It’s a film that even ace director Mani Ratnam is eager to watch. For, it is by a man who he believes is immensely talented. He is none other than Jayendra Panchapakesan.
Nootrienbadhu (in Tamil) or 180 (as it is called in Telugu) might be director Jayendra’s first feature film, but it has already generated huge expectations. Industry pundits predict that Jayendra is another Mani Ratnam in the making.
It’s taken over 25 years for Jayendra, who is known for his ad films and technological innovations, to make the switch to movies and come out with his first full-length feature film. Ask him what kept him away from making a film all these years and the usually reticent but resourceful director replies, “I’ve always wanted to do a film. I got into ad film production in the year 1986. It was there that I worked with cinematographer P C Sreeram and we set up an ad agency called JS Films. In 1993, I also started a technology company called Real Image, which has developed a product that is now used in 27 countries around the world. As I had to look after my firm all these years, I had to keep postponing my decision to make a film. Once my firm was well established, I decided to take the plunge.”
As a filmmaker, Jayendra is drawn towards real life stories. “The story of 180 is based on a real-life incident I read about on the internet. I worked on the script for one-and-a-half years with writer Suba, and gave it the shape it required. 180 is a metro-centric film. Half of the film has been shot in the US while the other half has been shot in India. Also, because it is city centric, we made it a bilingual film. Every shot has been shot twice, in Tamil and in Telugu.”
The film has several highlights, which are being talked about in the industry. But what tops the list are two songs that Jayendra has shot for the film. Quiz him on these tracks and he replies, “Every song in the film has a concept. For instance, Rules Kidayathu speaks about the little moments in life which we fail to enjoy. So, what I’ve done is slowed down each moment in the song. This is to help audiences see what they’ve missed in a moment. For this song, I’ve used the Phantom Flex camera, which can shoot up to 2,500 frames per second as against 24 frames taken by other cameras. “There is also a Portuguese song in the film. Lyricist Madan Karky, who does not know Portuguese, penned this song using an online translator. Later, we sent it across to language experts from the region to check its meaning and grammar. They were surprised to know that it had been penned by someone who did not know the language. The lyrics turned out to be exactly what we intended to convey. The song has been sung by a language supervisor from Bombay, a Brazilian, who is also a sax player. It has now been released on the internet.”
Jayendra’s film and its making have been keenly observed as the film not only marks Siddharth’s return to the Tamil film industry, but also happens to be Nithya Menen’s debut film in Tamil. Priya Anand, who has until now not had a great run in Kollywood, will also be hoping for a reversal of fortunes with 180. Says Jayendra, “If you look at the trailers, it might look like a love triangle. But let me tell you, there is more to it. There is a genuine story at the root of it. For an actor, such stories are very appealing as it gives them ample scope to perform. I must say that all three actors have given excellent performances in the film.”
Jayendra might have finally made a movie, but his friends, including Mani Ratnam, have a role to play in getting him to make that decision. Admits the director, “I’ve known Mani from the time I wasn’t a part of the film industry. He is a good friend. And yes, it was he who gave me the final push and said, ‘If you don’t make it now, when will you?’ ”
So, now that he has made one movie and liked the experience, will he be making more? “Yes, definitely. In fact, I am working on the next one,” he signs off on a promising note.