K. Bhagyaraj is all set for Siddhu Plus 2 starring son Shantanu. MALATHI RANGARAJAN catches up with the writer, director and actor

The issue can be serious or light but Bhagyaraj’s spontaneous approach is interesting. And even when he is cracking a joke he sounds quite matter-of-fact. The only time I notice him chuckle is when he talks about Shantanu – “He’s an imp,” says the proud, indulgent dad. Bhagyaraj is directing his son for ‘Siddhu Plus 2.’ It is rather intriguing that the king of screenplay didn’t launch his son himself! Particularly when he had directed daughter Charanya in her maiden film, ‘Paarijaatham,’ which was a successful comeback of sorts for the ace maker! And when from Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher and Anil Kapoor to several noteworthy names in the South, Bhagyaraj has wielded the baton for many heroes.

“At that point in time I was busy with other things. The banner was imposing, so were the technicians, and my conjecture was it would be a perfect launch pad for Shantanu,” Bhagyaraj explains. ‘Sakkarakatti,’ didn’t prove too fruitful though Shantanu acquitted himself quite creditably. (Rahman’s ‘Taxi Taxi’ refrain and the publicity it garnered for the film is history.)

“But I can assure you this! ‘Siddhu …’ will hit the bull’s eye. We’ve got a new team, Moser Baer is involved in the production, Shantanu plays his age and the narration should be a draw,” Bhagyaraj sounds confident. “I don’t want to hype it up too much. At the end of the day everything depends on the movie goer,” he adds with caution. “When I began working on the film the concept was novel. But a slight delay in production and a couple of stories with traces of ‘Siddhu …’ have emerged. Yet ‘Siddhu …’ has its originality intact.”

The slug of ‘Siddhu Plus 2’ -- ‘1st Attempt’ – evokes a smile. “You may have noticed that my films have the flavour of comedy combined with a small message. Here I’ve tried to say that academics aren’t the be all and end all of life. Teachers and parents can identify other hidden talents in children and tap them. Siddhu isn’t too brilliant in studies but he does come up in life. Ironically, his father is a school principal. Rajesh and Seetha play his parents.” Invariably Bhagyaraj lends uniqueness to all his characters – Rajesh in ‘Andha 7 Naatkal’ is an example.

“As for the daughter, if you thrust your ideas on her, she could go astray,” he says.

‘Siddhu Plus 2’ is Krishna Davinci’s story. Aren’t his screenplays usually based on his own stories? “Very rarely I do scripting for others. ‘Kanni Paruvathilae’ for my director is one such,” he says Bhagyaraj. (He always refers to Bharatiraaja as ‘my director’) Many budding filmmakers come to him seeking help to flesh out ideas better. “Yeah, I offer suggestions. For ‘Siddhu …’ somebody wanted me to work on the screenplay. Later they couldn’t pursue the project and I decided to take it up because I felt Shantanu would fill the bill.”

Surprisingly Shantanu’s second film, ‘Angel John,’ was in Malayalam with Mohanlal. “Yes, he played second hero.” But surely he must have got offers in Tamil too. “He did -- ‘Subramaniapuram’ for instance. He couldn’t take it up only because ‘Sakkarakatti’ wasn’t over and he couldn’t give dates for the new film. When the makers wanted ‘Sakkarakatti’ to be Shantanu’s debut, I wasn’t sure what could happen if ‘Subramaniapuram’ got completed first. The controversy that I rejected the project because I didn’t like the story and such yarns spun in this context are baseless,” clarifies Bhagyaraj.

A successful hero in his heyday, Bhagyaraj may not have introduced heroes, but none can forget his heroines who have debuted in Tamil with his films -- like Sulakshana and Oorvasi -- or those who made mark in his projects – Radhika, Ambika, Poornima and many more. So the female lead of ‘Siddhu …’ should also be more than mere song-and-dance fillers. “You’re right. Shanthini, the heroine, is a Chennai girl conversant with Tamil. We also have -- Kousha – from Mumbai.”

And will the hero be as witty and humorous as Bhagyaraj was in his films? “Yes, Siddhu will be more like the characters I played 20 years ago, and you will see a typical Junior Bhagyaraj in Shantanu. Of course, the film will have something for every viewer,” he assures.

According to him, daughter Charanya was a disciplined actor on the sets. So how different was directing Shantanu? “He takes it a little easy because after all I’m his father,” he says and chuckles. (As for the rest of the comment you’ll have to go up to the opening paragraph once again!)