Malathi Rangarajan talks to the writer-director K. S. Ravikumar about what it takes to give a string of successes.
In a career spanning nearly two decades and a box office score that averages more than 75 per cent, K.S. Ravikumar, whose Aadhavan hits the screens on Friday, has proved time and again that he is a producer’s director. “Meticulous planning and execution are the keys,” he smiles when you catch up with him for a tête-À-tête at his office. Casual yet cautious, his inputs on his work, in general, and Aadhavan, in particular, throw light on the tenacity and diligence of the man.
“When a producer comes to me with the date of release in mind I begin to work out the schedules in reverse order and see to it that the targets are met on time. For instance, the overseas prints have to be ready five days earlier to the opening date, which means the film has to go to the Censor Board two days prior to it and so on,” he explains. Sticking to deadlines has generally worked for him. In fact, the industry knows that Ravikumar invariably completes shoots ahead of schedule. Aadhavan isn’t an exception. He nods: “I gave the reels for DI [Digital Intermediate] on August 16, because 40 days were required for the job.”
The pattern of working has been the same from his first film, Puriyaadha Pudhir. “The budget was Rs.30 lakh for 30 days at the rate of Rs.1 lakh a day. I finished it in 29 and saved the producer a lakh.”
Yet, as it is team work, several things could go awry. “Of course, I anticipate problems that could arise and have a different scheme worked out for contingencies,” he says. From Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan to Ajith and Sarathkumar, he has directed them all. Aadhavan is his first with Suriya, an actor who is said to be extremely industrious. “You can’t single out Suriya as the only toiler because each of them slogs. Suriya is one of them.” Ask him about the genre that Aadhavan will fit into and he first wishes to know when the interview will go in print. “If it is going to appear before the release, I don’t wish to divulge much,” he laughs. “It has action and sentiment like all my films. And comedy will be in tune with the story. Vadivelu has done a good job.”
For the first time Ravikumar and Harris Jeyaraj have come together for Aadhavan. “Harris loves to compose duets. Exactly the opposite of Rahman who is reluctant to do them,” he says.
Saroja Devi, a top yesteryear heroine, is a surprising inclusion in the cast. “When I met her in Singapore a couple of years ago I told her that I was an ardent fan of hers. She smilingly replied that it was mutual and she didn’t miss a single film of mine. Later, when I called her up for the role she said, ‘It’s 12 years since I stood in front of the camera. But being your fan I’ll accept the offer.’”
Ravikumar has elicited a promise from Suriya that he wouldn’t undertake dangerous stunts in future. “Suriya has done some very risky shots for Aadhavan. I understand his enthusiasm. But he can’t afford to be reckless,” says Ravikumar. He remembers seeing Sarathkumar in hospital after he nearly kissed death while shooting for a stunt scene some years ago. Sarath had to jump down from a high-rise, and instead of falling on the centre of the net held out for him, his neck hit the rod at the end of it. “The neck was nearly broken and the doctors gave him just one per cent chance of survival! When I went to see him, two screws had been fixed on either side of his forehead to keep the head immobile, so that the small part of the neck-bone which was holding it didn’t give way. He recovered and returned to do his first positive role. It was my maiden film,’ he recalls. (Sarath was playing anti roles till then). The duo went on to churn out all-time hits such as Naattamai. Jaggu Bhai will be their 10th film together!
It must have been disconcerting when Jaggu Bhai, earlier announced with Rajinikanth as hero, got shelved. “It was God’s will,” he shrugs.
Ravikumar worked as assistant to various directors for a decade before the chance to direct came his way. “That’s because till date I’ve never knocked at a producer’s door for an opportunity. Nor have I approached a big hero for dates. I can never do it. I made 10 small films before producers began to approach me. It’s not conceit. It isn’t ego either. Probably it is the conviction that God knows what to give me and when …”
On his consistent success he says, “I never touch a story unless I’m confident that it will provide minimum guarantee for the producer. That goes for Aadhavan too.”
Ravikumar makes it a point to make an appearance in all his ventures. So he will be seen in Aadhavan and its Telugu version Ghatikudu. The acting bug seems to be biting him quite strongly because he dons the greasepaint in outside ventures too. “It’s just a goodwill gesture from one maker to another. I don’t charge them, unless it involves say a week or more of work.” He was last seen making a dramatic entry a la Rajini in Satru Mun Kidaitha Thagaval. He guffaws: “That was for Kanal Kannan. I introduced him as stunt choreographer and he wished to turn actor with Satru Mun …