Even as his 51st film gears up for release, veteran director Suresh Krissna enters the small screen tomorrow (May 7) with a mega, named after his all-time hit, Aaha. Malathi Rangarajan writes…
The promos announcing the arrival of ‘Aahaa,' Vijay TV's new mega opening tomorrow, makes me curious for at least two reasons. That Suresh Krissna, who directed the feel-good feature with the same name a few years ago, is the helmsman of a television endeavour, and that a sequel to a big screen grosser should be satisfied with a small screen presence! “Firstly, ‘Aahaa' isn't a sequel,” smiles Suresh Krissna. Except for Banupriya and Delhi Ganesh, the actors who were part of the film, and now the soap, all the characters are new. So is the storyline.”
The filmmaker who has directed 50 films in all languages of the South, including Baasha, the all-time favourite of Rajnikanth fans, and Aalavandhaan with Kamal Haasan, and several Hindi films, turning to television? “Why not? Today, TV has a huge market. It's all about satellite value and popular viewing. Very big players are entering the arena,” he avers. “And it's not as though I'm giving up cinema. I plan a judicious balance of the box and the big screen.” A pioneering move, you could say, because generally you don't find directors straddling TV and cinema.
After Ilaignan, his last film in Tamil, Krissna had camped in nearby Karnataka to shoot a 3D film with Upendra in the lead. “Ambarish, another big name in Kannada, is the villain and Ramya — she's known as Divya Spandana here — the heroine. So Katarai Veera Sura Sundarangi should release in a month from now,” he says about his 51st film. This travel from one language film to the other has been a norm with Suresh Krissna ever since he began wielding the megaphone. But when work on KVSS began, he must have already begun shooting ‘Aahaa.' “Yeah, I was simultaneously working on KVSS. Quite a task, but I enjoyed it. Aaha is still a film close to my heart and I'm making the serial on the same lines, though it's a different story altogether. I've retained the flavour, the values of the joint family system and the humour of its counterpart,” says Suresh Krissna.
But what could have made him embark on a serial when he's busy in cinema? “That Aaha, the film, has been telecast in various channels more than a 100 times, exemplifies the popularity it commands. So when Sriram and Pradeep of Vijay TV met me a couple of years ago, it was to make a sequel of the film for the big screen. I worked on the story and screenplay and when things were nearly complete, the channel decided to postpone the venture and suggested we do it for television instead. So the two-and-half hour script had to be transformed into a soap, with a story that's entirely different from the film. I liked the new challenge and decided to go ahead,” he explains.
No sob saga this
“And ‘Aahaa' won't have any of the negative attributes of a soap — no unnecessary protraction of episodes or melodrama. I've shot it crisply as I would a film. ‘Aahaa' isn't a sob saga. And you will not find each episode being rounded off on a suspenseful note just for the sake of it,” he assures.
If the soap is going to be like a film, music should be a prominent segment. “Of course, we have recorded four songs already. Karthik Raja is our composer. With touches of dad Ilaiyaraja, his music also breathes uniqueness.” Having worked with Ilaiyaraja for many of his films, including his maiden, Sathya, with Kamal Haasan, Krissna should know.
He feels the small screen assignment isn't too different from working on a film. “Except that, here, you don't have the constraint of length. In cinema, you are constantly thinking of footage and the time span of a scene. And in ‘Aahaa,' significance isn't restricted to any single role. Everyone is equally important.” Hence the tagline, ‘All about hearts'? “That's the idea,” smiles Krissna.
Dialogue, courtesy Crazy Mohan, was a highlight of Aaha. “I wanted him on board for the television project too. But he was busy with his stage commitments,” Suresh Krissna replies. Options were few but when Krissna caught up with the Tamil theatre scene, he found the right writer in ‘Chitralaya' Sriram, a playwright, who's making a mark with Y. Gee. Mahendra's plays. “Sriram was very enthusiastic and has come up with excellent lines. I think it has to do with the genes. He's the son of ace humorist ‘Chitralaya' Gopu,” laughs Krissna. “He has an individual style, which is working out really well.”
“‘Aahaa' is a healthy peep into a household of a joint family in Kumbakonam. The viewer would love to have a sister-in-law like the character Banupriya portrays, or a grandma like the one you'll get to see. Seema is playing it and the role fits her to a T,” smiles Krissna. “The hero, Benito, is so much at home in the part that the unit addresses him as Harsha, his name in ‘Aahaa.' You may have had a glimpse of him in Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya. Also, he was the young Shirdi Saibaba in the Vijay TV serial. And remember Somayajulu of Sankarabharanam? His brother Ramanamurthy is the grandpa,” Krissna lists his cast. ‘Aahaa' also has ‘Prabhu Deva' Balaji.
Aaha was a lively and colourful film that drew audiences. “In ‘Aahaa' too, the fun, frolic and festivity of the big screen attempt will be intact. We've shot it in Chennai, Kumbakonam and Dubai. A breezy entertainer is all set to enter your drawing rooms. Welcome it,” Krissna smiles with confidence.