S. R. ASHOK KUMAR

Director P. Vasu speaks about the making of the much-hyped Rajinikant starrer, ‘Kuselan.’

The minute I saw it (Katha Parayumpol) I imagined our own superstar in a film like that. The climax made a deep impact on me.

Kollywood has seen it all. Films based on the protagonist’s fixation for a star doesn’t sound unusual. But ‘Kuselan’ seems to make news everyday. Naturally, because the film star happens to be superstar Rajinikant and the filmmaker is none other than P. Vasu, the man who gave Kollywood’s mega hit in recent times — ‘Chandramukhi.’

Vasu, who was actually working on the script of ‘Chandramukhi 2’ before ‘Kuselan’ happened, unwinds between hectic schedules to talk about the film. “Yes, following the success of ‘Chandramukhi,’ I was scripting its sequel. Rajnikant had heard the outline of the story and given the green signal and in fact had asked Nayanthara to read the script. When things were beginning to fall in place, Natarajan, an associate director of Malayalam films, suggested I watch the film ‘Katha Parayumpol,’ a runaway hit in Kerala. The film revolved around a barber’s fascination for film star Mammootty. The minute I saw it, I imagined our own superstar in a film like that. The climax made a deep impact on me. I’ve never come across such a story,” smiles Vasu.

So the next thing the ace director did was to call up Rajinikant and ask him to watch ‘Katha Parayumpol.’ “The superstar watched the film, but left without a comment. I was puzzled. But the call came the following day. He told me how much the film had impacted him and evinced interest in it. We met and discussed the nitty-gritty. But having said yes to ‘Robot,’ he wondered how he would be able to juggle two films at a time. I assured him I would wrap up his portion real fast. After all it was tailor-made for him. Only some elements had to be thrown in to make the picture complete. Rajini agreed — mainly because the film had affected him so deeply.”

Rajini as Rajini

Vasu, who can’t stop gushing about the superstar continues, “It was Rajini who suggested that K. Balachander, his mentor, watch the film so that his production house Kavithalaya can take it up. Balachander felt the story had a striking semblance to that of the superstar and insisted Rajni play himself in the film. That’s how things began to roll. Produced by Pushpa Kandasamy and Vijayakumar of Seven Arts, the film is set for release on July 31. Here the work of cinematographer Aravind Krishna has to be acknowledged. He played a significant role in wrapping up the film in 85 days.”

The Telugu version, ‘Kathanayakudu,’ will have Jagapathi Babu playing the barber. “In Tamil we zeroed in on Pasupathi. Rajni was impressed by his performance in ‘Veyil.’ We wanted someone who has not seen the superstar in person or acted with him. Vadivelu plays a meaty role, and so does Meena (she appears in the Tamil and Telugu versions). Rajini’s heroine in the film is none other than Nayanthara. Livingston has bagged a role too.”

Impact of the role

Regarding the speculation relating to the number of scenes in which Rajini makes an appearance, Vasu says, “It’s a role that will be remembered. And it’s not merely a guest appearance. We have seen bits and pieces of ‘Rajini as Rajini’ in ‘Valli’ and ‘Anbulla Rajinikant.’ I personally feel the scene count doesn’t matter. What matters is the impact a character makes and the message he/she conveys. And that’s where ‘Kuselan’ scores. What sets it apart from such star-centric films is the treatment. Friendship, I should say gets redefined, here.”

Talking about the ‘Cinema Cinema’ number, one of the highlights of the film, Vasu explains, “The number will be a sure-fire hit. It features the icon in 10 stylish looks. Portions of the song were shot with real fans at Shanti theatre, Chennai. If you remember, A.R. Rahman’s first film was ‘Roja,’ a Kavithalaya production, now ‘Kuselan’ has music by the maestro’s nephew G.V. Prakash.”

When asked whether it would be a ‘superstar versus superstar’ situation with Priyadarshan planning to remake ‘Katha Parayumpol’ in Hindi with Shah Rukh Khan, Vasu smiles, “Each is great in his own way. They have distinct styles and a major following. But much depends on the treatment of the script.”

Switching to a mellow mood, the director says, “Eight years after I did ‘Uzhaipali’ with Rajini, ‘Chandramukhi’ happened. Soon, ‘Kuselan’ followed. I wish to do more films with him. But as you know, man proposes, God disposes. So let’s wait and see.”

Vasu Vignettes

Rajini appears only after the third reel and looks younger.

There are a couple of scenes from ‘Annamalai.’

Twenty-five years after his debut, Rajini’s regard for KB is the same.

Rajini wanted Livingston in the film. He also wanted a meaty role for Vadivelu.

Meena appears in both — Tamil and Telugu versions of the film.