Director Nesan talks about his pet project Jilla and getting actor Vijay on board

When actor Vijay agreed to do Nesan’s Jilla after listening to the script for a full two and a half hours, the director was ecstatic. But he waited two long years to hear back from the actor. Despite knowing Vijay almost always keeps his word, Nesan grew restless.

 As time went by, Nesan decided to move on with his Telugu film. “You won’t believe it, on the day of getting the advance from a Telugu producer, Vijay called me and said that I am directing his next film,” he says. He took the next flight to Chennai and met the actor, who promised that “everything required to make Jilla the way I envisioned will be made available”. Nesan had previously made Muruga, in which, he says, he had to compromise a lot in terms of content and production value. And he decided he would have none of it this time around. With RB Choudary on board, the film became big.  

Luckily, Nesan met Vijay when the actor was going though a transformation which offset any apprehensions the director would have had with regard to tweaking the content to suit Vijay’s image. “After working in films such as Nanban and Thuppakki, he was very clear that the film should be sensible and closer to life. If I narrated a stunt scene where he was doing something unrealistic, he would stop me and ask me to keep it simple.” Yet, one cannot take Vijay out of a Vijay film. It is a film set in Madurai. “But, it won’t focus on the rural Madurai which we have seen in many films. In Jilla, I have tried to showcase a Madurai in transition: semi-modern, a more urban Madurai. It is not just a film to prop-up the hero, there is a story in it.” Unwilling to elaborate on the role Malayalam superstar Mohanlal is playing, Nesan says that he is Vijay’s guru in the film. “When I was at the film institute, I used to watch a lot of Malayalam films. I couldn’t think of anyone other than Lal when I wrote this character,” smiles Nesan.