"TV taught me how to minimise costs" : director & actor Ananth Mahadevan

He's better known as an actor but Ananth Mahadevan, whose first big screen directorial venture Dil Vil Pyar Vyar hit the screens last week, would rather be remembered as a director.

It has been a natural progression for the actor who, nearly two decades ago, made his mark with the classy Khandaan. In the late 1990s, Ananth struck in a new avatar - as TV serial director. In a few years, he went on to direct several popular TV serials like Chamatkaar, Ghar Jamai, Alvida Darling and Cincinati Bublaboo among others.

Currently, Ananth is riding high on his twin successes. While Devi, the newly launched social thriller on Sony has been acclaimed for its riveting story, his first movie Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, which recreates 14 of R D Burman's best creations and which Ananth himself describes as a kaleidoscope of four disparate love stories has opened to positive responses all over.

The workaholic that he is, Ananth works round the clock, including Sundays, when correspondent
Amar caught up with him in his office.


Your first movie as director has just released. How different is directing a movie from directing a serial?

Personally, I didn't find much of a difference. This is because even in my serials my approach has been entirely cinematic. If you look at the style of shot taking and picturisation of my serials, you will never get the feeling that I was shooting for some TV show.

Moreover directing TV serials really stood me in good stead when it came to directing a movie. One, because the pace at which TV serials are shot helped me shoot the movie real fast. Two, it minimized errors because TV is a low cost medium and the scope for re-shooting almost does not exist. Three, the discipline of TV really came in handy. Instead of starting the shoot at 12, my shoots would start at 9:30.
You started off as actor. What made you turn to direction?

I guess it was a very logical graduation. It's like a batsman or a bowler does like to contribute more by being an all-rounder.

"Watching movies of world-renowned directors is a healthy exercise that we as professionals need to undertake"

Sakshi Tanwar and Mohnish Behl in 'Devi', Mahadevan's new soap on Sony Entertainment.
Does that mean we won't see the actor in you anymore?

No, no. I would definitely want to act but on my terms. I would like to take up roles that really excite me as against those that just come my way. I don't mind directing myself, provided the producer gives me that liberty.
Does being an actor help in handling performances better?

Yes, it certainly does. It helps me know what exactly I expect from my actors. It also helps in understanding their state of mind. When required, I do enact scenes out for them.
As director, which subjects appeal to you?

As an actor, I made a conscious attempt not to get typecast into any particular role and I've tried to do the same as a director. I always see to it that successive projects of mine are absolutely different from one another.
What did you find attractive in the concept of 'Devi'?

Devi can aptly be called a social or a religious thriller, which by itself is a very fascinating genre. Besides, if I tell you the story in one line- it's the intrigue of a man who is willed to kill his wife and would yet remain married. The novelty factor in the story attracted me.
What are the factors you never compromise on as director?

The script. I won't shoot till I am convinced that the script is the best possible we could have worked out. Being a writer myself, I am extremely involved with the writing of my projects, even when I am not writing a given project that I am directing.
Who are your favourite directors?

I have a deep admiration for a wide range of world - renowned directors. My favourites include Robert Beningni and Satyajit Ray.


"I won't shoot till I am convinced that the script is the best possible we could have worked out"

What are the stylistic elements you have imbibed from them?

See, watching movies of world-renowned directors is a healthy exercise that we as professionals need to undertake. Very often what we imbibe from their style is something that happens at a subconscious level and we are not entirely even aware of it. If you ask me to pinpoint something I have imbibed from a particular director, I would find it very difficult to recall that.
At this stage, will you continue directing serials?

For the time being, yes. Because apart from Devi, I'm committed to doing one more serial, a thriller series called XYZ.
How do you intend to balance your schedules between TV and films because both require such different temperaments?

Actually, all it requires is deft pre-production work. If that is ensured then, a lot of time is saved while shooting and directing a TV serial is really not as much a burden as it is made out to be. Besides, once we build up a good bank of episodes, one can definitely set aside a couple of months to direct a movie.
In hindsight, is there any project you regret directing?

No, my decision to take up direction was very carefully thought of. Unlike as actor where I did take up some roles which I did not identify with, as director I have always been very discerning. When I look back, I'm quite satisfied with the projects I have directed.
What marks you in style and makes you different from other directors?

Well, that's a difficult question. I would believe there are some factors that make me different. One, my actors don't act. I make sure their performances are most natural. Two, I don't believe in any gimmicky camera angles. Three, there is a certain grammar and a certain dictum I follow as director. It is again difficult to describe it exactly. But see any of the work I have directed and you will know what I mean.

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