Venkat Prabhu talks to Udhav Naig about the ingredients that went into the making of his soon-to-be-released film Biriyani
With Biriyani set for release, the movie’s director Venkat Prabhu has been incessantly fending off questions about the Censor Board’s refusal to grant a ‘U’ certificate because the film contains drinking scenes. Sitting in a prominent film lab in the city, he is working against the clock to get the film out on December 20 and wonders why there is so much curiosity about what he did outside the set. I ask him if he is flustered about the relentless spotlight on his lifestyle. “I have stopped going out these days,” he says, adding, “I work hard on my films just like anyone else. My liberal lifestyle doesn’t affect my work.”
Even as he is deciding on the cuts, Venkat politely, but firmly, disagrees with the Censors. “They allow violence and glamour, but not this?” he says, adding with a shrug, “People have moved on.”
In his endeavour to make what he calls ‘simple, uncomplicated films’, Venkat’s movies are about how ‘normal people who do normal things’ find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. “Maybe that’s why a lot of people easily relate to my films,” he adds.
The filmmaker seems to have stuck to this motif even in his upcoming film, Biriyani. “It’s about how two guys (Karthi and Premgi Amaren), after a night of drinking, go out to eat biriyani and find themselves in the middle of an elaborate conspiracy,” he reveals. Unlike his previous movies, Biriyani was conceived of as a star vehicle. “I wrote all my previous films for the boys.” The ‘boys’ refers to regulars seen in most of his films — Vaibhav Reddy, Arvind Akash, Premgi Amaren and others.
The film was originally written for actor Vijay, who, he says, liked the idea. Since he was busy it went to Suriya, who couldn’t find time either. Then, the producers, Studio Green, mooted the idea of casting Karthi. After it was decided that Karthi, whose recent films have struggled to do well, was going to play the lead, the script was re-written. “I didn’t want to feature him as a superhero. I wanted him to be like any person we see in life. We wanted to change his looks completely.” He speaks highly of the actor’s commitment. “He was so involved in the film that he would even remember something we shot six months ago and would insist that we use that specific shot in the film. After a point, I had to tell him to chill out and that I was here to make a simple film,” he says with a chuckle.
How does he manage disagreements with big stars? “It is easy to tell the boys to mind their business; with bigger stars, I say the same thing in a nicer way,” he says. “I am okay with accommodating different views as long as they enrich my film.”
Does he ever see himself making a serious film in the near future? “Yes,” he says reluctantly. “For me, films are meant to give you a good time in the theatre. Value for money. But when I portrayed a gay couple in Goa, people didn’t like it,” he says. He signs off revealing his plans to make a ‘fun’ horror film, presumably, with his boys. But that has to wait as he will begin work on his next, a Suriya film, early 2014.