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Style and substance

Antony, the man behind many slickly edited Tamil films, speaks about the nuances of his art



A CUT ABOVE Antony

He is the new kid on the block and in great demand as a film editor. Antony (original name Llwellyn Antony Gonsalves) brings to the table a youthful and fresh approach that has gone down well with movie goers down South. Cut to the slickly edited films he has to his credit — "Ghajini", "Kaaka Kaaka", "Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu", "New", "For the people" (Malayalam) and then, fast forward to the movies on hand and in the pipeline — "Kreedom", "Pachai Kili Muthu Charam", "Varanamayiram" and "Shivaji". It's easy to see that he has bagged plum assignments.

Would he agree that a film is made on the editing table? "Anything can happen on the editing table. We can eliminate a character or even change the screenplay to give the film a different look. There are movies that are edited backwards beginning with the climax. You have to hook the audience in every scene with something that is gripping. Most Tamil audiences watch a lot of English movies and even in the slums you get HBO and AXN and they have enough knowledge of cinema."

But he is clear that the director is the ultimate authority. "The editor may make suggestions or argue with the director that a particular dialogue is good for the film. But the director knows his film best."

On his racy films, he says, "To my luck the scripts of films such as `Ghajni' and `Kaaka Kaaka' lent themselves to this kind of editing. Other movies like `Perazhagan' and `Sillunu Oru Kathal' had a different feel. In an action film, the storyline is very thin. If told simply, it can finish in half an hour, but you need to add interesting elements like a fight or hold the action — the way the hero walks in, looks at the villain — all these gimmicks work in an action film. In a family drama, emotions reign supreme. However you should take care not to overdo the emotions."

The purpose of editing, according to Antony, is to make the audience relate to a film and feel that they are standing there and watching the action unfold. But if an edit goes wrong they remain like spectators."

More than special effects and gimmickry he believes in the power of the cut to effect smooth transitions. In "Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu" , for instance, Kamal Hassan and Jyotika decide to go back to Chennai and they get into the van and close the door. When you cut to the next shot they are in an aircraft."

Although editors usually come into the picture after the movie is shot, the trend is changing now, he says. "Dance master Brinda, for instance, finds out if something different can be tried out. Cameramen like Rajshekar, Ratnavel and Arvind shoot from different angles and that helps my creativity. Another trend that's catching on is online editing even as the shoot is in progress. At the end of the day, before the lights are switched off and the sets are dismantled, we can tell if anything needs to be shot again."

What does he do to chill out? "I do tend to get a little fidgety after six hours of work. I take breaks, go to a coffee shop for an hour, or move on to a song or dance sequence in another project."

SUDHA UMASHANKER

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