There are just two days to Aval’s release but director Milind Rau says he has no last-minute jitters. “I have no butterflies at all because I know what we have made and I am very confident about it. The stress was in getting it released in three languages. But I am absolutely not worried about the outcome at all as I know we have made a good film,” he says confidently.
Aval is Milind Rau’s directorial debut and the Siddharth and Andrea Jeremiah starrer is getting released as ‘Gruham’ in Telugu and ‘The House Next Door’ in Hindi. Amid a slew of horror comedies that have found a place in Kollywood’s recent filmography, Aval claims to have just one motive: To scare people. And it took four long years for Milind and Siddharth (he has co-written the film) to finalise the script they were going to make a movie of. “We went through a lot of iterations on the script. We wanted to keep the screenplay wholly original. The scenes we had written were coming in other horror films such as Annabelle: Creation. So, we revisited the drawing board. We also tested the script,” explains Milind. “We also needed the right team to mount the film in three languages; getting Viacom (who bankrolled Aval with Siddharth) onboard etc. That also took us some time,” he adds.
While Aval promises to a no-nonsense horror film, Milind says that the film has much more to offer in terms of a solid story. “Most films in India are just about the scares,” states Milind. And he is quick to add that Aval has a lot of them. “While you can trust me on Aval being scary, it has a strong storyline that will keep you hooked until the last. That’s also one of the reasons we took time to write it. We have ensured that the story doesn’t take cliched turns. We didn’t want it to be just another horror film.”
There is an infamous trend in our theaters that is specific to horror movies. We have all been subject to that one wisecrack that creates a ripple of laughter in the theater, leading to the tension being dissipated. Ask Milind if that worries him as a filmmaker and he has an interesting take to offer. “We went to a lot of horror movies in the theater just to see how the crowd reacted. You think they are doing it to disturb the film, but they are genuinely petrified and that’s how Indian audiences deal with their fear. So, that is a good reaction,” believes Milind. “People crack jokes, hoot or laugh because they do not want to admit to themselves that they are afraid. So, if there is a buzz and people are chattering, I am happy. It means the scares are working,” he adds.
The melody ‘Kaarigai Kanne’ has grabbed eyeballs for the intense chemistry that Siddharth and Andrea share on screen. Ask him about it and the director frankly admits to making the most of an A certificate. However, we live in a time where cuts and mutes are given to a movie even after it gets certified A. “You are saying it is for adults. I think they have every right to choose the kind of film they want to watch. If the content is unwatchable for audiences, I think they shouldn’t certify it. But I strongly believe that it is wrong to suggest cuts after an A has been awarded.”
As the conversation steers back to Aval, the focus settles on Siddharth who has written, acted and produced the film. And Milind and Siddharth’s friendship goes long back, from the time they assisted Mani Ratnam before Kannathil Muthamittal. “I couldn’t have gotten a better partner-in-crime, a better producer or a hero,” says Milind. “It makes my job easier. I don’t have to come to the set and say that it is this scene and the character is in this frame of mind; he knows! He wrote it along with me. All questions were answered in itself,” he adds.
Being friends for years and sharing a common interest for the genre also ensured that there were no creative differences. “The only arguments we ever had were on how to make it better and not about choosing different tangents. We were in sync because we did it together,” exalts Milind.
That takes us to another important face in the film. Fresh from the success of Taramani and Thupparivalan, Aval’s Hindi version ‘The House Next Door’ would mark her debut into Bollywood. “It is a very demanding film for the actors; we shot in Tamil and Hindi, back to back. Andrea is incredibly professional and very easy to work with. I don’t know if we could have done it with someone else,” says Milind. “While the practice is to generally bring heroines from Bollywood to the south, we have turned the tables on them. I think Andrea has the looks that work for both industries. We thought she would be perfect for it,” he adds.
A horror movie is a complete experience and sound plays an important in creating the tension for the viewer. Aval’s soundscape has been crafted with a lot of love and effort, says Milind. “The kind of sound world that our music director Girishh and the sound design team comprising Vishnu Govind, Shree Shankar, and Vijay Rathinam have created is amazing.” He also suggests watching the movie in Dolby Atmos as it explores the format thoroughly. “Everyone who has watched the preview has told us that the sound is fabulous. The sound design and music are so cohesive that you will not know where music starts and sound begins or vice versa.”