He's on an octane higher than normal. Post-Paiyaa, director-producer N. Linguswamy can't stop gushing about the road film that hit the highway to box-office success. It's been a decade of diligence in the world of greasepaint and glory. As the small-town-boy-turned-hot-shot-film-maker waits for Vettai to roll out, he's in a mood to discuss his upcoming films and the highs and lows in his career. For a change, without the snafu associated with showbiz, we cut to the chase…
“Vettai is a cop caper. A multi-starrer, it has Arya and Madhavan playing siblings. Anushka Shetty and Sameera Reddy (in a de-glam look of a villager) too have pivotal roles. All that I've learnt during my 10-year involvement with commercial cinema will come into use in the making of this film. It's been a mixed bag of hits and misses. I know my strengths and weaknesses,” says the director.
A bilingual, Vettai's Telugu version will have Mahesh Babu and Maddy in the lead. “The film will have my stamp. It will be fast-paced and full of action. After Run and Sandakozhi which were major milestones in my career, I guess the audience expects my films to be actioners. Vettai has a sure-fire script. As a filmmaker, I look at any work from the audience's point of view first. I know this one will work.”
Maker of some slick entertainers, Linguswamy says, “A filmmaker must have evolved sensibilities — while he loves action, he must also appreciate good poetry. Ultimately, it's all about rasanais. I'm influenced by Bhagyaraj and Mani Ratnam. It would be nice to strike a balance between Bhagyaraj's flair for script and screenplay and Mani Ratnam's style of filmmaking. I'm trying hard to hone my skills and get there.”
After Bheema, Linguswamy resuscitated his commercial and critical fortunes with Paiyaa. “I see failure as a stepping stone to success. I faced a big jolt earlier when the Ajit-starrer Ji bombed at the box office.” After the path-breaking drama Anandam which was full of unexpected character moments, Linguswamy hit a new track with the run-away (!) hit Run. Next came Ji with a script as limp as yesterday's lettuce. And not surprisingly, the film sank without a trace. “I discovered I need to surprise the audience every time. In a way, failures help you stay fanatically focussed. You just have to give films your all to be successful.”
Talk about childhood in Kumbakonam's vicinity, and the director is cheery, “I knew I would be associated with films. I grew up in a family of cinema-crazy people. Even as a kid, I used to dance at temple fairs. I was attention-seeking. But my road to Kollywood wasn't a smooth one. Undeterred by the bumps, I moved ahead. Today, I'm happy to enjoy the support of good production houses and also help promising directors get a foothold in the industry.”
Linguswamy's success rate as producer (Tirupathi Brothers) is indisputable. From the Jeyam Ravi-Bhawna starrer Deepavali to the Nadia-centric Pattalam and the Karthi-Tamannah magic combination in Paiyaa, Thirupati Brothers (a banner belonging to Linguswamy and his kith and kin) has looked at diverse genres. Upcoming productions involve a slew of good talent such as Balaji Sakthivel, Prabusolomon and Mysskin. “I've been inspired by people like Shankar and Ram Gopal Varma, who direct and also produce experimental works. To survive in this field, you need to take risks and have oodles of courage. At present, there's a fresh breeze blowing across Tamil filmdom. Films such as Paruthiveeran, Subramaniapuram and Mynaa have revived our faith in rural themes and realism. The gap between big and small budget cinema has blurred. All that matters is good cinema!”