The boys are back

Venkat Prabhu returns to his home ground with the sequel to Chennai 600028. He talks to about working with friends, paid online reviewers, and what he learnt from the failure of Massu Engira Masilamani

Something about Venkat Prabhu reminds you of that college senior everyone wants to hang out with. He’s exactly like his films; full of fun, with doses of self-deprecating humour that explain why people gravitate towards him. I ask him about his new look, grey beard and all, and he says he was inspired by Will Smith’s look in Suicide Squad. “But you think I look like Kattappa, don’t you?” he jokes… Excerpts from an interview:

I was overhearing conversations between the cast and crew, and they sound like they’re here for a college reunion rather than promotional work.

We do keep meeting each other, but it’s after 10 years that we’ve all come together for work. The sets did feel like a reunion. I was a bit more emotional this time around, and I had to shout, “Machan dei, let’s finish the scene before we chill.” It’s different when you’re the producer and paying the interest (laughs).

The boys are back

Has it become easier to extract work from the gang?

It’s still really hard. We would have placed all the cameras and rehearsed the scenes with assistant directors before call time. But to get these guys to the mark was such a nightmare. They would all just keep talking and I’d have to tell them to get serious, again, because I’m the producer. But that magic of being together has translated well on screen. As a viewer, you too will want to give your old friends a call and plan a reunion.

Was it nostalgic to return to the same characters and actors from your debut?

More than anything else, it was about all of us coming together again. I had to tell the boys that I could pay them only a token as their salary, assuring them that I would pay them their market value after I sold the film. We wanted to go back to where we started and see what those characters are doing now. The film begins with the boys reuniting in a village for a wedding. Some of them are married. Some have kids too. We shot in Theni and Kuttralam. This will be my first village-based film.

Naturally, there’s a cricket match in there somewhere.

Of course. What is it like to play cricket now, at this age? That’s the big question. After two runs, they are exhausted. “Machan, four adichu win pannalam” (let’s hit a four and win the match) is their mindset.

The boys are back

With this film, are you retreating into familiar territory?

Yes. This is my playground. This is my area. I know I’m really good at making bromances. Working with big stars gives you big reach and big money, but this is my comfort zone.

So are there subjects and ideas you will not attempt again?

I guess I’m not going to complicate things any more. That’s the conclusion I reached after the failure of Massu Engira Masilamani. I still look at it as my personal best, but it just didn’t work. Until it released – the actors, the producers, the people who watched the trial show – everyone seemed to like it.

But the audience who came to the theatre were expecting a very Venkat Prabhu film. Suriya is not a very easy man to work with. He’s very smart and he knows everything. If you tell him something, he will give you 200 per cent. It was a challenge to convince him at every stage. So there was a lot of effort that went into the film. But when a film fails, no one talks about the good things in it.

So you’re saying brand Venkat Prabhu worked against Massu Engira Masilamani.

I don’t see it that way, but people who come to watch my films want to have fun. It’s almost like a sub-genre, as I try to bring in my own flavour into subjects as diverse as a heist film (Mankatha), a thriller (Saroja), or a rom-com (Goa). Somewhere, I didn’t deliver that.

You’ve taken a dig at online reviewers in the teaser…

Siva is a part-time online reviewer in the film. So it wasn’t shot just for the teaser. I don’t know if it’s a myth but you hear that if you pay them, they will give you a good review, and if you don’t, they will tear you apart. If a reviewer can take the mick out of your film, why can’t we take a mick out of him?

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 5:53:56 PM |

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