Vikkramm Chandirramani – interview

“My influences are as much from literature as from films”

Vikkramm Chandirramani’s new crime drama short film, ‘The Perfect Murder’ has got a rousing reception with critics appreciating the performance of the artists, the direction and the deft editing. ‘The Perfect Murder’ breaks the stereotype with powerful female characters and an unusual story and has been considered ‘Hitchcockian’ by some. Vikkramm Chandirramani is a Mumbai, India based filmmaker, who’s drawn to character driven dramas. “People are complex”, he says. “They say something, do another. They want something but often work against their own interest. Everyone has some delusions and there are three sides to every person – what they see in the mirror, how others see them and how they really are.  Also everyone has a dark side. All of this makes character driven dramas interesting.”

What made you write ‘The Perfect Murder’ and choose a dark character for the protagonist?

I’ve been writing a lot these past couple of years. ‘The Perfect Murder’ is an urban crime drama. In that sense it’s a mixed genre. It’s about a family where one fine day, things come to such a boil that one partner wants to do away with another. It was partly inspired from all the amateur crime that one reads about every day, especially the pre-meditated violent crimes, not the passion crimes like road rage assaults. In a lot of these cases the accused and the victim know each other. When the perpetrators are caught, I often find they are no different from the hundreds or thousands of people who we see when going to work, at cafes or wherever. These are normal people like you and me, yet we read about some of them committing these violent crimes. Apparently, everyone or almost everyone has a dark side. There are thoughts people keep to themselves. When driven to the edge, you never know what someone is capable of doing. That’s where ‘The Perfect Murder’ comes from. How far could an ambitious man in a complicated relationship go when his back is against the wall? Like (Sigmund) Freud compared the human mind to an iceberg, of which only a small part (the conscious experience) appears above the surface of the water, while most of the iceberg (representing human perception) lies below the surface. This is a much larger, darker part of the iceberg and represents the unconscious. Everyone, even the most seemingly innocuous people, has a dark side.

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Your last film, ‘Destiny’ got over 4 million views on YouTube. How hard is it to hold attention on YouTube?

It does take a lot to hold attention on YouTube. Broadly, there are three mediums in India for film, cinema, TV and the web. When an average person watches a movie in a movie hall, he or she has spent good money buying tickets and set aside half a day to watch it. So there’s a strong resistance to walking out midway, although it’s not unheard of. Television viewing in India is largely a family experience. The average TV is watched by a family of five and if one person gets bored and wants to change the TV channel, there will be others in the family who will resist that. However, when it comes to the digital medium, there’s usually a viewership of one. Most content is being consumed on phones, and if you don’t like what you see, the next film/episode is just one tap away. Your opinion is all that matters. This means that holding the attention of a viewer is a task. People will watch a film till the end only if they really like what they are watching. This is why if one can hold attention on YouTube, one can hold attention in any medium.

I noticed that ‘The Perfect Murder’ is almost entirely from the point of view of the protagonist, Kabir. Yet every character is well defined.

Indeed. My influences are as much from literature as from films because my father was an accomplished writer. When you’re writing a book, it could be first person, second person or third person. If it’s third person it can be limited, multiple or omniscient. In this film, everything is from Kabir’s point of view. This is why you sympathize with him in the early part of the film. I wanted every character to be well defined, to have their motivations and character arc. I tell my actors that even if what they do is very wrong, going by my code of ethics, clearly they are convinced it is justifiable. I want that to come across. You’re not playing positive or negative characters. Everyone is the protagonist of their life story. Don’t judge your character.

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‘The Perfect Murder’ could well have been a feature, couldn’t it?

Yes. I’ve been told that before. Some have even wished it was longer, which I take as a great compliment! For a short film, the plot is more like a feature. Had it been a feature it may have been a little verbose. I have other scripts for making features! You need a lot more money for that!

How has Bollywood cinema changed over the last few years?

Over the past few years, internet penetration has increased massively and this has expanded the audience for digital films. Internet access and OTTS apps have also radically changed the tastes of the audience in urban India. ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘House of Cards’ etc., has whetted their appetite for better cinema. This is challenging for Bollywood as well as a blessing. Everyone here is competing with filmmakers who have access to a lot bigger budgets. On the other hand, there’s a lot more emphasis on the script now. Last year, many mainstream films did well at the box office despite the absence of A-list actors, riding on a good script and effective performances. Now, actors or the artist management agencies actually read scripts. Many actors who were earlier only playing foils to the protagonist are now protagonists themselves in web series. A-list stars like Saif Ali Khan are doing web series and it’s very likely that others will follow suit.

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