I like Mohan's work simply because he has the confidence of someone who knows his craft. I saw 'Ashta Chamma' seven times and never got bored for a minute. I liked the fact that it is packed with content, was well planned and executed. He did not pander to the audience and treated it as something with intelligence. Dealing with a bunch of first timers and getting them to act of their skins was another thing he pulled off. All in all a very impressive record for me. To me he should have bagged a few awards for direction, story, screenplay and such other awards for 'Ashta Chamma'.
Also, I like talking to him -he is very entertaining.
I met him yesterday to find out a bit about screenplay writing and direction.
We started with the difference between a script and a screenplay. He said that the script is a generic term like a 'book' while a screenplay is more technical like a 'novel'. A good screenplay is the form of telling a story as one would like to see it unfolding on the screen. That is a good place to start with.
Another thing he said was that a good screenplay depicts the action and does not describe it. The story is driven by verbs and not by adjectives!
Like any story a screenplay begins with the idea. The idea takes structure with a beginning, a middle and an end. And then the treatment takes over where the story is driven scene wise.
Mohan believes in preparation. He believes that the story, characters have to develop organically. Only after everything is explored and known and felt under his skin does he feel that it is under control. The characters must be known in such detail that he quotes his teacher '..one must know the character's sexual preferences as well if one must know him or her well enough to understand how he or she would react to a situation.' One may never use these details but it adds depth to the character.
Does such preparation make the entire process flat and boring? No, he says, spontaneity and preparation can never be mutually exclusive. In fact preparation should help the delivery to be more consistent and more spontaneous.
For his part he prefers writing a screenplay that is 300 pages and then bringing it down to 120 pages. I like to do the same thing with my novels as well!
As far as direction is concerned Mohan feels that the biggest challenge is to get the actors to perform. A director must be in complete control of how he wants the scene done, what he wants the character to do and how it helps him to drive the story forward. For all purposes only the director knows how the story would unfold and he cannot afford to be uncertain or loose about the scene because it could end up all wrong.
As a director he feels that he would be constantly dealing with change. Things might not work out exactly the way you want and there are too many uncontrollable but he must do the best within the framework without doing injustice to his story.
I asked him how he got his actors to perform best. he says that his style is to know the actors well by building a friendship with them and gaining their confidence. And the same rule applies in direction as in any other form of man management - he lets the actors do the scene the way they understand it after he explains it to them. That way the actors are living the part, they are doing it themselves the way they think their character would react in such a situation - not the way they think that the director thinks that the character would react. The line is thin he says, and the director must pull the players back in when they are crossing the line.
It all boils down to preparation of course he says. And knowing your craft.
I could not agree more!
I will write some more when I see him in action.