In Conversation With Director Ashwin Saravanan About His Latest Sensation ‘Game Over’. Part-2




Q: Tell us about the terrific sound design of the film, it’s stayed with us for while..

A: We knew going in that the sound was going to tell half the story because everything Swapna hears when it turns dark is telling the back story itself. We chose to tell the backstory with sound. We were convinced that if the sound design is efficient we’ll at least get the audience to feel something without knowing anything . If we take the scene in the final act where she gets up in the final attempt and she doesn’t switch ON the light..we here a pure sound without a single dialogue spoken..we just understand the whole sequence just through sound. I wrote all these things in the script itself & sync cinema read it and understood its importance. It was the most pleasurable part of this project because i feel the sound design and the mix done for this film was one of the best in Indian cinema at least in genre cinema space. We tried a lot of different variations & It was a great learning experience for me.


Q: What inputs did sync cinema suggest you ?

A: Usually i give a few instructions to them and they comeback with stuff..and they surprise me every time. They come up with a lot of things that i haven’t told. For example, in the second half there is a shot of camera spying on the security, there’s a radio present ..& if you listen to the songs that’s playing it’s very close to the films theme. In Tamil we had a song that means ‘ This girl is unaware ‘..they took the creative liberty and added a new layer to the story.

Initially where you see the drone shot in the film, we establish the church and the car is going…the church was digitally done & the sound of church is constantly there like prayers, church bells etc which were all done in post production because we thought it will give an eerie atmosphere. We went to the house to record a lot of things like the sound of dagger, the slamming door on top of the house etc. They put in soo much effort in to the film and it really shows. During the mix we took the perspective of Swapna and how she is perceiving sound , see the scene in second half where the power goes off where Kanamma questions Swapna about how she knows soo much about the killers …Kanammas voice becomes muffled & there’s this muted shock kind of a treatment where Swapna hears the unzipping sound & hugs kanamma then the sound becomes normal. Initially it was not like that.


Q: Were the names of the characters intentional ? Like Swapna meaning dreams etc …

A: Definitely , from the beginning it was intentional.


Q: How is it working with very less number of actors ? and how did Tapsee come on board, was she the first choice ?

A: Yes, she was the first choice. I approached after watching PINK. We got in touch with her, we pitched her the film with a 4 page summary. She read it , immediately called us and told ” Let’s do it ” she understood the central idea better.


Q: Nothing was revealed in the trailers ? Why is that ?

A: A lot of people criticized the trailer for not giving away anything & lot of people decided not to watch it because of the trailer . Some watched the films and said that the trailer was badly cut, but the film is way better. I said if the trailer revealed anything you wouldn’t have liked the film. I would rather you not like the trailer, and like the film but not the other way around.

See it is a very tricky thing because you are cutting the trailer for business reasons & you want people to look at it and come to the theater . I always struggled with that. For Maya i didn’t cut the trailer, i didn’t like the trailer. It was done by the marketing department. There’s this convention where the marketing company takes over and cuts the trailer, usually the director is not involved in it. For Iravaakaalam and Game Over i had the liberty of cutting the trailer because i really wanted to create some kind of expectations. Even though it might not be a great trailer cut, i thought it was intriguing enough for people to look at.

I really don’t want strangers to come and cut the trailer, because they will not understand the essence of the film, they’ll screw-up the complete film and they don’t know what to reveal..what not to reveal. And Game Over is not another conventional film to market, it doesn’t classify into a single genre. Every film has its own rhythm and soul & it should be treated the way it deserves to be treated.


Q: Tell us how you achieved the single shot ‘ Suicide Attempt ‘ shot? Is it digitally done?

A: It was a combination of rope, CGI and practical effects. It took us 3 months to get that shot right. That was a nightmare to shoot, there were lot of revisions and i literally gave up at one point saying that it’s not gonna work. It was a very difficult shot to crack. There were so many elements , interactions and you really need to understand how the character will fall…because with rope, it’s very slow & when you ramp it looks very false. So we had to digitally correct it enough so that it feels real.


Q: Is it Tapsee who jumps from the building? What pat of the jump is digitally corrected?

A: Yes, it is Tapsee. She jumped with a rope. See when you remove the rope and ramp it, the fall is not very smooth. So, just the part where she jumps and falls – the 24-28 frames we created what was initially there . We created a car sized green mat that when she falls on it the impact seems real & then we shot the car layer separately & crowd separately.


