“I’m remaking history,” says director Badri of his upcoming film Thillu Mullu featuring Shiva and Prakash Raj

Remaking a cult film starring an iconic actor is a tough proposition. But, director Badri is confident that his version of the 1981 comedy, Thillu Mullu (starring Rajinikanth), will be more contemporary and cater to today’s generation. This despite the fact that the Superstar is still a crowd puller and the original is still in circulation on TV channels.

“When Shiva and Vendhar Movies approached me to direct the film, I was a bit anxious. The confidence to take up the film came when we met K. Balachandar, director of the original, and Rajinikanth. Remember Balachandar had broken all set perceptions when he took an acclaimed action star on board and explored his humorous side. He advised me not to approach comedy with fixed ideas. He said sometimes humorous situations, and even dialogues, would emerge on the sets when talented comedians are around. When we met Rajinikanth, he complimented Shiva for being a natural at humour and said that his depiction of the character would be more spontaneous than what he did in the original when the role was thrust on him by KB.”

The first edition of Thillu Mullu was a remake of the Hindi hit Golmaal. While it starred Rajinikanth, Madhavi, Thengai Srinivasan and Sowcar Janaki, the current version features Shiva, Isha Talwar, Prakash Raj, Kovai Sarala, Sathyan, Ilavarasu, Manobala and comedian Brahmanandam from the Telugu film industry.

Badri, who has three films to his credit (two with Sundar C and one with Bharath as heroes), ventured into Thillu Mullu with an open mind. “I wanted to make the storyline contemporary. Retaining the characters from the original, I wrote the script to suit today’s generation. Shiva is popular with the present-day filmgoers. Then, the challenge was to cast someone in Thengai Srinivasan’s role. I couldn’t think of anyone other than Prakash Raj. You will be surprised at his comic timing, and unabashed ways. He could express anger and humour so effortlessly. Further, I knew I was not just remaking a film; it was like remaking history and that gave me the impetus to proceed with the movie.”

What did he find challenging while remaking Thillu Mullu? “Replicating the interview scene featuring Thengai Srinivasan and Rajinikanth. I knew there would be comparisons. I had to work hard on the dialogue and script to make it not only different, but better as well. In my view, both Shiva and Prakash Raj have excelled in this scene.”

Badri’s association with Shiva goes back to the days of Kalakalappu for which Badri wrote the dialogue. “Shiva and I hit it off instantly and he evinced an interest in working with me at some point in future. I am glad it has happened now. With this wonderful line-up of actors, I feel, this film has the potential to become a franchise giving rise to sequels exploring different situations.”

Badri’s excitement knew no bounds when veteran music director M. S. Viswanathan agreed to collaborate with Yuvan Shankar Raja for the music. “MSV is very humble, despite his cult status. While he composed the tunes, YSR orchestrated and recorded them. Two songs from the earlier film have been remixed, while the rest are fresh tunes. Even at the age of 86, MSV is in tune with the trends and it comes through in his compositions,” says Badri.

Besides, viewers should watch out for Santhanam who reprises Kamal Haasan’s role (a cameo) in the remake, says Badri.