Director Manikandan on his upcoming Chikku Bukku, a film that begins in London and ends in Karaikkudi

Almost every line Manikandan utters is punctuated with a mention of his mentor, cinematographer-director Jeeva. When the entire unit was in a state of shock after Jeeva's sudden death during the making of Dhaam Dhoom, the responsibility of completing the film fell on K. Manikandan, Jeeva's associate in direction from the days of 12B. Impressed with Manikandan's capability to rise to the occasion, Media One Global Entertainment, the production house of Dhaam Dhoom, is going with him again. The film, Chikku Bukku, will have Arya and Shriya Saran as the lead players.

The title suggests that trains will be the distinguishing feature of the ambience. “Yes, I've conceived Chikku Bukku as a romantic travelogue. The film begins in London and ends in Karaikkudi. And be it love, action or pathos, the train will be seen in the background as an important part of the milieu,” says Manikandan. Does the film travel on various tracks? “Two, the hero's and heroine's, but though the lines run parallel, they converge at a point.” They have to!

The lead players

The pairing is new and, going by the promo stills, refreshing. “I've known Arya since the time of Jeeva's Ullam Kaetkumae. We share a great comfort level. Till date, his chirpiness is intact and he is perfect romance material. So naturally Arya was my first choice,” laughs Manikandan. Again Manikandan wanted a heroine who is exuberant in real life. “Shriya is just that,” he smiles. Preetika Rao, model, and actor Amrita Rao's sister, enters the fray with Chikku Bukku.

Most of the technicians from Jeeva's camp have found a place in Chikku Bukku — lens man R.B. Gurudev and dialogue writer S. Ramakrishnan to name a couple. “Gurudev follows Jeeva's way of lighting, tones and angles to a T. You must have noticed his work in films such as Yogi and Urchaagam. As for Ramakrishnan, I find his dialogue and inputs for the screenplay, worthy. Jeeva felt the same,” he explains.

But unlike Jeeva who always plumped for Harris Jeyaraj, Manikandan's flick has Hariharan and Leslie scoring the music. “The ‘Colonial Cousins' had earlier worked in Saran's Modhi Vilayaadu, produced by the same Media One banner and as I like their compositions we zeroed in on them,” says Manikandan.

Jeeva was a class apart as far as filming of song sequences went… “That was exactly why I was apprehensive when he passed away without shooting the songs of Dhaam Dhoom,” recalls Manikandan. “Eventually everyone was happy with my work.”

While Jeeva was never known to go in for a separate comedy track, Santhanam has been roped in for Chikku Bukku. “But Santhanam is part of the story,” clarifies Manikandan.

Chikku Bukku seems to be taking its own time to roll out. “Arya was busy with Madrasa Pattinam and Boss Engira Bhaskaran. Later we had to wait for the climate to turn conducive enough for us to shoot in London. Such things are inevitable,” he shrugs.

No jerks were seen in Dhaam Dhoom though two directors had wielded the baton for it. “Having been with Jeeva throughout, I've imbibed his style of filmmaking. I may not crank the camera but I have an eye for detail, thanks to his training,” he says and adds, “Jeeva was a great motivator. ‘Think big and be confident about whatever you take up,' he would say. I'm sure Chikku Bukku will work,” Manikandan signs off.