Kaala editor Sreekar Prasad on Rajinikanth-starrer: Pa Ranjith film is both a star vehicle and director's statement

Surendhar MK

June 09, 2018 09:56:01 IST

Master editor Sreekar Prasad, who holds a superlative record of eight national awards for Best Editing, is an interviewer's delight. The moment you strike a conversation with him, his childlike enthusiasm and passion for his work leave a mark on you, and the respect for the technician in him quickly grows manifold.

In this exclusive chat with Firstpost, Prasad, the man behind some stellar editing works. such as Alaipayuthey, Aayutha Ezhuthu / Yuva, Kannathil Muthamittal, Kaminey and Talvar to name a few, in a career spanning three decades, talks about choosing quality over quantity, editing his first Rajinikanth film in Kaala and why his working relationship with Mani Ratnam is so healthy. 

What is it like to be the first viewer of a Rajinikanth film which millions have watched?

(smiles) It's my first film with Rajinikanth. So, there was a bit of a pressure to deliver. But Kaala has been a peaceful journey since I was working with a director who is very planned and focused on what he wants to tell. Ranjith is looking at the film as a statement of a director than treating it as a superstar vehicle. He has made a movie where the star has a big part. The film has some beautiful moments. Kaala is a not a regular mainstream film which just entertains. 

Rajinikanth in a still from Kaala. YouTube

Rajinikanth in a still from Kaala. YouTube

I was pretty happy when Ranjith narrated the story since I was getting to work with a young filmmaker and a senior actor. Making the actor look his age and trying to be serious about what he's telling; that part of the journey was very good. My job was to make sure that the story and vision of the filmmaker were told most seamlessly and emotionally.

Ranjith's Kabali evoked a lot of post-release debates, and some even labeled his Dalit politics in the movie as propaganda filmmaking. How do you keep a check on a director from indulging himself too much about the product?

It's a process. It's not like I can go and tell somebody that he should not be like this or that. Ranjith was very clear about what he wanted to say, but the story was always given priority. To maintain that balance, that's where Ranjith and I collaborated. What he wanted to say and what's required for the story; that balance has not gone disproportional. Kaala will be a star film as well as a statement of a director. We have achieved that balance.

You have been one of the most sought-after editors for a lot of young filmmakers in Tamil. Vignesh Shivan, Arun Kumar and now Pa Ranjith. 

I always keep my ideas open. And, I would be happy to explore new things in cinema, which is what young filmmakers are also looking for. Ranjith is very serious about his craft. He's socially conscious, and he wants that to reflect in his work. But he doesn't deviate from his path. When he narrated me the story, he told me that he wanted someone solid to help and support him in editing and story-telling part. He is someone who is very sure of what he wants. My part was to ensure that the story is narrated smoothly and delivers what Ranjith promised. 

Editing a star film could always be tricky. On the one hand, you have to satisfy the hardcore fans with slo-mo build-up shots and stuff. On the other hand, you have to be true to your work and respect the other set of audiences. How and where do you draw the line?

If you approach realistically, you have to avoid those scenes. But when I had handled these situations, like when I worked in big star films like Kaththi, Thuppakki or Billa, I have exaggerated it on a few moments, but it's been under limits, and I have not gone overboard about it. When they walk from there to here in two seconds, I may stretch it to three or four seconds, which may not jar you or will not make you feel unbelievable. But I won't make it ten seconds because it puts the other audiences (referring to non-fans) off. So we have to draw a thin line and balance it. When I worked in Billa, we played to the gallery because we wanted to make him look stylish. But the proportion, which is quite discretionary, is what matters.

How would you rate Rajinikanth as a performer in Kaala?

What to say! (smiles). Rajini sir has delivered an excellent performance. He's playing his age, and he's got a villain who is very powerful. And he carries it off very easily. A few days ago, he watched the first copy of the film. He told me he's very happy with the smoothness of the film and thanked me. That's a good compliment for me.

Rajinikanth in a still from Kaala/Image from Twitter.

Rajinikanth in a still from Kaala/Image from Twitter.

Being a senior editor with a truckload of experience, it's quite natural that you would receive umpteen number of offers. How do you choose the films you would like to be part of?

I have the luxury of reading scripts before accepting a project. I alternate between big films and small films regularly. It makes me feel liberated. In 2005, I had a website after someone insisted me to have one. I had completed 350 odd films then. Then during 2007 or 2008, I stopped keeping track. It's some sudden realisation or I don't know. It's not about how many films I've done but what films I'm remembered about. So I told myself let's keep doing films that I feel interested. If I'm remembered for some 20 or 30 films for contributing to the filmmakers, that's enough. There are occasions when you already have a working equation with someone and you would go with the flow. 

How important is the sense of story for a good editor? 

It is the most essential thing for film editing. The story needs to keep flowing and in the right proportion. Initially, we edited each sequence separately when the shooting happened every day. But that is about getting the performances right in that sequence. Things like who is performing better and who is falling short of expectations, and how to cover it up. But later, when all the sequences are put together, that's the real challenge for me as an editor. In a two-and-a-half-hour film, there could be so many distractions like songs, comedy tracks, etc. So, it's very vital for an editor to keep track of the story flow.

Although you have worked with many directors, your collaborations with Mani Ratnam have always been special. What makes your working relationship with him so strong?

I used to know Mani Ratnam in the middle of the '90s though not as a collaborator. It was in only 1999 that I worked him with first in Alaipayuthey. Since then, I stuck up quite a rapport with him because I think he is a director who excites you. From the day he starts a project till he finishes, the amount of everyday enthusiasm he has to better a film and the passion he's able to generate would always be challenging. He's not someone who could be satisfied quickly. He would always look for a better and improvised outcome. So it's good to surprise him. There will be moments when you know that he's excited. So, over the years, we've become a family. He's someone who shares everything from the script stage itself in all his films. We have started the editing process of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam.

Prasad's upcoming projects include Prabhas-starrer Saaho, Vijay-AR Murugadoss' Thalapathy 62, Chiranjeevi-starrer Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, Hrithik Roshan-starrer Super 30, Vishal Bhardwaj's Pataka and Nivin Pauly-starrer Kayamkulam Kochunni. 

(Also read — Kaala box office report: Rajinikanth film makes Rs 15 cr in Tamil Nadu, records slow start in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana)

Updated Date: Jun 09, 2018 10:16 AM