It has no grandeur, no unbelievable twists and certainly no glamorous faces. But ‘Nadhaswaram’ has captured the viewers’ attention and retained its place in the prime slot of 7.30 p.m. on Sun TV. What actually made one take a serious look at the episodes initially was the presence of Mouli. What was this multi-talented artist doing in a TV soap, when you thought he had given up the small screen?

“Well, I hadn’t given up. Only nothing suitable came my way,” clarifies Mouli. Life seems to have come a full circle for Mouli, who charmed theatre-goers over three decades ago as the naïve nagaswaram vidwan in “Flight 172.” This time round, the canvas is much larger, as he plays the patriarch of a large family. Kind and compassionate, he has a soft corner for girls, whom he believes should be cherished.

Mature and poised, Mouli’s expressions are a delight to watch. The wry humour, words with the right intonation, the flicker of the eyes, twitching of the mouth and the body language all do the talking for this versatile artist. An apt foiI is ‘Poovilangu’ Mohan, short-tempered younger brother and nagaswaram partner.

Mouli was last seen in ‘Kalasam.’ “That was on the request of Ramya (Krishnan),” he supplies. “Sundaram and Co,” two decades ago, was interesting. “That was my own production. Generally I’m wary of serials,” says Mouli and earnestly gives his reasons. “They are driven by the TRP. In order to capture the top place or sustain it, the channels go to any length. Several people handle the script and the episodes, so much so that you can never pin down the responsibility.”

What then made him take the plunge?”

“The main factor was Thirumurugan, director. Someone drew my attention to his ‘Metti Oli,’ which was making waves and I liked what I saw. When Thirumurugan approached me, I was receptive. And when he reassured me that the script and the episodes would be handled by him I was convinced.”

Has the director kept his promise? “Absolutely. Each character is well-defined and consistent. And that includes mine. The story journeys on a well-charted course without jerky interpolations and deviations. More important, we rehearse the scenes, just as I would for my films. Preparation helps a great deal when we face the camera. ”

Did he learn to play the nagaswaram? “Yes, I did,” is the prompt reply. “A vidwan in a Karaikkudi temple taught me to hold the instrument and the blowing technique. Incidentally, temples there are looked after very well by the Chettiar community and they patronise art, especially nagaswaram, in a big way.”

Another aspect that catches the eye is the army of newcomers. Poovilangu Mohan and Rangadurai are the only familiar faces. “They were all rural and raw. But were willing to learn. None had faced a camera before and were perturbed by the show of emotions. Angry outbursts (they thought it was real) made them go into a shell until it was explained that it was part of the drama. Gradually they got the hang of it. It was worth the effort.”

How is the experience on the whole? “I love it. The innocence of the people, rustic locations, mostly in Karaikkudi, and the ambience...”

What is the director’s take on the project? Handling a whole group of new faces is no mean task. Thirumurugan is doing it with élan. “Well, the credit goes to the senior actors,” he says. “Both Mouli and Poovilangu Mohan were supportive even in the beginning. They guided the actors with great patience and waited for them to come to terms with the camera and the concept of shooting. Actually that has been a great plus as far as production is concerned.”

Has it not been a risk? “Looking back, yes. But I never thought of it on those lines. I was determined to try something different. ‘Metti Oli’ was urban-based with touches of the village. This time round I wanted to tackle a subject totally rural-based. Next was cast-hunting. The criterion here was not appearance. Only common people, who you would come across on the street, have been chosen. (Malar, EB officer, is an exception.) Remember, there is a hero/heroine in everyone. They have their own ambitions and desires. Looks don’t matter. My story revolves round such people.”

Does that include the director, who plays one of the main characters? “Yes,” he guffaws. “How could I resist the temptation when it is my own production (Thiru Pictures) and Sun TV offered the prime slot without asking questions?”

How mega will be ‘Nadhaswaram?’

“A good storyline takes the writer forward. I don’t believe in stretching the story beyond its logical possibilities. It will end when all the loose ends are neatly tied.”

Fair enough. After all it is crisp handling that has endeared the viewers to Thirumurugan.

Some details...

Few sets are used. The locations, generally, are real… Karaikkudi, Tiruppullani, Coimbatore and so on.

One of the episodes was made in a single shot and telecast without commercial breaks.

Soon, Tirumurugan will start work on a film.

Keywords: television soap