Friday Review

“I can’t go off love stories”

He’s passed the acid test, again. He’s made a film that’s not disappointed a superstar’s fanatics without compromising too much on his own sensibilities as a filmmaker. Yennai Arindhal is definitely not his best. The pressure to perform is seen in some portions but his stamp of sensitivity is all over. It’s surely not run of the mill which is not what you expect from him. He looks relaxed when I meet him for a post mortem of the recent past. On his wishlist are films with Amitabh, Rajni and yes Kamal again. Right now he’s resumed shooting his film with Simbu. Next is Dhruva Nakshathiram with Vikram, a project Suriya refused because he didn’t get the bound script.

You must be more relieved than happy now.

True. I just wish I had more time for post production which was finished in 25 days. My editor Anthony needs more time too. Even if we had one week more we could have worked on the first half. Anyway no excuses. The producer was in a hurry. I was relieved that we could meet the deadline set by the producer but that’s not the ideal way to work.

Is it your lengthiest film?

Yes. Some films will hold if the material you have is good enough. Theory wise 2 hours 20 minutes would have been ideal for a film like this but this is about a man’s journey in life.

Length is irrelevant if you don’t feel it. Why did you have to trim the film? Was it pressure from the producer?

Absolutely. I believe once you release the film, which is done after a lot of deliberations you stick by it. Even after the final mixing and after Ajith watched the film we trimmed the length and were satisfied. The first three days are for Ajith fans after which the general audience streams in. The film is still lengthy but people have liked it. A song was removed at the producer’s insistence.

Are these the things that forced you to start producing?

Yes. Right from the word go. I’m passionate about films and have made the film at a reasonable budget. There are times when I’ve pumped in money to finish the film just to make the producer safe. I make films from my heart. I release it the way I want. I make films on a whim. I take full responsibility for the outcome. During the making I don’t like anyone asking me why I want something. I don’t waste money or time whether it’s mine or a producer’s. I write three fourths of a script, start shooting and then work on the rest depending on the actor and the characterisation. A producer wants to know what happens in the end which I understand.

This was the bone of contention with Suriya, that you didn’t give the complete script.

Yes but I thought Suriya would understand that. We made ‘Kakhka Kakhka’ and ‘Varanam Ayiram’ in my style. They didn’t go bad. ‘Dhruva Nakshathiram’ was a new age script, nothing like what we’d done. He wanted the second half narrated fully. I told him I had the first half and after we started shooting I’d give it to him. I wanted to see how he looked portraying the character. I had more at stake than him. I was hoping he’d understand having worked with me.

I guess you were more disappointed than angry when he went public over a trivial problem.

Completely. If I’d been angry I’d have retorted. I don’t know what pressure he had. The statement he gave was so unlike him. I met him because I didn’t want this to end on a bitter note. I’m sure he wants to work with me and I have no problems. But next time, I’ll have a bound script.

Tell me is it the ideal way to work. A producer or Suriya will have apprehensions.

I’m saying it’s a safe way to work. It’s not as if I don’t have anything. I’m giving you 75% of the script which will not change irrespective of the climax. I like to grow with the characters and decide their fate, emotionally. It’s not the ideal way to work. It just depends on the rapport you share. I wouldn’t do it with Rajni Sir. Strangely Ajit agreed with me.

Is this how you worked with Kamal?

With Kamal sir I had narrated only the first half. He wanted me to direct a couple of his scripts and finally after six months he said let’s shoot whatever you have in mind. He asked me if he was playing a police officer. I said yes and he said he’ll come to the sets in uniform. He was to play a nonchalant officer who has everything figured out. He didn’t ask too many questions, just did what I asked him to. I’ll not do that again when I approach him.

The hangover of ‘Veteyadu Vilayadu’is there in ‘Yennai Arindhal’.

It’s the hangover of ‘Kakhka Kakhka’. Anbu Chelvan took the name of Raghavan. Sathya is an extension. For me the characters are the same. I told Ajith his character was an extension of ‘VV’ because he wanted to do a film like that. It’s part three of my trilogy. I want to be Christopher Nolan at some point.

Mani Ratnam always says you’re spoilt once you work with Kamal.

True. When you write a scene you have a vision of how an actor will play it. I even act out the scene in my room while writing. You feel this is what an actor can do in that scene but he adds another unseen dimension which leaves you awestruck. That’s the dream for any director. Strangely the only other actor I see that quality in is Simbu.

The last couple of years have not been too kind to you emotionally and financially. Did Ajith really just call you and say let’s do a film?

Well he called Rathnam Sir and said let’s get Gautam onboard — that was the call that changed everything for us. With me here was a person who put it out because he thought it’ll destroy me. Corporate companies backed off from projects. I sat with my partner and decided we’ll do our own stuff. That’s when Simbu blindly agreed to do a film with me. I was back in circulation. I shot for thirty days when I got the call to meet Ajith. Simbu was kind enough to agree when I had to put his project on the backburner.

Should a creative person be financially burdened by turning producer?

It works for me because anyway they want a guarantee from me before signing on the dotted line. I become liable. So anyway I’ll be scrounging. There’s a family and staff to be maintained. Thankfully, people at home have been understanding. We are looking for corporate funding based on track record. I’d rather face these setbacks now than later in my career.

Women yearn for men like your heroes, strong, yet romantic and men dream of the women in your films, modern, yet homely.

I want women to be like that. That’s how I see them.

Does your wife complain that you’re not anything like your heroes on-screen?

(laughs) She doesn’t complain which means I am. But she does ask where these men are in real life. Some people tell me I make fantasies.

After ‘Needhane Yendhan ponvasantham’ you swore off love stories.

I’m okay with being known for my films over a period of time. A lot of films get forgotten. I can’t go off love stories. My next with Simbu is a love story till halfway. I want to put Simbu out as an action hero in the next two films. Action in this film will be realistic. He’s got great potential as an actor. He’s the Ranbir Kapoor of the South. You can’t wean me off love stories.


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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 10:05:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/gautam-menon-talks-about-yennai-arindhal-his-next-project-with-vikram-and-about-working-with-kamal-haasan/article6986562.ece

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