Ameer :

"One cannot say that I am a typical Tamil film director"



   Acteur et réalisateur très en vue depuis quelques années dans le cinéma tamoul, Ameer sort quelque peu, dans ses réalisations, des sentiers battus de Kollywood pour proposer un cinéma plus profond, et que l'on pourra trouver plus fort. Maintes fois récompensés, en Inde et à l'étranger, notamment au prestigieux festival de Berlin, ses films comptent déjà parmi les références du cinéma tamoul moderne. Peu avant sa tournée en France et au Luxembourg, organisée par les Tréteaux de Feu sous la houlette de Murielle Beck, Ameer a eu la gentillsse de nous accorder cette interview en exclusivité...

Interview  -  L'interview en vidéo


  • IR : Ameer, you are now one of the most acclaimed directors in Tamil cinema, but please tell us how did all begin for you.

Ameer : According to me,  Cinema has always been a dream since my young age. I was born and grew up in Madurai. As for Madurai, cinema has always been the first entertainment. Our experiences with the cinema screen have been immense. Just as we have closeness in our relationships we have had a greater closeness to cinema. Thus was born my dream and desire for cinema. If I have to say what I wanted to be in cinema, then I must say that while most people would want to be a hero or a music director or a camera man, I wanted to be only behind the scene from the beginning. I wondered what would be the most commanding position. I would watch films with my friends, discuss and analyse it threadbare and try to rearrange scenes to make it better. This is how I stared creating my own cinema. After a certain point I wondered what to do and realized that this dream would not be fulfilled if I stayed in my hometown. So I came to Chennai, became an assistant director and then a director and gradually reached the position I am in now. In the beginning it was just a dream but today it has become a reality.

  • IR : As a child, have you been addict to cinema ? Which kind of movies did you like to watch ?

Ameer : From my young age I have loved only commercial cinema. There should be heroism. The hero should come and save everyone. He should beat up the villain. He should also strive to do good for his home town. It is such action oriented film that has been my favourite and the kind of cinema I have grown up loving. It could be a male or female, it could be hero or heroine oriented, they would have to fight. There are no two opinions about that. There should be songs, fights, climax and chasing. The impact of these films is still within me as an ardent fan. We watch English films and satisfy this desire. It is only commercial films that I have admired then and now. 

  • IR : Who are the directors you admire in Kollywood, Bollywood... and abroad ? Do you consider some of them as having a real influence on you ?

Ameer : I truly admire the films of all directors. I also like all kinds of films – whatever be the language – according to the trend today - comedy, drama or even  love….Particularly among Kollywood ( Tamil Film Industry) directors, I like Bharathiraja, Balachander, Balu Mahendra, Mahendran, Rudraiah and Mani Ratnam….When it comes to Bollywood ( Hindi Film Industry) directors, I like the evergreen favourite actor / director Raj Kapoor. As for Hollywood directors, I like Spielberg, James Cameron and John Woo. The films of these three directors have greatly inspired my films. If I should say whose films have influenced my Tamil films, I must admit that I cannot cite just one person. All these directors keep influencing my films from time to time.

  • IR : How would you define the kind of movies you direct ? Is "realistic dramas" the proper way to name them ?

Ameer : Certainly my films can be classified only as realistic drama. There could be no difference of opinion on that.

  • IR : As a director, what does your creative work bring to you ?

Ameer : If you ask what is the joy of being a director and creator, I would say that it is satisfaction. We could do our own business or take up a government or private job. We would go out to work in the morning, come back in the evening and spend our time with our family. Or we could go out with our friends on weekends. But all this cannot give you the satisfaction that one gets as a director. We are completely happy that we are able to do realize our heart’s desire; that we are able to think of things others  have no idea of; we are able to give a shape to these thoughts and infuse it with emotions. We set others thinking through these emotions or even move them to tears. Through this we draw them to our side. This is a beautiful art. It gives us great satisfaction and fulfillment. 

  • IR : Do you consider yourself as a typical Tamil director ?

Ameer : No, one cannot say that I am a typical Tamil film director. I did tell you about the entertainment, action oriented, commercial films that I loved viewing. But I have not included these elements in my films so far. My films are certainly realistic dramas. Usually in such Tamil film drama, there will be certain formulaic things such as the hero and heroine introduction; the blossoming of their love and the entry of the villain. This is more or less the Tamil film formula. Or it could be that hero’s and heroine’s parents oppose and prevent them from coming together. Or it could even be that the boy is estranged from his mother as a child and is seeking her. I have not used any of this formula in my films. It is because it was not formulaic that my film Ram is being screened here in France. It is not in the regular Tamil format. My other film Paruthi Veeran is also like that – defying formula. So you really cannot call me a typical Tamil director. But I am a Tamil director. There will be no change in that.

  • IR : According to you, what are the specific aspects of Tamil cinema, particularly compared to Hindi cinema ?

Ameer : The basic difference between Tamil Cinema and Hindi cinema is that from the very beginning of cinema, or even till about 30 years back, Tamil cinema has always been infused with realism. We have had commercial cinema, but Tamil cinema has always had a streak of reality.   We have had several good directors to ensure this.  So the taste of the Tamil audience has also been tuned to this. Hindi cinema has been pure entertainment from the very beginning. It is only in the past 5 or 10 years that they have been making efforts to come up with alternate kind of films such as Lagaan and Chak De India. The basic and general difference is that Tamil films are realistic and Hindi films tend to be exaggerated with very little traces of realism.

