In Conversation With Director Ashwin Saravanan About His Latest Sensation ‘Game Over’

 

Game over is one of the best edge of the seat, genre bending film released this year in any language this year. With its impeccable story, interesting screenplay and sound design it gave the audience a completely new experience of watching a thriller film..not only that, this film also deals with a strong underlying message without literally putting it out there. We had a chance to meet Mr. Ashwin Saravanan, the talented writer/ director who helmed this project and found out many fascinating things about this film as it’s the first official discussion Mr.Ashwin had about the film after it’s release

If you haven’t seen this gem of a movie yet, do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP.. Its a cinematic experience to be had in theatres. You’ll love it. Now, lets get into the deeper meaning of Game Over..

P.S: As it has been a 1 hour lengthy conversation. We divided it in to two parts.


 

Q: Tell us about all the references about PAC-man? why specifically PAC-man & the relation between the game and whats happening with Swapna ?

A: I like PAC-man because of its relentless nature. You cannot take a pause during the game. you’re constantly on the run. when you’re usually playing PAC-man there are 4 things chasing you, but for this movie we digitally removed one of them to make it feel very appropriate to the films narrative.

And in the game you’re being chased and at some point of time you consume a capsule and YOU start chasing the others! It resonated with the films structure in terms of how she’s being hunted down and then she starts hunting them. PAC-man will be metaphorical take on the story …surprisingly, during the test screens no one seemed to get it …we were panicked and thought maybe we should change the game to something else which resembles a very violent game that’s more closer to the home invasion. but thankfully a lot of people got it and they’re writing reviews saying its an allegory to PAC-man.


 

Q: During the interval shot when one of the killer is spying on Swapna through the window, we see a set of eyes following PAC-man in the screen. Did you deliberately stage that ? Is it the highest score ?

A: That’s the screen you get when you complete a certain number of levels . its like transitioning to the next stage. It’s not the high score, so she keeps playing to get better at it.

 

Q: Swapna is suffering from PTSD..and we see that she’s afraid of darkness and she hears the same sounds from the night when she got traumatized. We actually felt what she is feeling.. we were in her head and experiencing the whole thing. Have you done any research regarding PTSD how it affects them? Did you talk to any victims ?

A: NO, i didn’t talk to any of them but the films co-writer Kavya is a Doctor herself and she personally got it touch with a lot of doctors who spoke about the nature of PTSD , how it is for the victims and how it is for survivors & how much of an impact that has on their daily life and all the stuff about the anniversary reactions and the kind of memories it triggers.

Going into it we did some research by talking to the doctors and reading some cases online , and sometimes you draw from your own experiences and you put yourself in the character shoes and you think about it. More than trying to get it medically right we wanted to get it emotionally right. How would the survivor feel in that instinct , that should be very relatable and that should be very accessible even to a layman. Its a very subjective take on the story ..you really fell what’s Swapna is feeling because you were constantly put in her shoes.


 

Q:Tell us about the Memorial Tattoo culture ? How did you have the idea about its existence ?

A: We were looking for a way to connect both Amudha and Swapna through something that was not a traditional, like possessing someone. we didn’t want to do that …its too trivial and its too common its an obvious way of presenting an idea. We read about it. There were a lot of documented cases online where people did get memorial tattoo after someone close to them passed away. We even saw a documentary on YouTube regarding this. That intrigued me. That was a big point of inspiration for me because i thought it was a very emotionally grounded idea. It’s a very macabre idea…people hearing about it for the first time may find it dark …but that was the whole point of me being fascinated with that. After the sinister kind of nature fades away, you really see how people try to get closure after someones death.


 

Q: Which genre does this movie come under? In the fist half it’s thriller & has a realistic approach. For the second half, it goes on to be a fantasy.

A: I would call this film a home invasion thriller. It’s about someone invading your space and you trying to fight back. But the way the film is treated.. the ‘ Home Invasion ‘ feels metaphorical at times, it feels physical, fantasy or a visual film at times because its really a subjective film and we really wanted the whole act .

If you think about it , there’s no chance that someone can get 3 chances to do something allover again …its impossible. So, either its in your own head or kind of metaphysical zone where you / we are going into a fantasy zone. were talking about something that’s bigger than nature or bigger than science. so we treated the film realistically …if at all i’m explaining everything about the film, it falls apart because the premise itself is very offbeat . It is something that takes a little while to get use to. For us it is very important to ground the film psychologically, metaphorically so that the second half feels more like an extension of a character than actual plot, so that it is believable and you get your closure through the character and you don’t think weather it actually happened or not ..actually these arguments doesn’t mean anything to me because this girl ( Swapna ) really fought with her daemons and she reconciled with her trauma. That’s the point of the entire film.


 

Q: What motivated you to write this film and make it the way you made it / shot it? how much of an influence movies like hush, edge of tomorrow , ground hogs day, source code and jumanji had on you ?

A: I wanted to make a home invasion film and i’ve seen a lot of home invasion films like don’t breath, hush , strangers , you’re next & there is a french film called ils ( Them in English) but i was not interested in doing something that’s been done before. Either you add something new to the genre or don’t do it.

