An actor, producer and an ace director, Radhakrishnan Parthiban wears many hats with equal passion, poise and panache. He has directed over 15 films, produced 13 films and has acted in more than 70 films and is raring to go. The award winning talented actor has made his mark in critically acclaimed films like Pudhiya Paadhai and Housefull that won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil. Parthiban also won the National Film Award – Special Jury Award for Otha Seruppu Size 7, besides receiving many other accolades and recognition. His latest Tamil hit film Iravin Nizhal that released on July 15 this year is world’s first non-linear single shot film and has been not just the talk of the town, but catching everyone’s eyeballs across the world.

1. Tell us about Iravin Nizhal?
Doing these kinds of films needs utmost patience; however there’ll be many of them who test our patience. I did this movie after so much hardship. It took almost ten years of scripting and two and half years for production design. My regular routine work for this movie started early morning and went uptil late night. We rehearsed with 340 people for 90 days. It’s a big budget movie of 23 crores.

The message in this movie is – If you sin, you will get caught. But, if there’s no recognition for a good movie, it is also a sin. Directors all over the world are honouring me for this movie and now want to make a film that is on lines with this one. I have been compliments like – “We think there are only technicians from Hollywood who can do this kind of movie, but, you directed it before anyone from Hollywood did. This is the world’s first non-linear film. There were so many controversies going on for this film. If you say a good thing about a person, there’s someone who will criticise it. But that’s the nature of this world. The main reason I directed this movie was that I wanted to challenge myself with a single shot movie. If there was any such movie before, I would have not directed this. There’s a comparison between a Hollywood movie Fish & Cat. That movie is not at all a single shot movie. Anyone can research and check on the facts. My movie is also accepted in the variety. I also received an award from the Asian Book of Records for my movie. Our audience is used to regular films and may not feel the need to watch this film. When these kinds of movies are made, the masses or many others may also feel that they don’t know how to appreciate it. But, this movie has broken all stereotypes already. My movies like “Kudaikul Mazhai” or “Housefull” may not have done well at the box office but I did not give up. I’m glad that after so much of hard work, this movie has received its worth and got recognition among the audience, compared to what an Ajith or a Vijay movie would get even for a 4AM show. I carry so much pride in my heart for this work well done. It’s almost as if I have won 1000 crores.

2. What was the inspiration behind the film?
My inspiration was director K. Balachander. When someone directs a movie in a unique way, that is different from the usual, they’re my inspiration. Doing the same set of movies is only to earn money. I don’t want to be anyone’s inspiration, but feel that it’s my responsibility to now aim for the next level. For example, if you go to a food court, there are different varieties of food apart from the regular rice lentils. Even the food which we eat has varieties. The restaurant runs, if they give proper/different varieties. Same way if our restaurant wants to run, we need to give a variety of output to the audience (says sarcastically). Now, I’m being an inspiration to many and I’m happy about it.

3. What was the research that went behind for the shoot of this film?
I watched all the single shot movies. The reason I watched them was that nothing similar should be done in my film. No one is going to give me 10,000 dollars for directing a non-linear single shot movie. One thing which induced me was that no one has done a non-linear single shot movie. Even if you Google it, there’s no such film. Also, I did not copy this story from anywhere. No one had done this movie before. So, my research was all about single shot movies and nonlinear movies.

4. What was your most memorable moment during the making of Iravin Nizhal?
The last shot of the day, which was the final okay shot. I was very confused, whether I’ll get it right or not. 90 days of struggle was accepted. My experience is based on a two way formula, one in which ways I can direct a film and in another which are the ways that a film cannot be directed. So, the day when I finished the last shot was the most memorable moment.

5. You learn something from every movie. What did you learn from the making of this film?
If we do something sincerely with perfection, there’s always people commenting on it and I also witnessed the same in this movie. I learnt that whatever good thing you give, there’s a group always spreading hatred for it.

6. How was it to work with A.R. Rahman for the first time?
I was very happy. It felt like I had worked with him for 100 movies as we had that kind of a comfort level. He gave me that kind of satisfaction in this movie even though I had associated with him for the first time, so it’s almost like I’ve profited from his salary for 99 films.

7. The movie has already received plenty of awards and recognition. Do share some of the feedback that you have received from fans and regular movie goers?
Everything I received is through the online medium, since it is still Covid time. I’m waiting eagerly for next year’s National Award. I censored this movie last year itself. Even though I have received plenty of awards and recognition worldwide, what I get from people in India matters to me. How are our audience taking it? These are the things that make me happy.