  • IR : Why is Tamil cinema less known abroad than Bollywood ? Could this situation change soon ?

Ameer : It is true that Tamil cinema has not been accepted in the international scene as Hindi cinema has been. But it is also true that now Tamil cinema has started going places. There is a reason for this delayed acceptance. During the early Raj Kapoor times, Hindi cinema became popular in Russia. Raj Kapoor was considered to be the identity of India. Tamil cinema became popular only after Tamilians, especially from Sri Lanka started migrating and settling abroad. It was only then that Tamil films started being screened abroad. But as for Hindi speaking people, they live all over the world. Even in India, more than half the population watches Hindi films. Whereas Tamil cinema is watched only in South India, mainly in Tamil Nadu, where Tamil is spoken. But Hindi films are watched by every one, even in Bihar and Orissa. There Hindi speaking people all over north India and all over the world. But of course now, with Enthiran, Tamil cinema has reached an international arena and is being widely spoken about. Though it has not as yet gained the reach of Hindi cinema, Tamil cinema has reached somewhere.

  • IR : Recently you also became an actor : how do you consider this experience ?

Ameer : There will definitely be an actor in every director. Because unless he knows what expressions he expects from an actor, a director will not be able to elicit this performance from him. So there is an actor in every director. When the right environment, story and platform happen, the director becomes an actor. This is the trend now. But I do not know if we can claim to have started it. Long before us, the legendary director Raj Kapoor, a bench mark director, used to act in and direct his own films. I am having the same experience now. If you want to know how it feels, I would say that initially I was a little nervous. There was a difference between standing behind the camera and extracting work and standing in front of the camera and acting. However big an actor or director, facing the camera is a difficult task. To speak your dialogues, to even face the camera, to cut through the silence and speak is certainly a difficult task. But that is not just with acting. Even now, there is a slight hesitation within me as I give this interview.  The success lies in breaking and concealing this hesitation and performing. I think I am used to it by now. It does not seem so frightening. But it is a great experience. I have no doubts on that.

  • IR : As a director, as an actor and as a spectator, who are your favorite actors and actresses ?

Ameer : As a fan, a Tamil fan who grew up watching tamil films, I would say that MGR is my favourite actor and after him Kamal Haasan. As an actor, I like only Kamal. As a director, at the national level I would say I like Amitabh Bachchan. He takes on any character and gives you the  confidence to mould him in any way. Like wise Nana Patekar too. As for actresses, there have been several good actresses in every period such as Savitri and Shoba. But in recent times, I would say that the actress I like most is Saranya who does mother roles. She changes herself into any character, goes down to assay different roles and proves that she is a great actress. In Hindi films too there are several good actresses. Young heroines take on mature roles. Particularly, it is difficult to point out, but everyone is doing well. They are handling both glamour and character roles. 

  • IR : You are also known for being a "tamil activist" and for your support to Sri Lankan Tamils : what would you say about the situation in Sri Lanka now, after the civil war ended the way we know ?

Ameer : The issue of the Tamils living in Sri lanka is that that they have been suppressed and enslaved by the government. A few of us like Seeman and me have been raising our voices against this atrocity we have been showing our support not only the basis of being Tamils. It is abominable if one human race  tries to wipe out another wherever it happens on this earth. No man has been given the right to take another fellow human’s life. In all of world history it  is only in Sri lanka that the people have been held as refugees in their own country and bombed mercilessly. There have been civil wars in several countries. There has been suppression and oppression and revolts. Even in our independence struggle, people were enslaved. But they were not killed in masses by bombs. It was only in Sri lanka that people were killed in clusters. I do not know whether it gives happiness to have the war end like this. It will not give happiness to anyone who has humane concerns. It will bring joy only to those who are ruling  or powerful with the help of governments elsewhere. But we have to understand the reason from the war coming to an end. My personal opinion is that if Sri lanka had been a Muslim country, the solutions would have come easily. The people would have gained Tamil Eelam by now. Whether it is America or Europe the Un representatives run to help. Even during the recent revolts in Libya and Egypt, Obama and the UN leaders claimed that America would be there to help. They said they would give them weapons and help them to protest. This is what the people in Sri lanka did. They used their own money  to buy weapons to save their country. Why did help not go to them? Because  Sri Lanka is not a Muslim country.This is completely political. It is a truly tragic incident.

  • IR : At this time, what can you say about your next movie ?

Ameer : My next film is Adhi Bhagavan. I am directing it. It is half complete and I am going for the next schedule of shooting. As I told you earlier, Adhi Bhagavan is the kind of film I grew up watching and enjoying. It is an action oriented, entertainment film. There is a hero and a villain and the hero should defeat the villain. It is a movie like that. People may ask what is the necessity for me to make a movie like this. There is a group of people to enjoy the kind of movies I enjoyed. They ask me wherever I go, “ Sir give us an action movie. An entertainment film in a different genre. Do not make only serious movies. We would like to watch the film 2 – 3 times. So it is for them. And it is for the kind of cinema I loved watching. It is my chance to give this cinema to people who enjoy it. It is a story or film that one might have usually seen in various languages. Adhi Bhagavan presents it in a different platform. That perhaps would be my touch. It is you who must decide.

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L'interview en vidéo

La version originale vidéo - questions en anglais et réponses en tamoul - est disponible au format flv. Sa durée est de 19min38 (37Mo3).

You can  download this video :
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