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Starring with the stars

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Ramesh Arvind’s dream project is on — Utthama Villain, his directorial venture will have three great contributors to Indian cinema —Kamal Hasan, K. Balachander and K. Vishwanath

On the directorial seat Ramesh Arvind on working with his idols
On the directorial seat Ramesh Arvind on working with his idols

As a young actor, Ramesh suggested his interpretation of a scene they were going to enact to his co-star who was also the director. The man heard him out and said, “There are various ways to do the same scene. We’ll do it my way today. But mark my words you’ll make a good director.” “Today, I find that very profound,” says Ramesh. He should know. He’s directing three of the greatest contributors to Indian cinema (Kamal, K. Balachander and K. Vishwanath), not only in terms of numbers but content too.

With an actor of Kamal’s immeasurable talent, you need a director who can confidently tell him what not to do. ‘Utthama Villain’ will be a Kamal film with Ramesh Arvind’s touch. I catch him before he flies to Turkey to shoot a song.

Has life come a full circle?

Absolutely. Directing three of the directors I admire, KB, K.Vishwanath and Kamal as actors is something great. It’s not only the talent. They’re such bright minds. We’ve worked on the script for a long time, but KB and KV would improvise on the spot. It would be something we hadn’t even thought of. The whole experience is humbling. When I met KV for the first time I told him that I greatly admired his films like ‘Sagara Sangamam’ and ‘Swathi Muthyam’. I told him I was open to any suggestions provided I like them. I was floored when he said he could have performed hundreds of surgeries but today he was a patient. “You cut me anywhere,” said the great man. What a way to put it. If you add up the number of films my cast -- including Jayaram and Urvashi -- have worked in it would be more than a 1,000 films. Above all they’re nice human beings. I remember standing in the queue to watch Kamal’s, KB’s and KV’s films. Now here I have them, all in a single frame and I’m directing them.

Kamal is not someone who does favours, professionally at least when his reputation is at stake. Why do you think he chose you?

Nobody in his right sense will do such a favour, especially handing over the director’s seat. He must have seen something in me. He’s been telling me for a long time that I’m wasting my time just acting. He always tries to promote people he believes in. He gave me the chance in ‘Rama Shama Bhama’ and it worked for both of us. We’re surprised it took so long to get together again. We wanted to do this film keeping in mind what people expect from Kamal. It’s about relationships and also has comedy which is our forte, so he probably thought I should helm it.

When Kamal writes the story and screenplay of a film they say the director can never have creative control.

I think that’s a wrong term. That’s where all the problems in the world are. I keep telling everyone it’s not about controlling things. It’s about doing things well. Cinema is a collaborative art. It’s about getting things done without ruffling feathers. I know him for a long time which is an advantage. We’d have discussed so much that these things don’t arise on the sets. It’s his script basically. I’ve had no problems. Having such a brilliant mind like Kamal I’d be stupid not to use his suggestions, the right ones at least. I take an intelligent input from anyone on the sets. We don’t live in times when a director sits on a chair and shouts orders.

From a fan to co-star to a friend to directing him, Kamal seems to have become a part of your life.

Undoubtedly! He’s been a part of my psyche. There are others too but Kamal has been a part of my growing up years. He was a huge star when I was in high school. Most of the people on the sets have grown up on his films. It’s a treasured friendship. It’s been smooth sailing so far. We decided right at the beginning that our personal rapport never gets disturbed by anything that happens on the sets. We’re mature enough to collaborate without egos involved.

Was it a conscious decision not to act in the film?

There’s no role that suits me. You may see me in a cameo. Basically, it’s a huge responsibility. I need to keep an eye on the monitor all the time.

It’s not only Kamal. How do you go and tell a KB how to act?

That was not a problem. When they know my intentions are clean, it’s smooth. Things go wrong when the tone of your appeal is wrong. However big he may be if the request is reasonable anyone will listen. My nature is to tell people in the sweetest possible way. Nobody has created any problems. They only question me about their character’s intentions and motives which I find absolutely valid.

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