Excerpts from AR Murugadoss’ conversation with Baradwaj Rangan
You’ve worked with other stars, but is it a unique kind of pressure to work with Rajinikanth, to make a story that suits him?
Definitely. We have all seen him as a big star in our childhood. When I got into films, he was still a big star. Beyond the fact that he was a big commercial hero, one would also have lived with his films. For example, take Ilaiyaraaja. When one hears his songs from the Eighties, one would remember travelling in a bus, going to school, spending time in tea shops. Similarly, for almost every Rajini film, one might be able to recollect that one was in, say, sixth or seventh standard when it released, or that one was traveling to Chennai for the holidays… there would be a memory associated with each film. For example, I saw ‘Murattu Kaalai’ in Maharani Theatre with my uncle, who is now no more. Today, when I go past the theatre, I am reminded of that.
So, during our formative years, every film of a big star would be linked to our lives in some way. When I’m directing a big star, I feel an extra happiness… more than what I would feel when making a regular film. And then, I also want to make it a big hit, a notable film in his filmography. There is also that responsibility.
You had once asked why today’s heroes are always making action films when even MGR did a cute love story such as ‘Anbe Vaa’. Is that not possible today?
You could do it, but somewhere it has to change. I think Nerkonda Paarvai is a sign of progress. As a director, when I’m making a film with a big hero, the first thing I think about is why the hero is going to fight. The hero is definitely going to fight; only why he fights and with whom is the story. Sivaji Ganesan made a mythological film called Thiruvilaiyaadal in which he played Shiva. What a big hit it was! Other examples are Anbe Vaa or Thillana Mohanambal. I often wonder whether I can tell a hero today that his character has a music troupe and plays the nadaswaram; he might even think I am mocking him. The situation has changed today.
We might still be able to change things a bit, though. Nerkonda Paarvai is a good example. When a big hero changes, everyone else’s thinking starts to change and we might realise that we don’t need action. A bit of heroism and a solid story is enough.