Director Prabhuram Vyas, who made the recently released film Lover, talks about the choices that went into the making, his love for relationship dramas and more
Times have changed and so does the concept of love and romance. But one thing remains the same throughout, as generations come and go. The idea of two individuals in love and how they try to find each other, while acknowledging who they are, including the darker crevices hidden within them. For director Prabhuram Vyas, who made his feature film directorial with the recently released Lover, this concept has intrigued more, and challenged the very idea of what is togetherness for those who are in love. Is it being with them forever or knowing what is best for the other and take paths accordingly?
Prabhuram, who has earlier helmed web series Livin, which also portrayed a daring concept of then by showing live-in relationships, now is back with Lover, a film that teases the concept of toxic behaviour, romance, and understanding. Lover focusses on a couple, Arun and Divya (played by Manikandan and Sri Gouri Priya) who are very much in love, but also in a twister romance that brews toxicity . Opening about the reception the film has been getting, Prabhuram says, “A lot of youngsters have been messaging me and many of them are getting connected. A lot of men have felt guilty and messaged me.”
A similarity in both Lover and Livin is where the protagonist couple do not go through a dramatic turn of events, but simply highlight their way of living around each other, to showcase the relationship drama. To this, the director says, “Generally, I have a liking towards coming-of-age stories and I am drawn towards that. I had this idea germinate in my late twenties and when I processed the turbulences and turmoil, I could find this idea more relevant and when my friends could relate themselves, I found that it might resonate with the audiences as well. I also like to watch films that showcase nuances of emotions than genres like thriller. I like human dramas, intricate relationship stories, so Lover was something that I wanted to do.”
Off guard when asked to name his favourite such stories, Prabhuram mentions the 2010 American drama Blue Valentine had served as a major influence. "It is a film about a middle age couple whose marriage falls apart. There is also Marriage Story which also was a major influence of Lover,” he adds.
Lover’s script first took birth in a short film format spanning for 20 minutes. However, after the core of the story excited him, he converted it into a 90-minute indie feature, and subsequently trying to crowdfund to shoot it. “But at the same time, I also saw the potential the script had to go to the mainstream venue and create discussions. I also felt the platform to showcase indie films may not really be able to get my film to wider audience. I wanted to bring the potency of this topic to the mainstream alley and initiate healthy discussions. So, once again I made it into 120-page script.”
Prabhuram says that at that time when he approached Manikandan to play Arun, even Jai Bhim (2021) had not released, but wanted him to portray the role out of his gut instinct. “But even he resonated with the emotion of the story, the way he sees relationships, and thinks about were the same as mine. Then, we both tried to make this film take off. Mr Yuvaraj Ganesan, who produced Good Night, identified the story and found potential in the film,” he adds.
Lover’s short film format consisted of one instance which bases the character study and scope to reveal the same. He mentions, “We wanted more instances, character detailing and backgrounds, which were fleshed out to make it more a feature film. In the first half, how they keep secrets and in the second half, staging a trip where a former lover also accompanies, were some of the plot elements that were used to make the story thick and organic by itself.”
The story of Lover may focus on the flaws of the protagonist Arun, but builds beautiful periphery characters in form of a mother (Geetha Kailasam), colleague Madan (Kanna Ravi), who also have their own arcs and flaws in their lives. Speaking on this, Prabhuram says that they were used as tools to highlight the relationship of the central pair, which is the crux of the story as well. The director explains, “For example, if Arun has to become insecure, we got Kanna Ravi’s character. In fact the role was present since the genesis of Lover began. I could have told the story of Arun without going into the details of his family’s complexities because toxic traits can be exhibited by both who come from trauma or not. But I also want audience to empathise more rather being disconnected with the protagonist, and to create a mirroring situation between Divya and his mother’s character became the base.”
Lover also brilliantly captures the nuances of emotional and psychological abuse inflicted during a romantic relationship. The director says that he wanted to explore the emotions of possessiveness, insecurity, that are exhibited more by men in society. “Even the concept of boy bestie stems out from the insecurity of the male psyche. Such observations will only highlight what gender roles play in modern day relationships. Had Arun not come from an abusive background, even he could inflict such pain, but it would have been very easy to villainise him from the start. But when he comes from such a background, still manages to do it, and yet say it is not still not right, is what I wanted to say. That is why I did not explore the background of Divya deliberately or where she comes from. All her trauma and behavioural pattern stems from this relationship rather than her past,” he explains.
It is also a film that never delves into knowing who Arun and Divya were and how they came together. Instead, it is a film that delves into traumas they endure while being together. The director says that he never wanted to show their rosy moments to justify their actions in the future. He adds that he never wanted to glorify the aftermath of what happens with their flourishing past. This was also the reason why Prabhuram chose to bookend the film with frames of Divya, who is learning how to surf and finally managed to gather courage to do so. “It is Divya’s story where she finds her head clear and takes the decision. The reason why I chose to start and end with her because we see much of what Arun goes through and his transformation, but Divya claiming her liberation is what I see it as an important element.” He also mentions that he was very cautious of not glorifying Arun’s character, but at the same time, he had to establish a conversation with the audience for them to watch and say what the film says.
Just like how 2023 saw a slew of fresh voices through debutant films like Dada, Good Night, Por Thozhil, this year too has begun to see the continuation of the trend with Blue Star and Lover. Commenting on this trend, he says, “I think it is a recurring trend. In 2000s, Selvaraghavn sir, Gautham Menon sir, SJ Suryah sir came. In 2010, Pa Ranjith, Karthik Subbaraj came up. Tamil cinema has always seen such wave of new voices time and again. So, every time when a filmmaker comes as a product of that era, they could capture and reflect that period.”
Concluding the conversation, Prabhuram says that he sees the film exploring the archetype of lover, who is one, and what does love entail. He also states that after working on two projects that focus on similar topic, Prabhuram wants to explore a different arena in his next film. “Even if I do a relationship drama, I want to explore another facet. But I am still wary of doing a film again on this topic. I have not yet decided on what excites me, but I would want to take time to explore,” he signs off.