People thought Sivakarthikeyan was Anushka’s sister



Bakkiyaraj Kannan, the director of Remo, lets vishal menon in on how he turned a Tamil-film hero into a heroine

The crew of Remo seems like an assembly of Tamil cinema’s Justice League. There’s one Academy Award winner (Resul Pookutty). A National Award winner (P. C. Sreeram). And a Hollywood make-up artist (Sean Foot).

With the assuredness of a veteran, first-time director Bakkiyaraj Kannan explains why he needed such stalwarts for his first film. Excerpts from an interview:

Is it intimidating to debut with such a big-budget film?

There’s certainly a lot of pressure. With so much being given to me, I can’t blame anyone else if the film doesn’t work ( laughs). But I’ve tried to not let it get to me.

Did you write Remo specifically for Sivakarthikeyan?

I did. I don’t think anyone else could have played this role. It’s a gut feeling I have had about him since Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam, and when I told director Atlee, whose associate I was, about the idea of a hero playing a female character, he too felt Siva would be perfect for it. In fact, it was Atlee who put me on to Siva sir.

Was it easy to convince him?

Though he liked the script, he was worried about how the audiences would perceive him playing a woman, especially at this stage of his career, where he’s still growing. But people around him, including Anirudh, advised him to take a chance, as it is very different from what we’ve seen him do before.

What were some of his concerns going into the film?

Not just Siva’s, but all our concerns were related to getting his female look right. As 60 per cent of the film has him playing a nurse, we knew we wouldn’t have a film if not for that character. That’s why Remo took so long to complete. We tried as many as 15 different looks before we finalised. None of the hairstyles we’d storyboarded were working, and even the nurse costume, in its present form, was chosen from dozens of trials. More importantly, Siva had to first lose 10 kgs to play the female character and then regain that to finish the male role.

Wouldn’t it have been easier to use visual effects?

When such a huge portion involves that female character, we knew we couldn’t rely solely on graphics. Right from threading his eyebrows to waxing his body, we didn’t take any chances. Siva told me that he wouldn’t even look in the mirror during this phase. He would cover his face with a hankie to step out.

Was the shoot a lot of fun because of this look?

Of course it was. We had to shoot the outdoor portions in Vizag to hide the look, and one day, a passerby, after looking at Siva, came up to a crew member and asked heroine yevaru (who is the heroine). We told him that she was Anushka’s sister. He totally bought it.

Later, Siva, dressed in his nurse costume, walked up to a traffic constable to ask for directions one night. The cop was so full of concern that he told him that girls like her shouldn’t be out so late. ( laughs)

But these are all about his looks. What about his voice?

That too was a major challenge. One of Siva’s strengths is his comic timing, so we ruled out another person dubbing for him. As we shot, he would speak in a voice that was mostly masculine. But that’s not enough for the characters in the film to believe he’s a woman. So we had to find a voice that would do justice to the role without alienating the audience from Siva. You need the help of an expert like Resul Pookutty sir to help you through these challenges.

Did having someone like P. C. Sreeram in the team make the process easier?

It did. It was myproducer’s decision to go in for a great cinematographer because we couldn’t take any chances with what the lady character looked like. I remember staying awake all night to see him shoot 13B and all his classes in film school. You need these greats to guide you when you’re attempting something new.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:31:34 AM |

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