I Grew Up Watching Kamal Haasan And Mani Ratnam Films: Nani, Film Companion

Nani and Nazriya Nazim’s Ante Sundaraniki is slated to hit the theatres on June 10. It also releases in Tamil as Adade Sundara and Malayalam as Aha Sundara. In this interview with Ramya Subramanian, Nani talks about the film, his character, his views on acting in Kollywood, and his favourites in Chennai. 

Edited excerpts below:

The reception for the film so far has been amazing. With so much happening, what kind of mental space are you in right now?

It’s a very happy film and it’s been a long time since I did something like that. Every time I did the fun and happy films, it always worked. So I was sure of the genre and also this is one film I loved as soon as I heard the script. I think throughout this shoot also whoever I met and was talking to was very confident about the film. I never said I hope it turns out well, I was always very confident that it is turning out well and it will be a great film. Now that we’re just a week from the release, I’m excited and I hope that we have a great film on hand but I want to hear it from the audience.

Incidentally,  Aaha Kalyanam (2014) was the last film you did in Tamil,  the interesting thing is that it had this title to do with marriage. Why have you not worked in Tamil films after that?

I realized that when I was trying to put my feet in both the boats it was confusing. Aaha Kalyanam (2014), we did it in Tamil and dubbed it into Telugu. The Telugu audience felt that because they’re used to seeing me in Telugu. So, I couldn’t do a bilingual.

I decided to not be so confused and find the right script which can be done as a bilingual, and at that time I did the Telugu versions of Neethaane En Ponvasantham (2012) and Nimirndhu Nil (2014). So, there was so much confusion happening, with the Tamil version happening here and the Telugu version happening there. There was a loss of lots of dates, and projects got delayed. It took about a year and a half to complete each project. I realized this wasn’t the right procedure and I thought I’d take a break and concentrate on Telugu Films. And once I find the right script, I will do a Tamil film. Because I always got a lot of love from here, especially for the little role in Naan Ee. I’ve grown up watching Kamal Haasan films and Mani Ratnam Films. I’ve watched a lot of Tamil Cinema and I listen to Tamil songs all the time. I have that craving all the time to do something in Tamil but nothing really has fallen in place. 

 

I’ve been busy, film after film and I couldn’t plan anything solid for Tamil and Telugu. Now we’re at a different time. You make a great film, it doesn’t need to be bilingual, you make a great film it will reach out to everyone, you can dub the film and it becomes Pan Indian. You need to have the right content. 

So, now I think after Shyam Singha Roy (2021), it was so appreciated by the Tamil audience. Even on Netflix when it was released, I see a lot of messages in Tamil across all my social media handles. So, it’s not like before, if you have something great and you think it suits the nativity, then I think you can go all out. Ante Sundaraniki has such a heartwarming story that is very relatable in Tamil or Telugu, it does not have any language barrier. It’s hilarious, fun, and emotional. I think it’s time to say Hi to my Tamil family.

How did the pairing happen for Ante Sundaraniki, the minute Nani and Nazriya are coming together for a film, it raised eyeballs. This is who’s decision exactly?

Once director Vivek Athreya and I discussed the idea of the film, immediately we both were like who do you think Leela should be and it was an instant thing for both of us. Initially, we didn’t say Nazriya, we said someone like Nazriya because we were thinking she wasn’t doing films. Then, I told the production house to contact Nazriya. After a few days, he told me that they were unable to get through and there was some confusion. 

Again, we were looking for other options but were not convinced. I was like, does she know we are trying to reach her? Is there some confusion in the production house? Then I messaged Fahadh Faasil that it’s a very good script and I think Nazriya will be great in it. If she would be interested to listen to it, I will send the script. Fahadh sent me her number and told me to speak to her directly. I dropped her a message and she immediately responded. I knew if she would listen to the script she’d be on board.

 

In the trailer, we understand your characters a little deeper and it looks like you’re this very strict family Brahmin boy who is not even allowed to cross oceans. That is actually the way it used to be. 

The film starts up in childhood, so during the 1990s and 2000s, I think that was solid. Now, they have come up with other solutions like performing a ritual after going there and stuff. Rituals have become less and less complicated as time passed.

Was it very funny when you heard the script for the first time about this concept or do you have friends like this?

It was not funny, it was very convincing. Vivek comes from a Brahmin household, so he designed it very authentically. It was not someone trying to create something for fun. When I was listening to the script, I was like wow, this is how it happens. It was like me stepping into a household and actually experiencing it. While watching the film also, you will feel that. So authentic, every small detail and obviously him cracking Sundar’s part is expected but he did such a great job at cracking Leela’s family also. 

The comedy seems to be the biggest highlight of the film.

There is humor throughout the film but there is also nice emotional depth to the film which I think will be the biggest surprise when you watch Ante Sundaraniki. There is a lot of fun. What we miss usually with humor films is we would’ve made a caricature of the character in the film to make it funny. So, the emotion won’t really work in depth but I think the balance has been cracked beautifully in Ante Sundaraniki. It is a story you will believe in, you will enter the world and you will feel all the spaces of good and bad. I think that is a great combination 

Ante Sundaraniki was perfect for me because it is new and fresh content and is a strong story, it has emotional depth, all this, and has humor throughout, with none of them trying to make you laugh. They’re all telling you a story and you just end up laughing because you know the irony, you know the situation, you know the trouble they are in, but nobody is trying to make you laugh. So, I thought that is the new age fun film. After the pandemic, after all that, we have heard and seen. After seeing all the action films in the last few months, now I think we’re all in a need of relief.

What is the one thing you definitely do every time you are in Chennai?

While I was working here, trying out different food was something I loved doing. Recently, I have been visiting during the post-production of my films. I’ll come to watch the film or watch the re-recording happen. So for me, that is very interesting. Every time I come to Chennai, it is very exciting because some film will be taking shape, and getting to see it is very exciting.

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