Edited first part of an interview between Gautham Menon and Baradwaj Rangan where they discuss the director’s first memory of each of his films.
Minnale was not supposed to be my first film. It was set up by Maddy to a large extent. Once we met Harris, he put on the map with the music. The film was released three months later and the music brought the audience to the theatre. I remember the fights that Reema and Maddy used to have. They didn’t want to be together in a scene.
I had to shoot ‘Vaseegara’ and ‘Azhagiya Theeye’ with them separately. I remember that Maddy, Nagendra Prasad, two dancers, and I were taken to Malaysia. Reema didn’t make it. We had to figure out the song all by ourselves. Maddy was left all to himself. We laughed about it just three days ago.
Kaakha Kaakha (2003)
Were it not for Jyothika Kaakha Kaakha wouldn’t have happened. She loved it when I narrated it to her. Initially, she wanted to produce it. Later, she put me on to other producers. After we had looked at a couple of other heroes she suggested Suriya. Even though we had a bound script, we discovered the film as we made it. The moment that stood out for me was when Suriya and Jyothika started liking each other; it was more than friendship and all that.
In the opening shot where Suriya dives into the water as the camera pans, he told me that he didn’t want to do it because Jo told him not to. So, I filmed it with a body double. I showed him the output and told him that I would use it if he wanted me to even though the skin colour didn’t match. He asked me how difficult it was to dive underwater. One of my guys, Venkat, showed him. Finally, Suriya did it.
Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu (2006)
The whole association with Kamal sir himself is special. I went in with a solid admiration for the man. I’ve always wanted to try and work with him as an assistant, or just be on the set. The first scene is where he kicks open the door. I wanted it to be the first shot. It sounds cliche, but it’s like him walking into our hearts. You have to be on the ball with him. You can’t predict everything. For example, I didn’t call cut after he grabbed a plastic bag that Jo’s character was putting over her face in a scene in the film. Right after that he looked at her, looked around, and then put the bag in the dustbin. You have to be able to capture that.
He brings his own angle to every scene. It would take a great toll on me when he performed in a way that I hadn’t envisioned because he would ask me if I didn’t like it.
We hadn’t planned the close up shot of the eye in the introduction scene. I asked Ravi Varman (DOP) to zoom into his eyes during the shot; it was just luck.
Pachaikili Muthucharam (2007)
We went to Sharath sir and he agreed to do the film. I think that went wrong, because even though he did a great job, he kept telling me ‘you can’t tie me up to a chair and have these guys beat me up because I’ve done action films.’ That’s going to work adversely in audiences’ heads. I thought of bringing the action sequence in the end. It was not in the original script. That was the wrong thing about the film.
Vaaranam Aayiram (2008)
I remember in this room, where after almost a year, Suriya was waiting. We were great friends at that point. We’ve also had a couple of arguments and he said, ‘I’ve waited and my dates are going,’ and I asked for more time as my father wasn’t well. Finally, after a year, we were in that room and I narrated the story. He just stood up and applauded. I cannot forget that moment because it was a very different film for Suriya. It’s not Kaakha Kaakha or Ghajini. He also decided to play a double role. He even tried to look like my father which was huge and difficult for me. There was also this drug phase and he had to work on his physique to get over all that. The film also had the best music from Harris that I ever got. In fact that was the film after which we didn’t work for some time. So, somebody asked me, ‘after music like this you worked with somebody else?’
Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya (2010)
My favourite moment in the film is during the last moments where they are watching the film together and you realise that whatever you saw was the film. The scene outside Sathyam theatre where Trisha is going away, and we tilt up to the poster and the name changes from Karthik to my name. I think everything was put together so well by the team. It was Anthony who gave me the idea.
Nadunisi Naaygal (2011)
It was an experimental film. When I wrote the script, I felt that there was no need for a single musical strain in the film because I didn’t want to glorify the character beyond what was needed by the script. I think it’s one of our best works technically.