Director Selva embarks on a time-travel with his 25th film “Naanga” featuring nine actors — all hailing from film families. T. Krithika Reddy on what makes the work unique…

Men with unruly curls and black-rimmed glasses, dressed in big-collared, notice-me shirts, and flared trousers with waist-cinching wide belts… Going by the pictures of director Selva's “Naanga,” you would think it's yet another nostalgic take on an era that had a definitive style.

But Selva's film is more than just a throwback to the 1980s. The director hits a different path with his nine pivotal characters who switch to flashback mode to recall their student days and celebrate love through their stories. “Five love stories coalesce to form a gripping whole. It's a film about nine friends. They meet decades after their campus days in the 1980s and relate their love stories. Since the film swings from the present to the past, I had to create a distinct look for the characters for the flashback sequences,” says the director excitedly.

The excitement in his voice is not without reason. For the first time, nine actors drawn from various film families in the South feature in a Tamil film. “All the boys who play significant roles are sons of film personalities and technicians. Barring one actor, the rest make their debut with this film,” says the director, who has proved over the years that he's not afraid of trying out new faces.

Having introduced actors Ajith, Sibiraj, ‘Thalaivasal' Vijay, Sanghavi, Jai Akash et al to Tamil films, the director adds, “While stars have their strengths on the sets, newcomers too have their pluses. They are open-minded and follow directions to a T. Some of the actors who feature in this film were not even born in the early 1980s, so they were able to look at life and love from a fresh perspective. And that's quite a contrast to what they experience in reality as youngsters in today's world.”

From Santhana Bharathi's son Sanjay Krishna and playback singer Mano's son Sagar to music director Vasu Rao's son Munish and production manager T.V. Sasi's son Varun, the film has a plethora of new faces. “In all, we have five heroes, two comedians and two villains. It's the screenplay that synchronises all the disparate elements and the five love stories,” discloses the director, who has wrapped up shoot. “The music re-recording is happening now. Balabharati has come up with a melodious score in keeping with the theme of love. ‘Naanga' will hit the screens in April.”

Love themes

The director whose two-decade career spans a range of films such as Ajith's debut “Amaravathi”, “Thalaivasal”, “Naan Avan Illai” and its sequel, believes love themes always click. “Recently, we did an informal research and asked people to recall the most unforgettable moment in their life. Invariably, everyone reminisced about their on-campus crush! ‘Naanga' is a result of that study.”

The 25-films-old director, who has seen phenomenal success and numbing failures, says it takes a long while to recover from a box-office disaster. “Success does nothing to you. You just move on to the next work. But flops leave you feeling low for a while. After all, filmmaking is a business and filmmakers would love to ensure at least minimum guarantee!”

Does that justify his penchant for remakes? “Not really. I updated K. Balachander's ‘Naan Avan Illai' for today's audience, because it was such a powerful film that was timeless in its appeal. But for ‘Guru En Aalu', only the germ of an idea was picked up from the Hindi hit ‘Yes Boss.' Spin-offs click sometimes — not always! A lot depends on the power of the script, treatment and packaging.”

For his next film too, Selva hopes to rope in his band of new boys. “Yes, I will feature the same lot. It'll be a tech-driven theme,” he reveals.