People are getting used to Netflix, prime etc..its not like you are presenting them something new, completely fresh subject which has not been done before ..i think its not possible to do something 100% original. We are working with genres, we are not trying to outgrow them. We are trying to make sure that there are certain tropes, certain ideas in a genre film that gets repeated ..because that’s what makes it a genre film. Like you cant go into a kung fu film without having a showdown fight with the villain.

For me the whole idea came like ” Usually when we/ i’m traveling somebody cuts me off in the car & somebody does something to me.. I constantly run it in my head visualizing many what if situations like…what if i hit him, what if i stopped them etc but i never go through with it“. It’s just fun to think about what i could have done & its also frustrating.

So i came up with this idea of what if a game designer gets caught up in a home invasion and just like the game that she designs she gets three chances to survive it . That structure resembled a time loop concept like the ones you seen in films like edge of tomorrow or source code. You see the structure there because they have their own reasons. In source code its science fiction..in edge of tomorrow its power of the aliens etc. We did not want to got into science fiction we treated it as a psychological fantasy.

I was very interested in that because nobody done this concept of blending time loop and home invasion films together. I thought even though films like this have come in their individual genres, nobody sort of combined both of them. I thought that was a very exciting place to start. I really get a kick out of telling such stories. I respect and embrace the genre. You create something which hopefully adds something and stand on its own.





 

Q: While writing this story how did it effect you personally and why did you choose this particular subject ?

A: Having written the script i kind of understood that the only way to deal with your fear is to face it head-fast, there’s no other way around it. The only way you fight darkness is you stay in the dark and get used to it. You can go to therapy.. you can get advice from people but it has to come from YOU. That’s what attracted me to this film because it was always about this girl fighting with her fears .. it is very philosophical if you think about it. We all have different kinds of fears in life.. the only way to confront it is face to face and get over it. That was the universal truth that we are trying to address in this film.


 

Q: Can you explain the shot division in the second half. You’ve shot it in the same place but the shots are completely different each time ?

A: The treatment of the film it self is trying to put you into the character shoes. Like take the VR session where you are literally in the POV ( point of view ) of the character & there are lot of shots in the second half where we rigged the wheel chair from back & front so that you’re constantly with her , you’re looking behind and in-front of her. I think it is scary because you’re staying with the character. You never leave the character..you never cut to a wide shot of the room and then suddenly loose the connection. You always stay with them. You see what they’re seeing you feel what they are feeling. It really makes them feel helpless ..its like playing a first person shooter . So, our idea is always been to treat the film subjectively even in the craft level so that the audience literally feel like they’re playing a game in the second half of the film. That was the idea.





 

Q: Can you talk about how this film dd not have a conventional ending like the final face reveal of the masked men ? What was the idea of not revealing the faces

A: This kind of thought process started with Maya for me. You never see Maya the ghosts face. Initially we planned to show her face revolving 360 degrees and cut to black…but when i met Vijay Sethupathi and narrated the script to him , he listened to the whole script & he asked me ” can we cut before the face is seen in the last shot, that’s more scarier because the peoples version of Maya will be more scarier than your version. so don’t do itI thought it was genius because i never thought of it that way , he was the one who planted that idea in my mind & i think i’ve retained that sensibility even in this film.

Also i really wanted the masked men to represent Swapna’s inner deamons. When she got raped, the way we see it is.. she got smashed into a mirror & the entire shot of the rape was shot through a cracked mirror, it was shot as a reflection. It was not a straight shot it was a mirror shot. It was cracked and you see blood dripping from her , she’s disoriented and she probably doesn’t remember anything apart from the fact that he says ‘Happy new year’ & she hears him unzipping. So, the trauma stems from that fear of unknown..this dark entity which traumatized her. I really thought that this masked men will be a representation of what she went through the previous new year. So it makes more sense by defeating them shes actually defeating her own inner daemons. So, i felt revealing the face is not necessary as we are drawing parallels.



 

Q: Without revealing so much you revealed that all the victims have tattoos & is there any connection between the food delivery guy and the killers? because in the first scene we see Amrutha receiving an order and some one recording and later in the Cafe scene she bumps into a delivery guy?

A: That’s an interesting observation, but NO it was not intended that way, its definitely coincidence. But probably you’ve seen this connection, so something that will be interesting to build on & if you’re telling story about the masked men this will be interesting but the swiggy guys wont be very happy with what we are doing with them.


 

Q: How many times did you rewrite the script ? Why didn’t you reveal the motto of the villains ?

A: See, what was there in the script is shot and edited, nothing was changed. Probably three { 3} more scenes were added after we shot and edited the film. We saw the rough cut and we felt that the first half was little too fast so we wanted to slow things down & probably establish a few things better. We wrote 3 new scenes and we shot them and added them back to the film.

And also in the script, the first scene of the film apart from the prologue after the title was supposed to be the camera pulling back from the TV displaying GAME OVER while Swapna is asleep and the maid comes to clean but later we thought of ‘ We can start with her running, its her profile shot of her entering the frame, it feels like PAC-man.‘ We wanted to start off with a very normal world where shes in a very normal space before she gets in to trouble. The three scenes that were added were:

1. Scene where kanamma looks at the TV & the news reader talks about the killings happening in and around hyderabad
2. Scene where swapna comes back from the tattoo parlour and vent out her frustration with kanamma stating that shes not getting enough sleep and talking about the pain
3. Scene where Swapna calls the clinic and sets up a meeting to remove the tattoo.



 

To Be Continued…

 

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