to Firstpost.
On writing a film based on an obsessed gamer, Ashwin says, “In my childhood, I never remember buying clothes and fancy things. I spent most of my summer playing video games and always used to buy the game cartridges. I also strongly believe that just like how you get connected to the characters in films, you also would feel for the character in video games so I felt that it’s an equally good medium to tell my story”.
In the trailer, Taapsee Pannu was seen playing only retro video games and not the contemporary flashy ones. When asked the time period in which Ashwin has set the film, he says, “The film happens in the contemporary time zone but Taapsee’s character is fond of the retro games. She is actually a game developer in the film”.
While there are a plenty of options in Tamil and Telugu industries, Ashwin chose Taapsee, who was no longer active in South films after the success of Pink. “I loved Taapsee’s performance in Pink and immediately called her to say that we would definitely work someday. When I started Game Over, wanted to make it as a pan-Indian film because it got a universal appeal, so the very first choice was Taapsee as she has done a lot of South films and is also a popular face in Bollywood. Moreover, she is capable of justifying the vulnerability of the protagonist in Game Over."
Earlier, while talking to Firspost, Ashwin said that the story largely happens in one house. “I initially thought of setting the entire story in the house but slowly while writing the script, there are moments happening outside the house too. In arithmetic terms, 50 percent of the story happens inside the house and 50 percent happens outside," he says. “It was a big challenge because the frames should not get repetitive so we concentrated on the wallpapers, flooring, and every aspect of the house was handpicked. I believe that each thing in the house should say something about the character of the protagonist. My production designer Shiva has done such a brilliant job that he has given an international touch to the film”.
Ashwin says that Game Over is the quietest film in his career. “I didn’t use minimal dialogues so that the film can be released in multiple languages. I always wanted to take out the verbal portions in films and start telling stories through visuals. Moreover, there is an eeriness in the silence. Imagine a character lives alone in a house and feels that someone is watching her. There is no big scope for dialogues here”.
Ashwin says he had never met Anurag Kashyap, who is distributing the Hindi version, before the preview of Game Over. “I was actually skeptical because we haven’t completed the sound mixing. A filmmaker of Anurag Kashyap’s caliber would easily find out the mistakes but to my surprise, he came out and said a lot of good things about the film. In fact, the first thing he said was ‘This is going to be a game changer’. Anurag always ensures to praise talented filmmakers and I could witness the vibe his positive energy when he was talking to me after the screening. It was indeed a surreal experience. Also, he spontaneously came on board in releasing the Hindi version of the film and there was no big discussion," explains Ashwin.
Though Ashwin started as a short filmmaker, the visual quality in his films has always been appreciated. “From my childhood, I constantly observe paintings, colours, and photography. I always have the fascination to tell stories through visuals and now, it has only increased. As I’m visually curious, I sit with my cinematographers and talk to them in the pre-production phase itself. They also pitch several interesting ideas and we lock everything before the shoot; that we don’t think of a new visual idea on the sets. The meticulous prep work in the pre-production helps me a lot in the visual aspect of the film”.
Unlike his contemporaries, Ashwin takes more time to write his scripts as well. “I took more than one year to write Maya, eight months for Iravaakaalam and seven months for Game Over, which is the quickest scripting process ever, as I also had another writer Kaavya Ramkumar. I loved her short story and later, we collaborated for this film. It was a back-and-forth process. She would send me her draft. I would rewrite and add a few things. I would send a draft of mine and she would add a few things," says the filmmaker.
Despite working extensively on a film, Ashwin’s sophomore directorial Iravaakaalam has not released yet. “If someone says that delay of their films doesn't affect them, it’s nothing but a blatant lie because you spent more than one year in a film so a part of you will be with it until the release. The delay affects everyone, including the director, producer, and hero. In my case, the film is over and everyone involved in the team has seen the end product. Leave me, for SJ Suryah (lead actor), both Iravaakalam and Nenjam Marapathillai are milestone films but he won’t show his dejection outside. Though the delay affects me, I have to move on because if I keep on mourning for that, I would betray the filmmaker and writer inside. I came to this industry only to tell stories and make films so there is no other go but to move on. Iravaakaalam is a very close to the heart film of mine and I feel it has a destiny," signs off Ashwin.
All images from YouTube.
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