Conversation with Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan, director of the multilingual movie ‘LENS’
About Lens – the movie
Description : Aravind gets a friend request from ‘Nikky’, a complete stranger. He accepts the request and they begin to video-chat. The new friend has a bizarre request – To commit suicide, while Aravind watches live. Does Aravind have a choice?
The film is a hostage drama set in the world of video-chat rooms. Thematically the story revolves around the lust for voyeurism in the digital world and its consequences. The film was shot live while the actors lived their parts over SKYPE.
Why CX is doing this interview ?
This director’s story is an inspiration to all the budding filmmakers of CUSAT, a catalyst to break the stereotypes existing in film industry to experiment and try something unique.
Team CusatXpress had an overwhelming conversation with Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan director of the much anticipated movie LENS which hit at screens on 17th June 2016. The movie is distributed by LJ FILMS PVT LTD, owned by the veteran filmmaker Lal Jose.
LENS is the debut directorial venture of actor turned filmmaker Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan, and the film is adorned with many interesting features. To know more about LENS straight from the ‘Vision of Lens’, watch the video and read this detailed interrogation.
The interview was covered by our staff writer Akhil Sasidharan, filmed by Sreehari Prasad and the video footage was edited by Sahil, Sreehari, Nikhil.
Check the Short Video Interview
— Starting —
On behalf of all the students of CUSAT, I welcome you sir and on that note thanks for givingus an opportunity to have a conversation with you.
Oh thank you, it is my pleasure actually.
Can you just introduce yourself and your movie to the viewers?
Yeah, I am Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan, director of LENS. The movie is releasing on June 17th in Kerala in selected theatres. Lal Jose sir is bringing it to theatres. Thank you for watching this, we will talk more about LENS.
‘LENS’….your debut directorial venture. From a dream to a reality, how was the journey?
Journey has been really difficult I should say. I trained to become an actor, I’m a software engineer by profession, I had been working in the US and there I learnt acting for two years and after that I couldn’t hold myself so I came back here in Chennai and like every other aspiring actors carried few photographs of mine and approached directors for a chance. So in between got few chances in films such as ‘Urumi’, ‘Yennai Arindhaal’ but still didn’t get much opportunities as expected and I think that forced me to learn more about filmmaking. Whatever material I could find out and I learnt gradually, so this is my film here.
What was the inspiration behind the concept of your movie?
One night, while I was talking with my teacher, he is from US, his name is JD Coburn. We were actually video chatting over Skype and he was asking about my acting opportunities and stuffs like that.
“Nothing, so far no luck JD”, I said
“Why don’t you use this new media, learn direction, learn cinematography, editing, and shoot something use this Skype Cam…?’” JD asked.
So in between when we were talking like that this idea struck me.
“What if I die now JD, what if I commit suicide, what do you think?” I asked him.
“Woah, that’s scary!” He replied.
“How do you think? Can we develop this?” I enquired
“Yeah it is interesting, develop it” He commented.
So that day it was over, after 6 months I wrote my first script for a friend of mine who was supposed to direct it, so by working in that film I thought I can learn more aspects of film direction. But it didn’t happen, again days of frustration so I thought I should do something for myself, write and make my own movie in which I will act. But when I finished the script, I thought I will just direct it. It came out well and I was very happy with the outcome, people who read gave good feedbacks. Buoyed by that, I narrated the script before few actors and producers. All liked it very much but still none were not interested to go with new comers and actors didn’t want to do it because of the bold theme. Then I went ahead and decided. Fortunately, cinematographer S.R. Kathir came in and he told by February if we shoot I have the dates. So that was a trigger, I should say that was the catalyst and we just went with the shoot, gathered money from people. Primarily I put a lot of money into it and lots of friends helped me in that, Music Director of the film Siddarth Vipin he has put his money and we did the film. Lots of people helped me with this venture, Balaji the colourist he took care of the backup and till today he is helping me out, my father his fixed deposits were broken few times.
Why did you go with a new cast and crew?
I didn’t want to act in this movie at all as I told before I couldn’t afford accomplished actors as I am producing. Anand Sami, a veteran theatre artist he is handling a role in this movie. He has been a theatre artist for over 15 years and other actors are also theatre artists. Few others have acted in minor roles in some movies, that’s the reason why we opted them. Even my role as the lead was supposed to be enacted by another actor but at the last moment it didn’t happen so I had to come in because we didn’t have any other choice.
So LENS is going to be Multilingual. Is it because of the blend of different languages in the movie?
Actually the story revolves around online world and chatting, so while chatting we mostly use English, at times we type Malayalam using Latin script we colloquially call it ‘Manglish’, but we mostly converse in English. That is the reason why I wanted to do it in multilingual and it is contemporary. We tried to do it in a specific language, on that process we even did a mock shoot by translating the entire script to Tamil but it didn’t connect well so English was the primary choice actually.
