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`A director first, an actor next'

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RUNNING TO PACKED HOUSES: Thavamai Thavamirundu
RUNNING TO PACKED HOUSES: Thavamai Thavamirundu

S. R. ASHOK KUMAR

Cheran on `Thavamai Thavamirundu,' box-office hit, critically acclaimed.

Tamil films should win laurels at the international level. But they should also be seen by our own people and appreciated.

Although he has directed nearly half a dozen films, it was "Autograph," box-office hit and winner of several awards, that brought Cheran into the limelight. Now ``Thavamai Thavamirundu" is running to packed houses. It was ``Sollamarantha Kadhai," directed by Thankar Bachan, that saw Cheran don the grease paint for the first time. Inspired by the success of his second film "Autograph," he took on the lead role in "Thavamai... ", which is centred on a father's affection for his sons and which has been extremely well received for its unusual theme and portrayal of characters. Cheran talks about the film and plans for the future. Excerpts: How do you feel after making a mark not only as director but also an actor? Well, I'm improving, I should say. With "Autograph," I was fifty per cent happy; TT has given me 75 per cent satisfaction. You became popular after "Autograph" not only as a director but also as an actor.I am popular as a director, not as an actor. It will take some more time for me to become a popular actor.Will you make films hereafter only on the lines of "Autograph" and "Thavamai... ?" Let me say that the bar has been raised. Critics, those in the literary circle and people in general, have felt that these two films are of a good standard and have a realistic approach. I want to continue in this vein. Is ``Thavamai... " your life story?No. But I can say that it reflects the life of the people of Tamil Nadu. There are thousands of fathers who work for the benefit of their families. It is their story.Which do you prefer? Director Cheran or actor Cheran?I am a director first, an actor next. But I am now trying to make people like the actor Cheran. People have found some faults in my acting, which I want to rectify. Your touches were there in "Porkalam" and "Vettrikodi Kattu." We found the director blossoming in "Autograph" and now ``Thavamai... " shows maturity. When I saw "Porkalam," "Pandavar Bhoomi" and "Vettrikodi Kattu" I felt that I had done a neat job. In retrospect, I feel I could have done better. For that matter even ``Autograph" and ``Thavamai... " are not perfect. With hard work, I can improve, I'm sure. If "Autograph" had failed would ``Thavamai... " have materialised? Sure. When "Desiya Geetham" did a fair business at the box office, I made "Vettrikodi Kattu" and "Pandavar Bhoomi." Perhaps, if "Autograph" had failed at the box office, ``Thavamai... " might have been a better product. You have agreed to work with Malayalam director T. V. Chandran? Any special reason? I have great respect for Chandran. I have seen some of his films. Actor Mammootty speaks very highly of him. When he asked me to work with him, there was no way I could refuse. I heard the story, liked my character and worked. The film is "Aadum Koothu" and will soon be released. Are you expecting any national awards? I expect ``Thavamai... " to get the award for the best film and best director. And I expect Raj Kiran to get the best actor award. He has brought out the nuances of emotions and therefore richly deserves the national award. Making people sit through three hours is no mean achievement, in this age of impatience. ``Thavamai... " has done it. It is a novel concept — to glorify the father. Paying tribute to the Mother is not new in Tamil cinema. The father has always been sidelined. As a boy, I think I failed to give my father his due. Now, that I have grown up, I am able to appreciate his contribution and the sacrifices he made for the family. I wanted the younger generation to see this point of view and treat their fathers with more respect. So ``Thavamai... " was influenced by personal experience. In a way, yes. My father, Pandian, was a projector operator in a touring theatre. My mother Kamala was a teacher. If my two sisters and myself are well settled today, it is because of my father. As shown in the second half of ``Thavamai... ," we are one happy family. My wife has also accepted the situation very well. They all enjoyed the film. Will you direct a commercial film now?What exactly do you mean by a commercial film? If you think it is a movie with six songs and fights, you are wrong. When people like a film, see it and make it a success, it becomes commercially viable. In that sense, ``Thavamai... " is a commercial film. When one sees an Iranian film, one learns about the culture and life style of those people. Can we say that of Tamil films? I want our films at the international level and win laurels. But they should also be seen by our own people and appreciated. What is the plan for 2006?I may direct a film for Panchu Arunachalam and act in a couple of films. Whatever I do, quality will be the bottom line.


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