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Exclusive! Pushkar Gayatri: All we had to ensure while writing Suzhal was to respect the intelligence of the audience

The filmmakers get candid about their latest outing which is streaming on Amazon Prime

  • Thinkal Menon

Last Updated: 02.12 PM, Jun 21, 2022

Exclusive! Pushkar Gayatri: All we had to ensure while writing Suzhal was to respect the intelligence of the audience

Pushkar and Gayatri

Director duo Pushkar-Gayatri is elated with the responses they have been receiving for Suzhal - The Vortex from celebrities and film lovers. The Amazon Prime Video series has been garnering positive reviews from critics and the audience alike ever since it was released on the OTT platform last Friday.

In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, the Vikram Vedha filmmakers who penned the script and produced the project, open up about the challenges they faced while writing and making Suzhal, casting the right actors, difference between working in feature films and series, zeroing in on the backdrop for the story, and so on. Excerpts... 

Suzhal has been lapped up by the audience and celebs from across the country. How do you feel about the unanimous positive responses?

Pushkar: It's pretty overwhelming. If a feature film works, you know how the response would be; outpouring of love, messages, phone calls, immediate social media notifications, etc. This time, we were clueless on reactions from people as this was a series. We thought people would take a few days' time to watch the eight episodes, each with a duration of around 45 minutes. 

Gayatri: Every time we refresh the Twitter feed, we get new messages and comments from people across languages. Among them were many who weren't familiar with watching series. We didn't expect people to sit and watch the whole series in one go.  

Pushkar: It was our choice to make a long form content. We wanted to explore the format. It's gratifying to see encouraging responses coming from different quarters. 

What made you choose the backdrop of a small town and a not-so-popular festival for the story?

Pushkar: Mayana Kollai is a unique festival in Tamil Nadu which many are not aware about. We had planned this project as an investigative drama which intended at exploring the intriguing characteristics of a small town. How a crime tears people over there apart was the first thought that struck us. 

A few years ago, while we were returning to Chennai after a trip, we came across this festival happening near Vellore. It was the Eureka moment for us. We researched a lot on the festival, the myths and rituals associated with it. The festival is celebrated in different ways in different towns. The crux of the festival revolves around a Goddess who searches for a demon who hides in a graveyard and kills him eventually. We felt that this idea would perfectly suit our story. 

Movie lovers have been binge-watching a lot of crime thriller series during the lockdown. What were the aspects to which you paid more attention to while trying to make the series completely engaging?

Pushkar: I think the idea of a girl missing from a small town and investigations that follow itself is a genre by itself. Many filmmakers have come up with stories around this plot in many languages. With Suzhal, we didn't aim at making a typical fast-paced investigative thriller. We were keen on exploring the prejudices and unusual beliefs of people who belong to a small town. I would say this is a social drama which has an investigative case as its base. We had fun developing different characters and their varied perspectives.

Gayatri: We have all come across riveting thrillers in different languages. Our idea was to present a story which is rich in Indian-ness in terms of acting, emotions and music.

What according to you were the advantages you enjoyed while writing for a series as opposed to a feature film?

Pushkar: The duration has been a huge positive factor. Unlike a feature film of two-and-a-half hours, we had six hours this time. We need not create a story which revolves around the protagonist or the antagonist. We get ample time to work on the conflicts of every character that appears on screen 

Gayatri: The long-form storytelling does have its advantages. In feature films, you need to hit the right spots. You can't deviate much from the lead characters. Working on a series format which features a lot of characters was super exciting.

Pushkar: We could let ourselves be more indulgent while writing for a series. All we had to ensure was to respect the intelligence of the audience.  

At what point did you two decide that you are not going to direct Suzhal?

Pushkar: Our initial plan was to direct the project, but we had another commitment. When Amazon Prime approached us, they checked with us the possibility of collaborating with other filmmakers. It was really a hard decision to make as we were keen on directing it. But we loved the previous works of Bramma and Anucharan, and were happy with them directing Suzhal. After our interaction with them, we had a sigh of relief. 

Gayatri: We thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative process. I think long-form content and collaborations are the way forward. We would like to continue having more such collaborations.

How did you choose Kathir, Aishwarya Rajesh, Parthiban and Sriya Reddy who play lead roles in the series?

As we write, some faces keep coming to our mind. We had Kathir in our minds from the beginning stage. We felt Aishwarya will do justice to the intense character she has been offered. Parthiban and Sriya were also chosen in a similar way. The advantage of OTT projects is that we could cast the person who we feel is right for a particular character. We did a lot of auditions for choosing many newbies for the project.