H Vinoth on ‘Thunivu’: Doing an ‘Ajith Kumar film’ is easy as he gives a free hand to directors

Vinoth’s ‘Thunivu’, starring Ajith Kumar and Manju Warrier, is gearing up for release, and the director talks about what it means to make an Ajith film and how he gets valid criticism for such star films

Updated - January 10, 2023 12:54 pm IST

Published - January 10, 2023 11:38 am IST

Ajith Kumar in a still from ‘Thunivu’ (left); H Vinoth from the sets of the film (right)

Ajith Kumar in a still from ‘Thunivu’ (left); H Vinoth from the sets of the film (right) | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In modern-day cinema, making a good film isn’t enough. You need to sell it.

Tamil filmmaker H Vinoth, who is known to be a bit of a recluse, was on a spree of media interactions earlier this week promoting his upcoming Thunivu, starring Ajith Kumar. Social media users have taken note of some interesting ideas from the filmmaker, but you wouldn’t be surprised if he feels a bit tired after such extensive promotion. Vinoth has no hesitation in admitting that he is gripped with a bit of anxiousness. There does seem to be a sense of nervousness in his voice, but that hardly seeps into his to-the-point answers. “Obviously, there will be pressure. I feel mixed emotions, and it’s like watching a tense cricket match. I feel confident and anxious; there’s an excitement and nervousness to see how audiences respond to the film,” he says.

Thunivu boasts many selling points other than just Ajith’s presence and Vinoth’s reputation. The trailer of the film showed Ajith in a stylish avatar as an uber-cool bank robber performing a heist and Mankatha fans are on their tows. But if you were looking for a pure heist movie, this isn’t that — a bank heist is an integral part of it, but Vinoth wants to send a clear idea that it’s a multi-genre film. The filmmaker says that making a single-genre star vehicle isn’t a cakewalk. “All kinds of audiences watch these star films. Take even the action genre — only about 20-25% of audiences watch a pure action film. There are a few exceptions, but not enough to take a big risk. If a filmmaker has the talent and courage to do that, well and good. However, we should also convince a producer through content that isn’t too alien to the market.” So, is it now an added responsibility of the makers to give a clear idea about what to expect from a film? “At least enough to avoid comments that say ‘They marketed the film as this, but it turned out to be entirely different.’ That definitely is our responsibility,” stresses Vinoth.

Thunivu now poses as a massive undertaking, as is the case with any star film, but it had a rather casual beginning. “While shooting for Valimai, Ajith sir and I were talking about what we did during the pandemic and I told him about a couple of scripts I had written. He loved a specific scene from a story and said ‘nammale panlaame’. That’s how it began.” You might assume that Vinoth, who is joining hands with Ajith for the third time, should find it easier to make a ‘star project’ that incorporates what the market expects from the star. Vinoth says that this is never an easy task, but that it was a part and parcel of making a film with a star who gave him a free hand to make his film. “He (Ajith) just believes in a filmmaker and gives him all the freedom in the world. It is up to us to handle the good and bad of such freedom.” Vinoth says that while this makes it easier, it also adds to the importance of honouring the responsibility bestowed. “We need to gauge how he will fit into this film, and choose what works. People around you will bring their own inputs and that’s all part of this process.”

Vinoth has been vocal about his indifference towards song placements. “It’s not that I hate songs, I just don’t want to force-fit them in a narrative. And my stories hardly have space for songs,” he says. Thunivu has three soundtracks, but none of them disturbs the narration, he says. In fact, Vinoth adds that he could have made a film without songs if he wanted but he also understands what a well-made dance number could do to the film-watching experience. “Nobody is going to force me to have songs, but it’s no harm as well. People come to a theatre to not just listen to a story, but to also celebrate the film.”

Ajith Kumar in a still from the ‘Chilla Chilla’ song in ‘Thunivu’

Ajith Kumar in a still from the ‘Chilla Chilla’ song in ‘Thunivu’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With one of the biggest stars at the forefront, a free hand to write as he wills, and strong technical and production backing, Vinoth says that making Thunivu was a smooth sail. The filmmaker, who started with a low-budget hit like Sathuranga Vettai, says that with every technological advancement, the model of film production changes. “Every producer, senior or junior, will have a specific model, and whichever sustains longer will become the norm.” And this modern-day cinema, which has well-informed individuals who come with an education in film production, has made things easier, adds Vinoth. “The concept of a financier financing a film has been fading as well. Either corporates or big producers are making films, or we have public limited organisations that use public investments for making their films.” Production of a film, he says, is now more documented and much like an engineering process.

Thanks to social media, cinema is also becoming more than just entertainment. Thunivu is now clashing with Ajith’s arch-rival Vijay’s Varisu on Wednesday, and this has now become a crucial talking point. Vinoth has issues with calling it a ‘clash.’ “This isn’t an election. If a film fails at the box office, another film of theirs will come in another year. It’s a part of the process,” he says. But with so much noise being attached to the release, it gets hard to ascertain the validity of the criticism a film attracts. Vinoth agrees and says that is important to see the space from which an individual reviewing the film comes. “For a person who watches all kinds of world cinema and classical cinema, our kind of cinema might feel alien for sure. People who review films should understand the culture of a region, the opportunities and resources that are available to the creators there, and how they are using them, and then ascertain where a certain film stands.”

For the fans of the stars and Tamil cinema, this year is beginning with a bang for Pongal. An exciting year awaits as well. But, what’s next to this evolving storyteller in Vinoth? “I just go with the flow. I just do what I get, and nalladhe nadakkum nu nambuvom.”

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