Editing is one of the most vital departments of filmmaking and yet, not many outside the film industry understand its significance. City Express caught up with editor K L Praveen, a National Award winner, to know more about his role as an editor and the way superstar Rajinikanth’s Kabali is taking shape...
What exactly does an editor do?
An editor basically marries the work of several departments in a film. When a unit shoots a film, they don’t do it in a linear fashion. They shoot whatever sequences they can based on a number of factors such as locations, availability of artistes, time and equipment. For instance, Kabali’s climax was shot first before the rest of the film was canned. Eventually, what we do as editors is keep the film stay as close to the script as possible. We try to present the film just as how it was conceived as an idea. Editors play a key role because we are the only department which liases with every other department in filmmaking
For an editor, pressure will be maximum a month before the film’s release. You are now working on Kabali. So, the pressure levels must be immense...
Working on Kabali has given me a lot of respect in the industry and I must thank Rajini sir, Ranjith and Dhanu sir for this opportunity.Although Kabali is a huge film, I would say that we are under no pressure at all. To be honest, we are very relaxed.
This is possible because of the kind of comfort that is provided by the team itself. Director Ranjith is a cool guy. He would say, ‘If you need time and space, just take it. Let’s get the product out in a better fashion. Let’s not rush to release’. Rajini sir too is like that. After I saw the rushes, I told Rajini sir, ‘I need some time to log both the versions’. He simply said, ‘OK sir.’
As far as chopping is concerned, it is the other way round for Kabali. I am keeping scenes and Ranjith keeps saying, ‘Chop them off’. Ranjith has been very sweet so far. That is what happened in Madras too. We have this unsaid rule wherein if I am excited, he knows that it is going to work. That is the bond we both have developed. Even for Kabali, when I watched the entire film after it was assembled, I was pretty excited and said, “You have done better than what your script was.”
Kabali has several moments that will make you clap in joy. For instance, Rajini sir’s introduction scene is going to make fans erupt in joy. I don’t think there has been an intro like this for Rajini sir in the last few years. It is sleek, stylish and done in a very artistic fashion. I think Ranjith has pulled it off very well with help from the cinematographer Murali.
How much of Kabali is done?
I have already logged the first half. I am looking to finish off the second half by this week. Teaser work is also going on. The teaser will not be more than a minute.
Considering you are an editor who has an eye for detail, which is your favourite sequence in Kabali?
The first fight that happens in the movie establishes his character in the film. It is something which has been done very carefully. It shows what he is and what he has done as a don. It is a very short sequence. But the way he fights and the manner in which he delivers the dialogues, you will actually fear the guy.
Kabali has raised expectations not only because it features Rajini but also because it has brought together Rajini with a young director like Pa Ranjith. Tell us what appeals to you most about Kabali?
It is the script and more importantly, Rajini sir saying yes to this script. A lot of young directors have told me that Rajini sir’s decision has given them hope to write scripts for big heroes. Several have actually told me, ‘Whether I succeed in making a film with them or not, I know I can write a film for a top star’.
Rajini sir’s decision to work with Ranjith has shaken the Tamil film industry quite a bit. Until now, the industry worked primarily on combinations. The idea was ‘This big director with this big hero would entail a budget of this amount and the recovery would be this sum’. However, Rajini sir’s decision to work with a young director has completely shattered this business module that has been in place for the last 10-12 years.
This very decision of his has given a lot of hope to several people.
Rajinikanth Kabali as Much an Emotional Film as a Gangster Flick
Ever since he edited hit film Chennai 28 in 2006, editor KL Praveen has carved a niche for himself in Tamil cinema. Today, 60 films later, he is the editor of Pa Ranjith's Kabali, being produced by Kalaipuli S Thanu and starring superstar Rajinikanth. In a chat with us, Praveen reveals the pleasures and the challenges of working on a Rajinikanth film, a first in his career.
It is no easy task to edit a Rajinikanth-film. With Kabali, the expectations are even higher as fans await this exciting amalgamation of the superstar phenomenon coupled with contemporary ideas of director Ranjith and his young team. "The theme of Kabali is something new even for Rajini sir," said Praveen, taking a break from the hectic post production work that is going on for the film. "The biggest challenge for me as editor is to work in the Rajini zone, being his fan and yet staying true to the script," he said. (Also Read: Rajinikanth Advised 'Complete Rest' For a Week After Hectic Kabali Shoot)
Watching a film that has Rajinikanth with his typical gestures, gait and style, is a viewer's delight. Praveen gets to see every bit on celluloid. How does he decide how much to keep? Is he under pressure being the editor of Rajinikanth's film? Praveen said: "I wouldn't call it pressure, but there is a certain responsibility as the superstar has trusted us to present him in a different role. This has always been at the back of everyone's head while working for Kabali."
Praveen agreed that the going was tough, "During the initial days while I was looking at the rushes it was all a fanboy moment for me. I kept telling my assistant that I'm getting goosebumps watching Thalaivar on screen. His walk, the way he delivers his dialogues, the style quotient, his timing in the scenes, everything was just perfect." (Also Read: Rajinikanth, Radhika Apte Film Final Leg of Kabali in Malaysia)
"Most of his shots are single takes. It shows Thalaivar's experience. Kabali is an emotional film as much as it is a gangster film. So it was really a challenge to make sure the emotional scenes were paced right to get the right feeling. There are lot of intense moments especially in the sequences showing Rajini's growth as a don. The slightest eye movement or expression will rain in the claps. It's a huge task for me to keep everything intact as much as I can, keeping the script in mind," said Praveen.
The Ranjith Factor
Praveen credits his director Pa Ranjith, for the perfect sync they share that helps him give his best to the difficult task in hand. He said: "It is very important that an editor travels along with the director and his vision towards the script. Otherwise, we as editors tend to sometimes make decisions based on the pulse of the audience. Ranjith has been fantastic to work with. He respects every technicians' thoughts and gives space for them to try something new."
Thalaivar Moments Aplenty in Kabali!
Ask him about his favourite scenes and he reluctantly reveals, "There are tons of scenes I admire in the film. But like any superstar's film, the introduction scene of Kabali, the gangster has come out really well. While I was watching it, I was imagining how the fans will whistle and hoot and clap for Rajini sir. And finally when we get to see his face in full, it will be a treat. Murali, the cameraman has shot them in a really slick and stylish composition."
Praveen is trying his best not to let the fan in him overtake his work, but being a fan has made his work that much more enjoyable. "I'm still trying not to be a fan. But honestly being a fan and working for your idol helps for me. I enjoy every moment working on the film. There are several people who have told/threatened/requested me to make sure that Thalaivar (audience clapping) moments have to be kept intact. I guess that comes naturally to Rajini sir as his acting in Kabali has a lot of those moments. His performance will be talked about quite a bit and will connect well with the audience. Lots of people have appreciated us for the look from the posters and imagine him walking and performing in that look."
That Godfather feel
Of course, music would play a major role in the Don ambience and Praveen revealed, "The way I work is, before the film is sent for the background score, I try to give the music director an idea of the mood we want to convey. So while editing, l also add music from various films using sound tracks from my personal sound library of over 360. Directors love to see it in the first cut like this. For Kabali, I used tracks from few films as edit reference to get the mood right. For example, sounds of the film Godfather were also one of the tracks I've used."
Baashha vs Kabali
Rajnikanth has played don in epic films like Billa and Baashha. How is this don role different? Praveen smiled and said: "This don plays his age and comes with a lot of graciousness. He plays a 55 year plus don, a very matured gangster. His aim is not revenge per say but his search for the life he has lost for the past 25-30 years. His search isn't for glory but for the life he lost in all those years.