Director Gaurav, whose eagerly-awaited “Thoonga Nagaram” releases this week, talks about how the film came about

His first script is still under cold storage, despite the fact that director K S Ravikumar was quite impressed by it. “I had approached Studio Green's K E Gnanavel Raja with a script I had written keeping Suriya in mind. Raja suggested that I show it to Ravikumar to get his views. Ravikumar was starting work on Aadhavan and he, apparently impressed with what I had narrated, invited me to join his team. I was pleasantly surprised when he inducted me as his co-director, which was quite an honour for a greenhorn like me,” says Gaurav. The script is still on the backburner, and Gaurav hopes to make it as soon as he has a powerful actor like Suriya to do the role.

“Meanwhile, here I am with my first independent directorial venture, Thoonganagaram,” says Gaurav. “It is even more interesting how Thoonganagaram happened. I had met Durai Dayanidhi Alagiri at the Aadhavan function and mentioned to him about a story that I had written with Madurai as the backdrop. He directed me to coordinate with his Head of Production, Sushanth and work it out. As they were busy with another production it took me quite a while to get Sushanth's attention to hear out my story. But, once he did, by spending close to two hours listening to my narration, he promptly called up Durai and conveyed his thoughts. Thereafter, Durai himself listened to the entire narration and gave me the go ahead immediately,” says Gaurav.

Coming from a family of educationists, Gaurav was inclined to study. But, his heart was in movies. Acceding to parental pressure, Gaurav completed his post graduation in English literature at the American College, Madurai. Gaurav then moved to Chennai to join the Film Institute. But, before he could join, Gaurav got an opportunity to join a production by Rowther Films, for Vallarasu directed by Maharajan. “I went on to assist him for quite a few films, during which I ran into Gnanavel Raja. When my pet script didn't happen with Ravikumar because he got busy with Aadhavan, I went on to work with him in Jaggubai starring Sharatkumar.”

After Durai Dayanidhi Alagiri showed interest in Gaurav's narration of Thoonganagaram, things started moving at a dizzying pace. “I wanted all fresh faces in the film. But, Durai suggested: ‘Why don't we try out some of the newer actors who have done one film and are waiting in the wings for fresh offers? That way, we will encourage new talent and give them another opportunity to prove their talent'. Pasanga had just released and Vimal was getting noticed. Nadodigal was a successful film and Bharani was in the fray. Renigunta was doing well but Nishant was not getting any new offers. So, we signed them up and also roped in Anjali who was a hit in Angadi Theru,” explains Gaurav. But, there was this one character close to Gaurav's heart, that of Rajamani, for which he just couldn't get an actor. That's when Durai suggested that Gaurav himself should play the part; after all, he was so adept at demonstrating every facet of this character. Incidentally, Thoonganagaram is the first full-fledged production of Cloud Nine Movies.

So, was it difficult for a first time director to play a part and direct four other main characters? “It was not, mainly because, all of us worked as a team. If there was something amiss when I was facing the camera, my costars were only willing to point out the fault so that I could go for another take. This team work helped all of us to bring out our best performances in a film which was all about bonding and emotional relationships,” says Gaurav. Thoonganagaram is set in Madurai. But, unlike many films, set in the city, which thrived on violence and bloodshed, Thoonganagaram is an emotional thriller, a family entertainer. “Madurai is a city full of life, always alive with people, thanks to the Meenakshi Temple, and many other religious places in and around the city. In this city which thrives on life, the four persons who come from different towns, meet and build up a friendship. It is when they realize that all of them are destined to die, that their real will to live and counter the threat of impending death, happens. In the midst of all this, is this girl, who faces a similar predicament. The climax is the most thrilling part and will show the importance of life and death and how one should respect whatever we are destined for,” says Gaurav.