When did various stages of production get over (Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production)?
Hmm…Pre-production, it took me around 3 years to write the script. Once Kathir came in within two months we went for the shoot and within a month we finished the shoot, 10 days in Munnar and 20 days in my home. The movie was ready and officially censored because I had to send it to Goa Film Festival and stuffs like that. Technically last year by September or so the movie was completed.
Before the release….what did you do with this film?
I went to all the festivals man. It started off with Delhi, it is called Bioscope Global Film Festival there I won Best Writer Award, then at Chennai International Film Festival LENS was screened in the Indian Panorama. After that at Bangalore and Pune International Film Festival in Indian section the film was screened and in Barcelona at the CLAM International Solidary Film Festival this film was officially in competition, it was the only Indian Film in competition. One more prestigious award we won was the 19th Gollapudi Srinivas Award which is given every year for debut film directors. It was something won by Shyamaprasad for the movie ‘Agnisakshi’ and Aamir Khan for ‘Taare Zameen Par’ so I think it very honourable and prestigious aspect for LENS. After all this when we were trying for the theatrical release, we got an opportunity to showcase our film before Lal Jose sir and from there on he took it over.
How did director Lal Jose happen to watch LENS?
Sound Engineer of this film M.R. Rajakrishnan proposed this idea to show our film before Lal Jose sir, he is one who said it will be good for LENS if Lal Jose sir happen to see and like our movie. He introduced me and my film to Lal Jose, after that I met in person and went to his house and showed the film. He was instantly impressed and he took over the responsibility to distribute.
This is a general query, what is your view on CBFC’s (Central Board of Film Certification) unjust acts towards the filmmakers for curbing the freedom of expression?
Yeah, see I think when you say ‘Art’ it is Freedom of Expression. I don’t believe in controlling art. But personally for me, for this film the Central Board of Certification Trivandrum they were very helpful, they watched the film, they loved it and they gave a U/A certification without any cuts except to mute few words. So I believe art should be free and we should find way so that all artist can express what they want and express without anyone stopping them. It should be rated I think so that people know what movie is all about and they can choose, not just a panel of 4 or 5 people. People should choose what they should be seeing.
One more general query, how can a youth who wish to be an aspiring filmmaker or an actor can attract the attention of a particular movie industry?
See, if I articulate my story I am person who got into the world of cinema without the any sorts of connections or links. So in few words the simple answer that I can give is that you have to have that commitment and that passion to keep trying, trying and trying and find whatever it takes, whatever material to learn and perfect. Keep learning your art. If want to be an actor keep trying and keep doing. There is no way out other than this because I think there are no short cuts to it and this took me around 9 years for this film to come and I have been trying as an actor too, so we got to keep on trying, no shortcuts.
Movies in which you have acted so far?
My first movie was a Tamil movie ‘Inba’, then ‘Muran’. Then in Malayalam I acted in ‘Urumi’, and lastly in ‘Yennai Arindhaal’. I recently acted as the antagonist in a Tamil movie called ‘Oatta Thoodhuvan’ (The Mail Runner) which also competed in few film festivals, I am anticipating for it is theatrical release.
Where are you hailing from?
I am originally from Palakkad, Ezhuvanthala to be precise. I did my studies at NSS College Ottapalam and lived in my grandmother’s place.
Why did you choose Tamil Film Industry over Malayalam?
For a matter of convenience, a major part of my life I spent in Chennai. I was brought up and educated from there. So when it comes to education, my family and I preferred staying there and just settled down there and started trying for acting jobs. Other than that I never differentiated Malayalam and Tamil industry. I have also met Malayalam directors, seeking chances, gave them my photographs and yeah that’s how I got a chance to show my face in ‘Urumi’.
What should the audience expect from this movie?
That is something, as a viewer everyone got a unique context, depending on that I would say LENS would be an edge of seat thriller which would entertain you definitely and which will make you think and which will question your moral conscience with regard to what you see what you share or what you like on social media. It will be an interesting experience and I think it will stay with you for some time.
Sir we are concluding, few words to the audience.
What to say, it is a work of art made from blood, sweat and tears and now here it is brought right before you. You people watch it and if you love it please tell others to watch it, try to watch it on first day because you know else they will remove my film from the screens if we don’t have enough people on the first day. Watch the film and all those people who aspiring to become something ‘Just do it’ just as it said in the Nike tagline, that’s it and all the very best.
Few words to the students of CUSAT.
Thank you so much guys for doing this and I just realized that this is going to be first video of this kind on your campus blog, I am honored and always keep dreaming and dreams do become real and reality itself is based on dreams.