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OTTplay Awards 2022: Know Your Winners: Prasanth Pandiyaraj bags the Readers' Choice honour for Best Series (Vilangu)

Vilangu became the most-watched Tamil original web series on ZEE5 worldwide.

OTTplay Awards 2022: Know Your Winners: Prasanth Pandiyaraj bags the Readers' Choice honour for Best Series (Vilangu)

Prasanth Pandiyaraj bags the Readers' Choice honour for Best Series (Vilangu) at OTTplay Awards 2022

  • S Subhakeerthana

Last Updated: 04.48 PM, Sep 16, 2022

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Prasanth Pandiyaraj's path to success was paved by humble beginnings, rigorous effort, and a persistently positive attitude. “When I first came up with the idea for Vilangu, I had no clue it would be highly appreciated, let alone go on to win awards,” he smiles. Without hesitation, Prasanth acknowledges that his debut movie, Bruce Lee, starring GV Prakash Kumar, was a failure. “I just wanted my second one (Vilangu) to be better.”

How much of his career has been a planned process? “I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. I would do something if it made sense to me in my heart. However, I have a slightly clearer idea of what I want to achieve today. My ability to reach my full potential is vital to me.”

Naalaiya Iyakkunar changed everything for Prasanth. “When I was a college student, I was interested in filmmaking, but I never went further. Participating in the show provided me with the motivation I needed to pursue filmmaking seriously, and without it, I never would have.”

When Prasanth created Vilangu, a web series wasn't a thing. “I didn't want to miss the opportunity that presented itself. Discussions took place at the height of Covid-19. It was all completed over zoom calls.”

What drew Prasanth towards Vilangu initially was his meetings with the producer (Madan of Escape Artists) and team Zee5. “They said that my script was strong. Their confidence in me reaffirmed that I had an important story to tell. I don’t understand the problem of doing a project for an OTT platform over a film. If the content is good then I have logic for doing it.”

When Zee5 was trying to invest significantly in building up its content in the South Indian market, Vilangu happened. And, it became the most-watched Tamil original web series on the platform. Nearly 50% of ZEE5 subscriptions currently come from non-Hindi regions, with Tamil and Telugu markets driving the majority of the increase in non-Hindi areas.

In Vilangu, Prasanth combined several true stories he learned through talking to police officers instead of focusing on just one instance that happened. “I've gone to stations where I was given tea that had been heated up on a stove. I was eager to include such details in the script.”

An edge-of-seat investigative thriller, Vilangu (streams on Zee5) features Vemal, as a cop, who investigates a mysterious crime. “We're so used to watching police dramas taking place in big cities. Vilangu, on the other hand, shows how a cop from a rural area in Trichy handles a crime,” notes Prasanth.

On casting Vemel, the director explains that he aimed to break the ‘police cliché’ that Tamil cinema created. “I did not want to portray the police in the way that most of our cop movies do. I wanted my characters to resemble the typical police officers we see on an everyday basis. I wanted someone who looked like an average guy. Vemel understood the character's limitations, as an actor. He seemed the ideal fit. There were times he even suggested dialogues. Vemel offered me a great deal of flexibility when we were shooting.”

Prasanth asserts that using a digital platform to write a series enables writers to develop lengthier character arcs and episodic storytelling. “A series is like running a marathon; a feature film is like running a sprint. You can't come here for a quick getaway between two feature films; it takes around two years of labour to write, direct, or produce a series.”

In addition to helming meaningful projects, the pursuit of creative satisfaction and authenticity to the premise and genre drive Prasanth's cinematic vision. Vilangu has several passing references to caste, despite the director's apparent reluctance to delve further. “I wanted to demonstrate how caste is a significant factor in investigations. Although it wasn't my main area of interest, I didn't want to disregard it,” he insists.

Prasanth was glad Vilangu won the Readers' Choice honour for Best Series at OTTplay Awards 2022. “I never imagined I'd be in the same room as the creators of Family Man, my favourite show. It seemed unreal. Also, I never thought it would be a grand event.”

This was the second time Prasanth visited Mumbai. “Had I known Hindi, I would have enjoyed the evening more. When the presenters asked me to take the stage, I was quite anxious and unsure of how to respond. I didn't realise I hadn't talked much after receiving the award.”

But Prasanth, who's a fan of Rajkumar Hirani, admits he had a chance to rub shoulders with his favourite filmmakers. “I was blown away by Malik. I had never met Mahesh Narayanan, even though I knew he was the director. He praised Vilangu as he sat right next to me. I wish I had recognised him sooner.”

What’s next? “I like writing and it keeps me focused, sane and inspired. Along with a film, I am working on a web series. I am sure this one will bring me another award. I can’t wait to visit Mumbai again!”

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