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chat Director Karu Pazhaniappan on what it was like playing the lead in his just released Mandhira Punnagai

straddling two worlds Karu Pazhaniappan with Meenakshi in Mandhira Punnagai
straddling two worlds Karu Pazhaniappan with Meenakshi in Mandhira Punnagai

I n keeping with the fad among present day directors, Karu Pazhaniappan has played the lead and also helmed the just released Mandhira Punnagai. Guru Parthepan's influence?

“Not at all, I decided to don the grease paint mainly because it's not the regular hero role. It's about a man without any of the defined qualities of a film hero. My protagonist has grey shades and doesn't give much thought to the impression his words create on those around him. So producer Karthik, my friend for 15 years, and I, felt that I should do it myself,” begins Pazhaniappan. Only at the work spot did the filmmaker find straddling the two vital areas extremely challenging. “I wonder how time and again Parthepan pulls off production, direction and acting all together,” he smiles.

When his assistant Surya came up with a one-liner, Pazhaniappan saw the scope it offered. “And we developed it into a full-fledged story. I liked the honesty of the hero and went for it,” he says. The filmmaker has always been fascinated by Jayakanthan's forthrightness in real life and when he found the hero's nature akin to it, he decided it should be worthwhile. Has he met the writer? “No, I prefer to admire him from afar,” he laughs.

Pazhaniappan's last release was the well-made Pirivom Sandhippom with Sneha and Cheran. In fact, be it the successful Parthiban Kanavu or the unviable Sivappadhikaram, the sincerity of Pazhaniappan, the creator, has always come through. So it's enigmatic that despite the name he has earned, his Sadhurangam starring Srikanth and Sonia Agarwal, which was probably ready even before Pirivom … is still to see the light of day. In fact, there was a lot of positive talk about the film when it was in the making. “It's still very fresh and should come out in a month or so,” he maintains.

Self-confidence, his hallmark

Self-confidence is Pazhaniappan's hallmark. Hits or misses, he seems to take them in his stride. The director-actor is interesting interview material because he doesn't mince words. Generally, a debut-making hero is cautious about his comments and observations. Not Pazhaniappan! How does he rate himself as a performer? “Two and a half on a scale of one to five,” is the reply.

As far as I can remember Pazhaniappan has never gone abroad for shoots. “Right, why should I when our country abounds in scenic locations,” is his poser.

“The only out-of-Chennai sequence in Mandhira … was shot in Chikmagalur. If your content is good, these things don't matter,” he contends.

Choice of heroine

His settling for Meenakshi, who didn't have much to do after her debut with Karan in Karuppasamy Kuthagaidharar, is intriguing. “Frankly I wanted a heroine who could give me 65 days at a stretch. I couldn't have got it from the big names. Meenakshi herself was surprised. ‘I've never shot for more than 25 days for a film,' she said. We took 68. And mark my words she'll come in for more praise than I do,” he avers. Meenakshi has worked hard on the role. Pazhaniappan engaged a teacher conversant in both Bengali (Meenakshi's mother tongue) and Tamil, and the heroine was trained to speak the language. “It took time but she did it,” he commends.

Will he continue to act? “Yes, under other directors too! Innumerable stories around us are waiting to be told. I wish to perform in some of them at least.”

On the face of it, the needle of success ought to point towards Mandhira Punnagai more because the cast includes Santhanam, whose popularity has soared after Boss Engira Bhaskaran, and Thambi Ramaiah, the much-appreciated jailer in Mynaa. “Honestly, their present popularity has augured well for Mandhira … Santhanam is with me throughout the film.” Pazhaniappan plays an architect, and Santhanam, a civil engineer. “And Ramaiah's role is very new.”

Mandhira … has imposing technicians. “It's a big budget film all right. Rajeevan's artwork, Nalini Sriram's costume, Ramnath Shetty's camera and Vidyasagar's music combine to present a treat for viewers,” assures the maker, and adds, “It's a story that everyone has seen or heard in real life. And I believe I've narrated it well.”

Why has the film got a U/A certification? “Come on, haven't you watched it,” is his instant counter.

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