Q: Was it intentional that all the male characters in the film dies but the female characters survive?

A: It just happened. I feel like w are constantly getting a little worried saying that this has only female characters how do you manage?. I think that the universe of the film actually had a lot of things that women deal with. I felt that i didn’t want to force and cast men just for the sake of it.

And also if you see, the psychiatrist character is very interesting because usually women don’t go to men for therapy. They feel like they can only open up to a women. So, we intentionally broke that rule. Apart from that let it just be women.


Q: In his review Bharadwaj Rangan states that there’s a subtle message in the film like ‘Women stands for Women and Women support Women’. What is your take on it ?

A: Yeah definitely. There was always this notion like only Men can be saviors and only Men can help-out women which i don’t believe in. It worked in the film because we had a lot of women supporting each other not only physically but also mentally.


Q: When we’re entering into Swapna’s residence, you always pan-out the camera towards the Swing. Is that foreshadowing in the second half where kanamma’s dies and the suspense builds up ? Is that the only reason ?

A: It was foreshadowed but my producer saw the film and he felt that the movement of the swing is a sign of Amudha warning Swapna, which was not intentional from my part. It made sense because, when you see in the second attempt where she is sitting outside in the wheel chair & sees the swing moving and then turns aside and sees the masked men. Our producer wanted a shot in Amudha swinging in a swing in her documentary. We were not able to shoot it, but if i shot that, it would’ve made more sense.


Q: Tell us about that one jump scar e in the film..i can say its the scariest jump scare I’ve ever seen. Why is there only one jump scare in the film?

A: It was scariest because there was only one. If there were 3-4 i don’t think that the whole shock of it will be valued. I love jump scares. That’s one scene I’m really proud of because we actually created the head using prosthetics, it wasn’t CGI. A prosthetic artist named Pallavi from Bangalore came and took a life -cast of the actors & created a real head and that’s the head that bangs on the window. Till then the people were kind of restless and they were kind of talking in the film. But from that one point on-wards they were like hooked.

Initially t was like the masked men are holding on to the head and he is knocking the door with that. But later i thought probably the censor is going to kill me if i did that.


Q: Will the films script be available online ?

A: Yes definitely.It was a 85- 90 pages script. I’ve written only action part for the majority of it. For Maya the rights are with, they have to approve it.


Q: How much of an importance that Amudha character had to have in this film ? Why did you choose that particular backstory?

A: Generally there is a convention in slasher films, where people who smoke pot or underage people who have sex gets slashed the first. They are the first ones who die. I really wanted to break that and i really wanted to give a very unique story to the person who’s gonna die. Amudha dies in the first 5 minutes and i felt we’re not gonna do this death just for the shock value. We really want it invest in the character later in the film so we understand that this death is significant for a lot of reasons and it is also heart breaking for a lot of reasons. I really wanted the victim to have a really strong backstory so that it ties the entire film together and we understand it as a very important reason for Swapna to get out of her own nightmare.


Q: Coming to the poster designs, they mostly have red and black colors. Is it your decision to go with it or did the Designer’s?

A: It’s an interesting story. Mr. Gopi Prasanna designed the posters for this film. I met him for the first time and narrated the idea of the film to him. In one week he called me up and said ‘I’m gonna send something, i’m pretty sure that you’ll hate it. I want to watch it and keep an open mind ‘. I saw the poster and i was shocked because i didn’t expect the colors like Orange, Red & Yellow..and those were the colors i hate. But once i’ve started watching them i got in to the psychology of it, it was brilliant and trippy. I literally gave him ZERO FEEDBACK. We didn’t change a single aspect of the poster. He did the rest of the posters all by himself. He came up with the concepts, he sketched everything by hand.


Q: We’ve heard that this film is first titled as Mario, late changed into Game Over. Why so ?

A: COPYRIGHT ISSUES. We’ve tried getting in touch with Nintendo for the usage..but they said no. But PAC-man worked better for the film, so happy.


Q: Being a home invasion, the house plays an important role in the second half of the film? Did you write the story around that place ? or did you build any sets ?

A: The production design for the film has done by Mr. Shiva Shankar. We put up a set for the bed room because there was real fire involved. The rest of the house was real/ already existing.


Q: When we are writing a screenplay, we might want a particular shot but sometimes while shooting the location wont actually support that idea ? How did you tackle the situation?