8. It has been three decades in the film industry. What is the edge you have over others to survive and thrive in this competitive industry?
First of all, I didn’t see anyone as my competitor. I appreciate everyone, when they succeed, be it Karthik Subbaraj, Desingh Periyasamy, Lokesh Kanagaraj or Nelson. When they give a hit film, I appreciate them sincerely. I never considered them as my competitors, because I’m taking a different route. I’m creating a separate game. In that game I’m the only person who’s playing it. So if I took them as my competitors, I would’ve compromised myself and done a movie for their sake. That is, if they had directed a movie with Dhanush, I would have directed a movie with Surya. I’m directing a film without any expectations and I’m not into any of these competitions and winning without a competition makes me happy.

9. It has been 32 years of your journey in this industry, but only 15 movies if we are not mistaken? What was the reason you took a while between each of your films?
It’s because I produced the movie. I’ve directed movies which were not very big hits. So, it took me a while to come back with the next project. If not, I would’ve directed 60 films in 30 years.

10. Actor, director, producer, singer, writer or lyricist. Out of all these roles that you play with so much perfection, which has been your most favourite?
I would like to call myself a creator who creates everything.

11. Who has been your biggest support throughout this successful journey and how?
My son and my daughter. They are my family. I used to ask them whether they needed a house or should I direct films. Their answer will be on directing films. As a father, I haven’t built them their own house, still I’m rented, so do my children. They give me a space to do things which I like. Even if I earn money, that’s for my children, if they claim it, I wouldn’t have directed films. I’m a very sentimental person, if they say something, I would stop directing films. Even I felt like that in this movie after getting so negative. Majority of the people are appreciating the good side of the movie.

12. How has been your family’s reaction to the movies you have directed?
My family is my children, but my family is in the industry as well. So, I have quite a big family. I would’ve screened almost 100+ times for this movie. For example, if someone from the industry comes and asks me about the movie. I would screen the movie for them the very next day, which burns a lot of money. I consider this industry as my family

13. Your daughter acted in Kannathil Muthamittal right? Why didn’t we see her after that film?
She was not interested in acting back then. She’ll be directing a film as early as possible, maybe this year.

14. Coming back to Iravin Nizhal, what was the equipment used for the shoot of this film?
Sony Venice is the camera, gimbal is the apparatus. Only these two pieces of equipment were used.

15. Was it an intentional decision to keep new faces except yours?
These kinds of films need new faces because we don’t know when the shoot will end. So we cannot run behind call sheets. Varalakshmi came for three days, within that short time I had to finish the shooting. By the time she entered the sets, it had become 85 days. By the time she came, it was the right time that the shoot got over. Big stars cannot be used in this movie, that’s the reason it was only new faces.

16. Would you like to share something about your journey and your personal life that you haven’t shared with others?
Well, I don’t lie intentionally; you should have the memory power to store the lies as one lie leads to another like a vicious circle. Lying is an interesting matter. There’s nothing that I have not shared. I’m happy with whatever has happened throughout my journey. Even after 30 years wherever I go, there’s a huge crowd behind me, whistling and asking me, ‘When is your next film?’ What better journey can one ask for?

17. What is in the pipeline ahead?
If you see a map location, the way changes accordingly. So, if you have taken a right turn by mistake, it shows you another way. This movie has garnered so much more respect that I’m taking time to think of what I’m going to do next. Earlier, I had planned to direct a comedy film. But now I’m in a place where I cannot decide if it is enough to satisfy my intelligent audience with a comedy film.

18. It has been 50 years of journey shown in a single shot movie. Any message for your fans?
I’m requesting the audience to go watch these kind of movies when they are released. Every single ticket they buy is going to take the industry to the next level. Even this film’s collection and response is a shock and a pleasant surprise to the whole industry. This time I had a huge support which was A.R. Rahman. My film got such a tremendous response. It made everyone stand up and applaud. Also, another thing which surprised me was the shift of our commercial audience, who liked this movie so much and gave it so much love. This is the second week after the movie’s release. If this movie gets more collections in the upcoming days, you can expect a new genre of movies in the future. Producers will gain more trust and there will be more of such quality cinema.

19. After watching this movie, how did your family react?
They felt proud. Two days back Sathyam Theater was house full. When I went on to the stage, there were whistles and claps all around. As a filmmaker, it makes me very happy and content.

Rapid Fire:

The last good movie/series you watched?

What would you choose between these two – writer or director?

A book you’d recommend?
The book I’m going to write.

Toughest thing about being a filmmaker?
A real film maker cannot be money minded.

Maximum retakes you’ve done for a shot?
For Iravin Nizhal, it took 45 takes.

If a film was made on your life, who do you wish to direct it?
Even I cannot decide on whom to direct my biography. I’m not that old either. There’s more time for that.

What makes you happy?
Claps and whistles.

What’s your dream destination?
Destinations keep changing, even my dreams.

What do you regret not having done yet in life?
Making lots of money.

What do you look for in an actor?
He should be an actor.

Who is your favourite actor/director in Hollywood?
Will Smith and Denzel Washington.

  • With inputs from Kirubakshini.