Pa Ranjith exclusive interview: 'Yes, I am making my Hindi film debut soon' - Hindustan Times

Pa Ranjith exclusive interview: 'Yes, I am making my Hindi film debut soon'

Mar 12, 2024 04:54 PM IST

Exclusive: Pa Ranjith confirms he is making a Hindi film ‘but the hero has not been decided yet’. He teased he will make the announcement ‘at the right time’.

From being a successful Tamil director, Pa Ranjith has become a successful Tamil producer as well. He combines politics and cinema to bring about social change and his films like Madras, Kaala, Kabali, Sarpatta Parambarai and Natchathiram Nagargiradhu, have made him a director to reckon with in Indian cinema. Pa Ranjith believes his brand of cinema should make people think, provoke debates and foster discussions among the audience. He has had two successful productions in 2024, Blue Star and J Baby, and is now looking forward to the release of his magnum opus Thangalaan starring Vikram. Also read: Anurag Kashyap reviews Pa Ranjith’s Natchathiram Nagargiradhu, calls it his favourite film

In Exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Pa Ranjith talks about his Bollywood debut, and much more.
In Exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Pa Ranjith talks about his Bollywood debut, and much more.

In this exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, Pa Ranjith opens up about his films, vision and his big Bollywood debut. Excerpts:

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Right from your first production, Pariyerum Perumal to Blue Star now, all the scripts you backed have to do with social change and caste discrimination. Is that one of your biggest purposes when it comes to cinema?

Yes, definitely! Even before I entered the film industry, I had concerns about many social issues. I read up extensively and began watching films to understand society and these issues. I am not a big cinema lover. The movies I watched during college were those screened at film festivals like Russian, Iranian and German films and they are quite different from commercial cinema as you know. The issues and concerns they focused on were different. How they understood socio-politics and represented them interested me. So, from painting I moved to visual media and decided to become a director. The main reason I came into the film industry was to focus on socio-politics, who we are, where we come from, the needs of the people and so on. I wanted my scripts to touch upon this and that was my vision. My movies started to create debates and evoke discussions, and also became commercially viable for producers. When I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, it struck me how much they have documented their life, culture, literature and history. That empowered me and I decided to start Neelam Productions (2016) to make documentaries on Dalit history, culture and so on. I also wanted to help those who wanted to make films on socio-political issues and support them and make their path easier in the film industry.

Pa Ranjith talks about his films in an exclusive interview.
Pa Ranjith talks about his films in an exclusive interview.

A decade in the Tamil film industry, did you face a lot of challenges even in terms of the stories, including caste discrimination, you wanted to tell?

Initially, there were issues I faced in terms of getting producers to understand the kind of stories I wanted to make films on. Caste discrimination exists in all spheres except that it is overtly visible in some places and invisible in others. In the film industry, caste discrimination is invisible. There have been some films earlier that have spoken about Dalits and caste discrimination but they haven’t been commercially successful. So, there was no successful precedent when I narrated scripts to producers. I remember once when I showed a script to my friend, he went through it and said ‘remove the first scene which has the Ambedkar Jayanthi celebration; producers won’t like it’. There were definitely some issues that I faced like this early on in my career. If you ask me whether all the producers wanted to work with me when I came into the film industry, then no. They knew I was talking about socio-political issues but they didn’t understand what it was. But after a point, it started changing, especially after the success of Madras. Now, people understand the politics I portray in my films. Take Blue Star for instance – after the success of this film, a lot of producers now want to work with director S Jayakumar. That change has come in and it’s happening in two ways – firstly, there is a good market for such films and secondly, people believe that they need to understand the politics of caste discrimination. Both these aspects have blended and that has brought in important change.

When you work with big stars like Rajinikanth or Vikram, how do you ensure you retain their commercial hero status and bring in your socio-politics as well?

I am very open when it comes to my politics and political views. When someone wants to work with me, they already know what I stand for. This is the first rule of working with me - you need to understand and accept my politics. I have no issues about working with anyone and I openly tell the stars what my script is about – there is no hidden agenda. Actors understand me and they give me space to narrate the story that I want to; and I also understand their status in cinema and what fans expect from them. There is complete mutual understanding.

Pa Ranjith talks about his politics being very important for him in an exclusive interview.
Pa Ranjith talks about his politics being very important for him in an exclusive interview.

You have been responsible for a lot of social change in the Tamil film industry in terms of the films you have produced and directed. Are you happy?

If this had an end point then I’d be happy but the need to voice out about caste discrimination and issues is still required in society. When I came into the industry, I couldn’t talk much about this openly. Even successful commercial Tamil film directors would touch upon this topic very lightly but today, they portray discrimination more strongly in their films. Today, creators and the audience are raising questions about this and that’s a very positive change. Earlier, very few actors would have played a Dalit character. Today, the hero – the main lead – of the film is embracing a Dalit character and this change is big. The audience sees these films and understands that we need to accept this voice and what they are trying to say. There is debate and discussion in society as a result. I think I’ll keep making such films as long as it’s required for social change.

In an interview, you stated ‘My life is a form of resistance’.

This started right from my childhood days – from going to school, to playing cricket with friends, attending college, then working till today. I think my life signifies resistance. If I don’t voice out against caste discrimination or on social issues Dalits face, I’d have been like any other Dalit person. I can just be another Dalit man and live the life they do, accepting their fate. But resistance (against caste discrimination) is the foundation of my life and till today, I see it as my responsibility to fight this battle.

Pa Ranjith talks about his journey in films in an exclusive interview.
Pa Ranjith talks about his journey in films in an exclusive interview.

Coming to your films, Vikram-starrer Thangalaan, a political drama, is releasing post Tamil Nadu elections.

It’s an interesting film that takes place during the colonial period. It’s set in the KGF gold mines and about the freedom the oppressed people, who worked in the mines, wanted. Was their leader able to fulfill their wishes? The story revolves around this.

News that you are doing a Hindi film with Ranveer Singh has gone viral on social media. Is this true?

(Laughs) I am doing a film in Hindi but the hero has not been decided yet. It will be announced at the right time.

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