A: I think you really have to be a little open-minded when you are making films because you will not get exactly what you want and you may not get a chance to put up a set every single time because of the budget restraints. So, i write the script and when i look at the location i rewrote a few scenes so that it’ll fit into that location. If you really own the place and understand it in and out, you’ll use it to your advantage. We had to comprise on somethings but it worked better for the film.

And coming to Swapna’s room..i really wanted it to feel like a gamer’s paradise. We actually shot a lot of shots showing the gaming collection but we cut it out of the film. We literally had about 1500 PS4, PS3, PS2 games.

Even the poster which says ‘ What if life is a video game and deja vu are just checkpoints ‘ it’s metaphorical & summarizes the entire film. Also i wanted it to feel like her space where she works, sleeps, plays & feels comfortable and safe. I really wanted her to sleep on the couch all the time because shes not sleeping well, she is just playing games and passing out, so we didn’t want her to be on a bed..and it was also a very intentional decision.


Q: Is there any backstory to the different tattoo designs we seen on a particular character?

A: We really wanted Amudha’s and Swapna’s tattoos to look and feel the same.. so it seems like they’ve connected through the tattoo. We did a lot of research, we met up with different tattoo artists, we went to their space, we took a lot of photographs & we tried to understand where they are coming from, what kind of designs they do and how they do it, what is the emotion and whole idea of getting a tattoo and all that really changed my perspective. Because before making this film i thought getting a tattoo is more like a fashion statement but after meeting this people i got to know that it is a very personal & emotional undertaking & people really get it for really specific reasons. The art of tattooing also deserves a lot of respect.


Q:What went on your mind while penning the conversation scene with Swapna’s parents ?

A: I wanted to point out to different misconceptions. It is a disbelief that people with a lot of tattoos are open to a lot of things and they can be crazy etc. I really wanted to address this mindset of people who thinks like ‘ Only because you did this, you got that‘ & parents have an annoying habit after something like an accident happens they’ll keep saying ‘ I told you not to go ‘. I mean you can’t change anything right !? what happens, happens and you just have to embrace it.


Q: Is this film shot simultaneously in two languages or is it dubbed ?

A: It was shot in Tamil & Telugu. It was dubbed in Hindi.


Q: Can you tell us about your writing process ? Two people wrote the script , who comes up with ideas and how long did it take to complete the final draft?

A: It took us about 6-8 months to crack the final draft. My process is very iterational.
First, i summarize the whole film into two lines
Then I write a one page summary, talking about the basic beginning, middle and end.
Then I’ll write a 4 page treatment, where i talk about the order of events and how the story is gonna go.
Then i write the heading of each and every scene and describe the scene in one line.
Then we take each and every scene and we start writing/ elaborating it. She writes the scene first and sends it to me, then i rewrite it and send it back to her, she’ll rewrite it. t’s more of a back and forth processes of us cracking the script together.
Eventually we end up with the first draft and we discuss it with the production, they’ll give us some notes and it’s again a back and forth process. Only if i trust them inherently, i involve them in the process and discuss with them.


Q: Did the Censor Board suggest any cuts?

A: They asked me to reduce the duration of a scene where you see Amudha is suffocated by the plastic bag. The whole thing was done in a single shot. Intially it was around 42 seconds, later it was cut down to 24.


Q: Can We expect different genres from you?

A: I’d love to do different genres but I’m very particular about my actors. If i write a intense romance drama and if i don’t get the actors who can actually deliver. Then there is no point, I’m gonna kill the script. I don’t want to waste time cracking a script for one year & then I’m not able to cast for the film.


Q: Are there any workshops held for the actor before the filming started?

A: We went to Mumbai, we sat with Tapsee for 2 days. We discussed the whole script and gave me notes. Apart from that we did not have any workshops. I don’t want them to rehearse. I’d like if they are more spontaneous.


Q: Where did you learn film making ?

A: I’m a self-thought film maker. I did not do any course and i did not work under anyone. I just picked up a camera, made stuff and learned from my mistakes.


Q: You left the audience on a very high note in the End. What happens next ?

A: From the beginning this was a story about two ‘New Years‘ and what happens in between. One New Year is where this girl gets assaulted & another New Year is where she finally overcomes it. I feel in the final shot where she hears the New Year celebrations behind her, the cracker and fireworks going off. She smiles, closes her eyes and goes to seep in the darkness. That’s the final image where she closes her eyes and feels comfortable in the darkness, she’s also enjoying the fact that’s New Year and She has a New Beginning to look forward to. It was very subtle but i really like that image.


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