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Nayanthara's Connect is an experimental horror film: Director Ashwin Saravanan


'Connect', the horror thriller, is going to hit the cinemas on December 22 in Telugu and Tamil. In this interview, director Ashwin Saravanan talks about the film's premise, working with Nayanthara, why the 93-minute-long film has no intermission, what makes 'Connect' a unique horror movie, and more. Produced by Vignesh Shivan under Rowdy Pictures, the film also features Sathyaraj, Anupam Kher, and Vinay Rai. The Hindi version of 'Connect' will hit the cinemas on December 29.

'Connect' is about different members of a family being stuck in different parts of the country during the Covid lockdown. A mother and her daughter are locked up in the same house. The daughter is showing signs of being possessed by a ghost. She is clueless as to how to tackle the crisis. The whole thing gets worse when the mother approaches a priest from Mumbai. The priest says exorcism is what they have to do and a Zoom call is their only go. Whether the experiment via the Zoom call works is what the film is about.

Anupam Kher plays the priest. According to the story, the priest is from Mumbai and therefore, the casting has been done accordingly. The artist had to be from Mumbai so that it looks believable. He is also a veteran actor who comes with vast experience. 'Connect' is his second Tamil film and it's his comeback Kollywood film after 20 years.

The film has no intermission. Usually, I like the intermission points in our films. The interval point is a cinematic high in many cases. I also enjoy films that don't have an intermission. When you cut a Hollywood film at some random point, the audience member is disappointed because the momentum is lost. 'Connect' has no mid-point that is ideally watched at a stretch. It's just a 93-minute film (excluding titles and end credits). A lot of hits in recent times were 3-hour-long movies. The first half itself is a 90-minute marathon in their case!

Since 'Connect' has no interval and it's a rare Indian film of that sort, it's an experiment definitely. If 'Connect' becomes a hit, a new business model can be initiated. Theatres can screen 5-6 shows per day. Exhibitors are willing to experiment and see how it goes. I hope the audience are going to love the experience. There is just one song and the film starts off with it.

'Connect' has been designed to be a proper theatrical experience. It's best watched on the big screen. The music by Prithvi Chandrasekhar is thrilling. The sound design and mixing alone took three months. Atmos mixing is going to be loved by the audience. A lot of theatres have been renovated in recent years. We are making the best use of the upgrade.

Nayanthara is an actor I respect a lot. She trusts my filmmaking instincts and I am glad she and her husband have produced 'Connect'. Since she is the producer, she gave me freedom. She wanted 'Connect' to look like an international film. She gave me enough space to execute my vision.

Nayanthara is the first actor I considered for the role. She is playing a mother to a teenage girl. In 'Maya' (2015), she played a mother to a kid. She has that depth in her performance; she can hold the audience's attention for 90 minutes. She has that kind of presence. I really admire her artistic abilities.

The entire story takes place in a closed space. Home is a familiar space. When horror happens in such a familiar space, it is much more spooky for the victim! Classics like 'Conjuring' and 'Exorcist' were set in a residence. If horror is experienced by the characters in a forest or some other place, it is still a situation where the space is an unfamiliar terrain. In 'Connect', with the intervention of technology, the suspense factor is only more pronounced.

We have an unmet demand for good horror films in India, given not many filmmakers were willing to make authentic horror films. 'Masooda', I am told, is a proper horror film without commercial elements. We need to make genre films to cater to the huge appetite for such horror films.

We need crossover films. The distinctions between film industries are blurring increasingly. The demand for content and talent is high nowadays. A Tamil filmmaker can approach any artist from any part of India these days. That broadens the options we have.

I met Nani garu nine years ago to narrate 'Maya'. Usually, actors don't react much to narrations if the script is not meant for them. But Nani garu was so enthusiastic and even offered to produce the film if I fail to find a producer. I am a huge fan of his work. He is an actor who experiments. I want to work with him someday. I will pitch him a story that justifies his talent as an actor.

Updated on December 17, 2022