Director Selvaraghavan presents interesting insights into the making of his “Aayirathil Oruvan,” which releases today

H e may have moved on to his new project and even completed a schedule with Vikram in Ladakh, but at the moment Selvaraghavan can't think of anything but his much-awaited magnum opus, “Aayirathil Oruvan,” which hits the screens today. “Naturally, I'm tense. Many things are at stake. The result of the film could decide my future in cinema in the next 10 years,” says the director, who began with a bang with “Thulluvadho Ilamai” and “Kaadhal Kondain,” rose like a meteor with “7G Rainbow Colony,” faded from the scene after “Pudhupettai” and now re-emerges with a magnificent spread that bears the title of one of MGR's money-spinners!

“I did ‘Aadavari Maatalaku' in Telugu after ‘Pudhupettai.'” But it has a lengthier name … ‘Arthalu Verulae ...' “I struggle saying it, just as you do. That's why I stopped with the first two words,” he laughs.

Mammoth project

What could have motivated Selva to take up such a mammoth project? “I was tired of the same themes. I'd done a psychological subject, a family drama, romance and action. I wanted to go beyond these and ‘Aayirathil Oruvan' happened.” The inspiration? “Nothing but my think-tank — even when I conceived the story, I knew it would be tough to execute, but I didn't quite anticipate the kind of hurdles we faced,” he smiles.

“AO” consumed a whole 265 days of shoot because of several functional hazards. “The rains, for instance — Jaisalmer was supposed to be blistering but then it poured! Same was the case in Hyderabad.” The crew lost almost 50 days in the process. “Also sometimes a single shot took a week and a sequence scheduled to be completed in 10 days went on for 45!”

But very astutely throughout the two years and four months that the project has taken, Selva has seen to it that “AO” was constantly in the news. Yuvan Shankar Raja and Selva fell out, his marriage to Sonia Agarwal turned sour, the enormity of the assignment led to a lot of conjecture, Karthi's incredible patience despite the gap between his debut hit and second film was talked about and Reemma's steadfast support for ‘AO' was well received!

“I don't go back to the past but I'm happy about whatever has happened. They've helped me grow as a person,” Selva sounds matter-of-fact. “And there's a glut of talent around. Choices are unlimited. As for the cast and crew of ‘AO,' they are family. I've met some fantastic people during the making of this film, my cameraman Ramji is one. And Kola Bhaskar has single-handedly managed the post-production.”

Dream cast

Selva has brought together seasoned performer Parthepan, smashing entrant of “Paruththi Veeran,” Karthi, popular actor Reemma Sen and budding talent Andrea. What was the challenge? “Directing them,” he laughs aloud. “Seriously, you are spot-on when you say they are from diverse backgrounds. But it was a dream cast, none had ego coming in the way.”

Were they prepared for the time the project took? “We had to finish what we had begun and whether they were ready for it or not, they stood by me,” he says. “It wasn't just the lead actors — even the 10,000 junior artists were very co-operative. They had to walk barefoot in the desert heat. It must have been gruelling, yet they did it.”

But with CG making things easy did he need so many supernumeraries? “Yeah, only if I have so many thousands can I show them as a one lakh-strong army,” he explains. “Graphics should look genuine.”

His words for the cineaste who is waiting to watch the film: “Don't expect it to be a historical film, a war movie or a Tamil take on Hollywood lines. So far, even in our different attempts, as we call them, the characters are almost always the same. But ‘AO' is far removed from stereotypes. It has no boundaries, not even morals or ethics as stipulated in our cinema. Come with an open mind and watch it for the engaging experience it provides.”