After exploring greed and revenge through the prism of horror in his debut feature Demonte Colony (2015), R Ajay Gnanamuthu is delving into the mind of a serial killer in his upcoming Tamil movie Imaikkaa Nodigal.
The film has made news for its interesting cast – it stars Hindi filmmaker and occasional actor Anurag Kashyap as a Tamil-spouting psychopath who is hunted down by Nayanthara’s investigating officer. The film too will be marked by unpredictability, Gnanamuthu promised.
“As an audience, I expect the three hours in the theatre to be completely out of my world,” the filmmaker told Scroll.in. “I want the film to keep me away from my problems and my world. The horror and thriller genre has that ability. The genre itself will keep you hooked.”
Also starring Atharvaa Murali, Raashi Khanna and Vijay Sethupathi in an extended cameo, the film is expected to be released in August.
Gnanamuthu wrote the screenplay for Imaikkaa Nodigal before Demonte Colony. But the film’s production was delayed by its sizable budget. “I put this off for a later time and made Demonte Colony in the meantime and post the success of the film, we took this up,” Gnanamuthu said.
The film was originally planned with a male protagonist. “Back in 2014, I had even approached Mammootty sir for the film and he was okay with it,” the director said. “Later on we kept changing the characters a lot. I thought it would be nice if it had a female protagonist. Once we finished the entire character sketch, we felt that no one but Nayanthara ma’am could do justice to the role. I wanted to make the film very genuinely and the emotions worked better with a female protagonist.”
And what about the decision to cast Anurag Kashyap? “The script chose its actors. I did not want any prominent face to play the part and bring shades of their other characters into this film,” Gnanamuthu said. “I wanted the villain to have a touch of unpredictability in him even in his looks and smile. I thought Anurag sir had that look. When I started narrating the script to him, within 20 minutes he told me that the film was going to work.”
Kashyap, who has played an antagonist in Shagird (2011) and Akira (2016) and has had cameos in Luck By Chance (2009) and Trishna (2011), has surpassed the director’s expectations. “His very first scene was his character’s entry shot, where he walks through a crowd and watches people,” Gnanamuthu explained. “Before that shot, I briefed him about the scene for about five minutes. But once he came before the camera and performed, it was 150 per cent of what I expected. Everybody in our team had goosebumps.”
Gnanamuthu rose to fame through his short films, which were aired on the Tamil reality show Naalaiya Iyakkunar. The show has launched many filmmakers, including Karthik Subbaraj and Nalan Kumarasamy. “For us, being in the show itself was like winning an Oscar and a National Film award,” Gnanamuthu said. “Shows like that are really necessary. I would actually call that show my foundation.”
Demonte Colony offered a twist to the overused haunted house storyline. The film traces the lives of four friends who encounter a supernatural presence days after stepping into a dilapidated mansion. Rodrigo Cortes’s Spanish horror film Buried (2010) was an inspiration.
“There are 200 films made every year and it is really hard to be remembered among those films,” Gnanamuthu said. “So I wanted to make a unique film. It was around the time I watched Buried. The entire movie is about a man stuck in a coffin. I was shocked to be so glued to the film, which was almost shot just in one location. So I thought, why not do a film that takes place in just one room. If someone else can do it, why not me?”