In case you weren’t aware, there do exist independently and locally produced Tamil feature films here in tiny Singapore. The latest flick joining that meagre breed is Yarshan. This psychological horror film features a local cast comprising Thoufiq, Nusriin Gazzali, Sonam Rai, S.Vigneshwaran, Pravin, Vivek Anand, Sanuja, Priscilla Isabell, Raj Kumar, Angel De Souza and Haydon Roy.
Directed by S.Saravannan, Yarshan is said to be the first of its genre filmed entirely in Singapore. ChutneySG caught up with the 22 year old (believe it) director to find out more about the much anticipated homegrown production.
Tell us a little more about yourself and your experience in the film industry thus far.
I am currently a National Serviceman. I have never studied aspects of film before. I started off by acting in my friend’s short film, and slowly moved on to starring as a calefare in productions by Mediacorp. Prior to this, I commenced my film journey by creating short films, through which I gained a lot of experience as a director.
Tell us more about your film, Yarshan. What is it about, and what can the audience expect?
Yarshan is a film behind which is a crew made up of solely youngsters. In fact, no one is above the age of 26. It is a psychological horror film featuring different elements and hidden agendas in its plot. The audience can expect a decent storyline, captivating fight sequences, horror elements and unexpected twists in the plot.
Why did you decide to pursue direction? When did you realise that you had a passion for it?
I felt that I had a knack for coming up with very interesting scripts, and most of the time, I could imagine how I wanted the scenes to unfold before the camera. Since I was young, I have been writing many stories. As time passed I realised that I was becoming more imaginative. I started using my Dad’s handphone camera to produce short films with both my brothers. Then my Dad bought me a video camera. I used it to create short films with my cousins and friends. It all developed very slowly over the years.
Vignesh, Rahu, Ram, Manoj, Pravin, Navind, Darizon, Chrizangel, Shasmitha, Sanjay, Parames, Lynnette – these are all the people who have acted in my short films. Through them, I realised that I could be a director. However, those short films were made just for the fun of it. We did not have proper equipment nor a budget. We just made do with what we had then.
What spurred you on to direct a Tamil film?
I wanted to shoot a Tamil film simply to prove that Singaporean Indians have talent as well as courage. There are not many Tamil films being produced in Singapore as compared to those of other national languages.
Tell us about some challenges faced during the course of producing Yarshan.
The main challenge was the varying schedules of the cast. We started filming in late August 2015. Some cast members had informed us that they would not be able to commit after mid November. This resulted in having to film multiple scenes within a day. Sometimes, shooting ended very late on Friday nights and we would have to be back again early on Saturday morning. We had lunches at 4pm and dinners at 2am.
Why did you decide on the genre of psychological horror?
Usually, Singaporean films tend to be of the romance, horror and comedy genres. I felt that I should try something out of the box. My executive producer and his brother wanted a horror script. Once I had completed my script and showed it to them, they were impressed with the storyline and gave me the green light.
How was your experience directing a relatively amateur cast in Yarshan?
I really have to extend my heartfelt thanks to my cast. All of them were calm and patient. They were aware of the tight schedule and they took up the challenge of finishing the film within a short period. Most of them experienced sleepless nights. Nevertheless, they were all cooperative and excellent actors. I was really impressed with them.
Special mention to Thoufiq who performed many of the stunts on his own. He suffered from multiple injuries and he still continued with the shooting of the film. Nusriin and Sonam were exceptional. Sonam couldn’t speak in Tamil but she still managed to memorise her dialogues and delivered them well. Without my cast, Yarshan wouldn’t have been possible.
How do you expect the reception to be for a locally produced Tamil movie?
I expect that there will be a lot support for Yarshan, as it is the first Singaporean Tamil feature film produced by a youth crew. People will definitely love Yarshan!
Tickets are priced at $15, on par with those for Kollywood films. Do you believe the public will support such local films as they do Kollywood films?
Yes, I strongly believe that the public will support a local film. The film is 2 hours and 43 minutes long, and includes all the elements which you would expect from Kollywood films. The public should support local films in order to encourage local talents to fulfill their dreams of being an established artist.
Do you have any advice to encourage independent artistes such as yourself out there?
Everyone has to start from rock bottom to reach the skies. Always treat obstacles as challenges and once you overcome them, the reward will be experience. Never allow yourself to feel down when people criticize you or try to mock you when they think you have done a bad job. Always stand up for what you believe in, be firm in your decision and there will always be room for improvement.
Complete the sentence, “Everyone should watch Yarshan because…”
“… it’s the first Singaporean Tamil film produced by a youth crew with the help of students.”
Yarshan will be released on 30 April 2016 (Saturday). Venue: The Projector, Golden Mile Tower. Showtimes: 2pm, 4.45pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at $15.
Images courtesy of S.Saravannan.