Baasha is back

As a remastered version of Baasha is readied for release, SRINIVASA RAMANUJAM takes director Suresh Krissna back to its first-day show in 1995, when the iconic Rajini film released to a crowd that danced, hooted and went beserk

February 01, 2017 04:54 pm | Updated 04:54 pm IST

B aasha utters a word. The crowd cheers. Baasha delivers a sentence. The crowd goes berserk.

When director Suresh Krissna watched the first-day show of his film Baasha at Albert Theatre way back in 1995, he had goosebumps watching the reaction of scores of Rajinikanth fans.

Seventeen years later, the filmmaker experienced it yet again, at Sathyam Cinemas last month, when the digitally remastered version of the film was premièred. “I saw almost 200 youngsters dancing right next to the screen. It was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had,” he recalls.

Even as he awaits the release of the film, he tells MetroPlus why it still holds sway among filmgoers and why the new version looks very much a 2017 movie…

What is a digitally remastered version?

The film, shot 21 years ago using film, is enhanced in every frame. Computer software is so good that you can enhance everything; the colour, the sound. It looks like a different film.

We had a situation with the sound though. Back in the 90s, we had mixed three elements — sound, music and effects — in one track. For this version, we had to painstakingly remove it bit by bit. Composer Deva had to listen to his own work and write the notes before re-recording. Finally, we ended up with some good work… and Baasha is indeed looking like a 2017 film.

There was a Chennai première and a charity show in London. Tell us about the audiences...

Some people in the audience had seen the film many times on television. And then, there were many who had seen the original in theatres and came just for nostalgia’s sake; they screamed the same way they did many years ago. As a filmmaker, this experience gave me goosebumps. Usually, an audience hears the dialogues and then claps, but here, they were clapping even before they were delivered! For me, it was like going back 21 years ago to Albert Theatre when I first saw the film.

When you started out, all you had for inspiration was a scene from Hum that Rajinikanth had suggested. How did you go about pre-production?

I remember spending 25 days in Hyderabad with Rajini sir and just fleshing out the scenes. We used to come up with many ideas, some of them keeping in mind his image back then. The idea was to make a huge mass film, since our previous project together, Veera , was a comedy.

Rajini is an autorickshaw driver in the first half. He has a family and doesn’t fight at all…

It’s no joke to write a Rajini film’s first half without a fight; in fact, he runs away whenever he sees commotion.

When I first narrated the screenplay to the team, everyone was aghast that there was no fight or comedy in the first half. And the worst part was that Rajinikanth, a Superstar, gets tied up to a lamp-post and beaten.

How did you convince them about that iconic scene?

Even my producer (R.M. Veerappan) was against it. When we were canning this sequence at Vauhini Studios, he sent word to stop the shoot. He called me and said, ‘You are making a big blunder. Rajinikanth is a big star now. If audiences see him getting hit, they will tear the screen apart.’

I rushed to Rajini sir, who accompanied me to meet him. Rajini assured him that he was convinced it would work. He also offered to re-shoot it, at his own cost, if the producer wasn’t convinced about it at the final stage.

Baasha also works thanks to his one-upmanship with the villain, played by Raghuvaran...

Raghuvaran is not a typical action guy. What were powerful, though, are his eyes. His mere presence on the set was enough to silence everyone. The ease with which he got into the character of Antony and his voice made the character powerful. Raghuvaran was always a director’s actor. He’s been in many of my films and I don’t think he has still been replaced in Tamil cinema.

Was there a conscious attempt to write punch dialogues?

Baasha was not a talkative man. So, we needed the punch dialogues to be short yet powerful. Balakumaran sir wrote the dialogues, but there was a lot of teamwork for the lines. The ‘Oru Thadava Sonna...’ dialogue was initially written with the word ‘vaati’ (Oru Vaati Sonna…) but Rajini changed it in the last minute. It worked.

Was there anything you found tough convincing Rajini to do?

He refused to do the ‘Ra Ra Ramaiya’ song. His logic was that a don shouldn’t sing or dance. But I thought it had the potential to become an evergreen number. He finally agreed, on one condition: that it should include some thathuvam lines in it.

If you were remaking Baasha with a new star today, who would you choose and why?

The moment Baasha was finished, Rajini remarked that his best friend in the Telugu industry, Mohan Babu, should star in the remake.

I told him it wouldn’t work because the script needed someone with a superstar image. This would work with a star like Chiranjeevi, I said, but he couldn’t take it up at that point of time. So, we dubbed the film and Rajini’s market in Telugu soared after that.

Only someone with a Superstar image would work for this script. So, Ajith and Vijay are the only two actors who could fit the bill.

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