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Suresh’s office is nothing unconventional. Tables, chairs and computers. Except there is an elephant in the room. One that he is willing to acknowledge.
It makes for beautiful wallpaper on his 42 inch screen. Probably shot in the Savannah, the elephant occupies a significant portion of the picture while a giraffe (or is that a deer?) – grazing further away, is a little out of the frame. Aesthetically pleasing camerawork.
“Director Priyadarshan taught me composition,” Suresh says, “For instance, look at that picture. There’s a tree in the background, and a lot of space in the front. I learnt to pay attention to such detailing.” Suresh had worked with Priyadarshan on the Mohanlal-starrers, Oru Marubhoomikkadha and Geethanjali. “He would also tell me not to repeat shots. He would say, ‘I am okay with lengthy shots, but don’t repeat them with a lot of cuts. It has to be different every time.’”
Please tell us about your background?
Suresh’s childhood was spent in Vellore, amidst touring talkies, a mother who was a big fan of director Shankar, and a lot of Rajini and Kamal. “I still remember the time when Kadhalan hit theatres in 1994. My mother, who would always watch Shankar movies on the first day, took me along for the show.”
There isn’t anything spectacular about this episode except, “I was writing my quarterly exams then,” grins Suresh, “but my mother spoke to the correspondent, and he agreed.”
It probably helped that Suresh was just graduating from primary school then. Who can pit 6th grade tests against Shankar, anyway?
But the fascination for cinema began there, he says.
How did you get into an offbeat and unconventional career such as film editing?
“I wanted to direct movies. But I didn’t know where to begin. That’s when I met my friend’s father – director Agathiyan. He advised me to choose something technical because of the longer run value. Also because, it is less risky.”
A degree in Visual Communications at SRM, apart from introducing him to celluloid, also helped him forge connections. “I was good at computers, had a lot of interest in the arts, but it was this particular telefilm that I made in college that sparked an interest in editing.”
Because, Suresh says, “it was very bad”.
“My professor edited the film, and made it look good. That was perhaps the first spark.”
Several workshops, and a meeting with Madhusudhanan – the Visual Effects Supervisor for many Hollywood movies like Spiderman and The Lord of the Rings, and also the upcoming Uttama Villain and Viswaroopam 2 – later, Suresh was convinced.
What was the turning point?
While his desired apprenticeship with editor Sreekar Prasad did not happen, he had an equally impressive alternative.
Suresh would frequent editor Anthony’s studio after college every day, and assisted him on several famous projects between 2005 and 2009.
Especially the ones with Gautham Menon at the helm. Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu and Kaakha Kaakha are the movies that figure prominently in our conversation. “When Anthony sir and Gautham Menon work together, the sensibilities in the film are similar to that of Hollywood,” observes Suresh. “There would be healthy discussions; in fact, it was Anthony who suggested that Kaakha Kaakha begin with Suriya’s memories. That scene was initially intended as pre-climax. Anthony said being linear won’t work always. So, we took to showing montages in the form of Suriya’s thoughts.”
Can you describe one of the best experiences you had in editing?
Suresh’s elder brother teaches drawing. That’s another reason why he was so interested in art. And, Inam, with Santhosh Sivan for director, is the movie that had him pleased; there was ample potential to explore. “I was told to do whatever I wanted to,” he declares, “Sivan would tell me, ‘if it feels right, go ahead.’ Generally, directors would want to retain all visually appealing shots, but here, I was told to ‘forget the beautiful’.” It already is pleasing to the eye, the emotions must be prominent here, not the visuals – was Santhosh Sivan’s clear directive. “Vishal (Chandrasekhar) would compose music, and I would edit scenes to fit his tunes. It was more like jamming, an independent project. Also, Sivan would pay us quite well.”
It was one of those projects where he’d forget himself.
What are the typical challenges an editor faces?
“You cannot lie to a doctor, or a lawyer. And, you cannot lie to an editor, too,” Suresh suggests; he’s only half-joking. “When a scene hasn’t been done well, I expect directors to be open with me. That way, I can try salvaging it.”
His work is a little tedious, yes, for most films that come to the table would never have scenes in order. “My assistant would sit and align the shots in chronological order, and then, we would begin work.”
But that’s how it is, says Suresh. Because, not all artistes would be available on the same date. “I was assisting Anthony sir during Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, and a particular scene required the presence of both Kamal and Jyothika. But they shot for it separately – six months apart, in fact – and it was later assembled at the editing table. In the final cut, they’re in the same shot, talking.”
“Also, sometimes, the director would have shot the same scene from different angles, so we would have four options for a particular scene, and have to decide what works at the editing table.”