Lyca boss

Raju Mahalingam, the creative head of Lyca Productions, talks about 2.0, Sabaash Naidu and the company’s plans for Tamil cinema

May 14, 2016 05:06 pm | Updated 05:23 pm IST

Sabaash Naidu

Sabaash Naidu

Raju Mahalingam, the creative head of Lyca Productions is confident that “ Sabaash Naidu will be a milestone movie.” He says he saw an instant hit, the moment Kamal Haasan suggested making a movie about Balram Naidu, the popular character from Dasavathaaram . “Though Dasavathaaram had many innovative ideas, it is mainly remembered for the impact of Balram Naidu’s character.” However, the film is not a sequel, he says. “Even though it is a trilingual, we don’t think it will take too long to be made.”

Raju can’t emphasise the importance of script selection enough. “The responsibility of choosing the right script is mine. Even if narrations take three-four hours, it is important that I stay focussed. There is a lot of money at play here.” The controversy over Kaththi is still fresh in his mind. “The storm brewed unexpectedly, but the huge success of the movie helped a lot. The industry has also understood that we are keen to promote good cinema, not just try to profit from the big names. Profit is also important, of course.”

Lyca has pumped in almost Rs. 1,000 crore so far into Tamil, Telugu and Hindi cinema. “We are in films for the long haul,” he says. With established production houses like Venus, Gemini, and AVM becoming inactive, companies like Lyca, V Creations, Studio Green, and Wunderbar Films have stepped in to bridge the gap. “But we are not interested in playing the numbers game,” Raju says. “We are simply trying to restore the balance in cinema by funding medium and big-budget films.”

Lyca’s first project in Hindi is the remake of Kaththi , starring Akshay Kumar. “Although 2.0 is shaping up well, Kaththi ’s remake was our first signing with Akshay Kumar. We are also remaking the film in Telugu, with Chiranjeevi set to act in it. Kathilantodu will mark his 150th film.”

Meanwhile, 2.0 marks the first time an Indian film will be made at a budget upwards of Rs. 350 crore. “Considering we were making a film with Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar and Shankar, we couldn’t afford to compromise on the budget. Akshay has a huge fan base, and it was a smart move by Shankar to have roped him in to play the villain,” he says. Raju again takes great pains to stress that Lyca isn’t just interested in the big films. “We are also interested in distribution, and want to help other production houses get their films out.” This year, Lyca has distributed Visaranai and Vetrivel so far. “We will take it up in a big way, this year.”

Lyca has also reportedly agreed to produce Kamal Haasan’s magnum opus, Marudhanayagam , which got shelved after a grand launch in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, 19 years ago. I ask if it would be possible that the budget could exceed that of 2.0 . “No big deal,” says Raju, characteristically.

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