Should Vishal have read Tolstoy?

We expected a response from Mysskin sooner than later. Vishal’s version of events is one that left Mysskin with no choice but to state his side of the story too. Silence would have been interpreted either as a dignified abstinence or as an acceptance of Vishal’s insinuations, more the latter. But, should Vishal have read Tolstoy or Dostoyevesky to prove himself worthy of working with Mysskin, and asking questions of his working style? In his rather emotional outburst, Mysskin said many times about the authors he has read and Vishal has not. One wonders the relevance of those remarks. Was Mysskin trying to rub in his intellectual superiority?

Well, maybe he is much more widely read than Vishal or any other actor in the industry. But, in a straightforward director-producer face off, the intellectual superiority of the director is not going to be a factor, and we did expect Mysskin to be aware of such simple facts. This was not about how many books Vishal or Mysskin had read, this dispute was about how quickly and cost effectively a movie could be completed and how much a director deserved to be paid. Mysskin did say in his speech that he had asked for a higher pay than what he received in Thupparivalan 1, and that’s where the dispute started and spiralled into everything that we are hearing now. It’s a pay dispute which ought to have been settled in the most gentlemanly of ways. Was Mysskin right in demanding a higher salary on the back of the success of Thupparivalan 1 and Psycho?

Absolutely, everyone irrespective of profession, expects to be rewarded for their success and in a profession as fickle as cinema, success has to be milked because a failure is always round the corner. Was Vishal right in tightening the purse strings when a director, who had given him the elusive big success, asked him for a hike? Well, that’s how employers work, right? All of us who have been employed know that even the most glowing annual appraisal might not fetch us a sizeable increment. But, how often do we see employees and managers having public spats over this?

Mysskin and Vishal have been around for well over a decade now. They know the ways of the industry, the ways of the world, and as Mysskin himself claimed, he has read a lot. But in the three days around the Thupparivalan 2 first look reveal, we saw none of that wisdom. Instead, Vishal played the part of the infuriated boss giving his ex-employee a bad reccomendation letter, and Mysskin played the part of the hurt employee having drinks at the local bar and bad mouthing his ex-boss.

One can safely say that even the most maligned boy of Tamil cinema, STR, has shown more wisdom under similar circumstances (this is not in any way a justification of anything STR has done over the years). And one wonders where all of Mysskin’s reading wisdom disappeared when he chose a dias that had nothing to do with Thupparivalan 2 or Vishal Film Factory to let out his angst. And, who gave him the inflated sense of self-importance to pompously claim that he was doing the event a favour by opening up about his professional problems – nobody asked!

That brings us to the first question again, did Vishal need to have read Tolstoy to talk about budget constraints of a movie? Would he have had the nerve to ask the same of a Kalaipuli Thanu or to someone from Lyca? Conversely, does Mysskin have dashboard abs or can he do the action sequences that a Vishal does? This rant has exposed Mysskin’s attitude that he is the be all and end all of a movie, a lack of the basic understanding that cinema is teamwork where no one is more important than the other. Again, the infalted sense of self-importance.

One wonders where all the accumulated wisdom from reading all that he claims to have read disappeared in that instant. Does reading  only mean that he picks names, like he has done for himself, from world literature? Insert a Sylvia Plath, Kamala Das and other such names at random places in his films to prove a point. That’s what we call showboating, something that the Karunas’ character from Polladhavan did with his Harry Potter references.

Should any actor who is cast in a Mysskin movie spend a year reading up international literature to consider himself worthy of acting in the movie? What was Mysskin trying to get at? Maybe even after having read all that he claims to have read, Mysskin has not come across the saying ‘an empty vessel makes more noise’, and in this exchange of words Mysskin has come across as more empty than Vishal. At least, Vishal did not call anyone ‘porukki’.

The best part of Mysskin’s speech was however his detailed descriptions of the troubles he took to write a story. The hemorrhage in his posterior seems to have troubled him a lot during his writing exercise. Our sympathies are with him for the bloddy ass. But, what did he expect his producer to do for that? What relevance does that have in a straightforward dispute where the director and producer could not agree on a number between 3 and 5 crores?

Vishal’s accusations that Mysskin spent nearly 14 crores of his money were met with an explanation from the director that he has spent 8 crores at the most, with generous estimations. He asked the press to pester Vishal for proof of the 14 crores. And yet, he conveniently slipped away from providing any proof of Vishal’s alleged foul mouthed tirade that included a reference to his mother. Yes, he said he has a record of that, but one finds it highly unlikely that Mysskin, or anyone for that matter, will have a pocket recorder, cam or anything switched on when going in for a meeting that is expected to be a normal discussion of whether he should be paid 3 or 5 crores or anything in between.

Even if he had any recording device switched on, why not reveal the proof right there without delay, just like hehad expected Vishal to do. Maybe Tolstoy’s principles did not allow an immediate revelation of the proof.

The point is, pay disputes are commonplace in all walks of life. Everyone who has ever been employed has felt that he/she is being paid less than deserved. And, an employer has always felt that he pays more than what is necessary. That is the way the world functions, and we all live with these disagreements. It’s no suprise that a producer and director had a pay disagreement in their second venture. But, professionals as experienced as Vishal and Mysskin need to have handled it in a far more clean manner. And, with all his claims of having read so much, one did expect a far more restrained approach from Mysskin. Apparently, he has not read everything that he claims to have, or he has read them only as words and not in the spirit that they were intended. Yes, Vishal did fire the first shot, and it was a shot that could not have been let off without a response, because it questioned the credibility of Mysskin. But, the way Mysskin has retaliated shows the kind of low esteem in which he holds actors and producers. In his mind, there seems to exist a class divide which separates the well read from the rest. But, what benefit of all that reading if you can’t hold yourself back from calling a colleague ‘porukki’ on stage?

This is where we feel immense respect for the likes of Bala and Vikram. It’s sure that they must have gone through some very tough discussions and negotiations before deciding to part ways over Varma. But, not for a moment did either party resort to any public mud slinging on each other. Bala and Vikram may not have read Tolstoy, but they know how to respect each other, which is exactly what should have happened with Thupparivalan 2 too.

The Malayalm industry had two recent instances. One, was when Sajeev Pillai was removed from Mamankam after his direction was reportedly found unsatisfactory. Yes, there was a fair bit of talk from both sides. But, not once did it stoop to the level of name calling. And, in another instance, camps of both Mohanlal and Mammootty announced a project based on the same historical figure, Kunjali Marakkar.

 In what could have been a tsunami in the industry, the maturity with which both camps handled it, especially Priyadarshan and Santhosh Shivan, diffused the entire dispute. Now, the movie is ready for release. We have seen Gautham Menon parting ways with Suriya and Vijay over different projects, but never once did a word fell out of place. With so many examples to follow, the widely read Mysskin took the route no one expected him to. And he has the nerve to liken it to the Kurukshethra battle. Let’s hope good sense prevails and that we have heard the last of this dispute, because the industry does not need this.