With 7aum Arivu set for release soon, director A. R. Murugadoss opens up on the various aspects of this year's much-awaited film. Malathi Rangarajan takes notes…

Quite unprepared for the small frame and self-conscious demeanour of the person before me who was introduced as the director of the film, I blinked, till I noticed the distinct brightness in his eyes. A clear give-away that he's a technician to watch out for! Otherwise A. R. Murugadoss looked more like a fresher in college, not a director who was making debut with an Ajith starrer! The film was Dheena. A decade has gone by and today Murugadoss has scaled impressive heights in Hindi cinema with Ghajni, a grosser. In between there was Ramana whose social consciousness fascinated many, and the Tamil Ghajini!

Murugadoss is now set to take the cinema world by storm with 7aum Arivu, his much-hyped film with Suriya. Why did he plump for his Ghajini hero again? “The vibes,” he says. “Ever since Ghajini happened we've been in touch. And the role in 7aum Arivu needs a strong hero of the calibre of Suriya.”

Generally, director-hero equations are hunky-dory initially, but by the time a project is complete matters sour. Murugadoss' entry was with Ajith, after which he moved on to Vijayakanth -- he is going with Suriya for the second time consecutively. “During Dheena I was more in awe of Ajith. I directed him with deference and I still feel so about him. After the film we rarely met,” explains Murugadoss. “And as for the hero and director falling out, if the film is a hit, the skirmishes are forgotten. But when it bites the dust, the blame game begins,” he laughs.

The theme spells novelty. For the first 20 minutes or so, 7aum Arivu is a period film tracking the larger than life persona of Bodhidharma, who lived in the 6{+t}{+h} Century, after which the film shifts gear to the present. “My interest perked up when I learnt that Bodhidharma's antecedents can be traced to Tamil Nadu. He was a Pallava prince who had renounced life, travelled all the way to China, established Zen Buddhism, founded the martial art of Kung-fu and is till today deified in several parts of the world, except in India! The irony is embarrassing. Just like the Ramkrishna Mutt, you find a Bodhidharma Mutt even in the U.S.,” says Murugadoss.

People there are shocked to hear that Indians know little about Bodhidharma. “Just as our temples for Lord Shiva have niches on either side for Ganesha and Muruga, every Buddhist temple in China houses a shrine for Bodhidharma to the left of the sanctum sanctorum of Gautama Buddha.”

Called Da Mo (Master) in China and Ta Mo in Japan, he lived till the age of 150 and spent a whole nine-year period inside a cave facing a wall, meditating! “For 7aum Arivu I have used just a glass of water from a huge sea of intrigue. He is a master who deserves to be made known to our folks for the philosophy he stood for and the art form he created, particularly because he hailed from here!” Murugadoss' admiration for the Buddhist saint is palpable.

Striking gold

The project, kick-started a couple of years ago, involved nearly 10 months of extensive research, plot development and scripting. Yet he found time to turn producer! By zeroing in on director Saravanan for his first production, Engaeyum Eppodhum, Murugadoss has struck gold.

“Fox Star Studios was willing to join hands and promote new talents. I want to encourage fresh ideas, but sadly many of our youngsters seem to be caught in the warp of Paruththi Veeran,” he laughs.

The knot and narrative of 7aum Arivu had Murugadoss slogging it out. “For all that, it was my assistants who went about with the spadework,” Murugadoss smiles. “The 6th Century segment is completely authentic. My imagination takes wing only in the contemporary part of the tale.”

The Shruti Haasan factor has also kindled curiosity about 7. “Yeah, we chose her because she looks both intelligent and beautiful – a blend I was looking for. She plays a scientist. And be it Ravi K. Chandran or Rajeevan, their contributions have been singular,” commends Murugadoss. “Also Peter Hein has done a lot of reference to make the stunts genuine. After all we are showcasing the movements of a master. So has Harris. He has used 6{+t}{+h} Century instruments for the period sequences.”

That the hype for 7aum Arivu has already made many pull out of the Deepavali race should be a morale booster. “All the same, exam means tension. During the days of Ramana I was jogging on a local ground, now I run on a racing track amidst stiff competition,” he laughs.

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