Retakes, Living On The Dubbing Studio And The Resulting “Kumararaja Magic”, Film Companion

A week before the release of Super Deluxe and two weeks before Majili, Samantha sits down for an interview with Baradwaj Rangan. Edited excerpts from the conversation:

Let’s talk about Super Deluxe. I gather that you’re not allowed to reveal anything about the film.

I have been taught, like a child about what I can and cannot say by my director. He sent 15 messages saying “you can’t say this, this and this”. So I asked him what can I say and he said, “say nice things about me.”

What is the nice thing about him that you would say?

See I have a problem giving more than three takes. My mind wanders onto other things, like the next take, really quickly. So I give my best and most spontaneous takes within the first three and it never goes beyond that. But with Kumararaja, I really didn’t mind doing as many as he wanted, even though he says he asked for the least number of takes with me. That’s because you see the monitor after all that and you know that he’s pushed you to a place that you wouldn’t have thought of. When you prepare in your mind, even though I don’t prepare much, you sort of know what you’re going to do. But with him, there’s that extra bit of magic. When you see these actors, who’ve been in many films before, the performance in this film will have an extra edge, whoever the actor is. That’s the best part. I didn’t feel tired at any point in time. There was just this brilliant filmmaker who was pushing me and I was willing to go that extra mile and do any number of retakes for that final output. I knew what he was pushing me to do was different.

I’m not saying it will be a blockbuster and break records. I just want to be a part of something different, something that challenges me and this certainly did challenge me. What’s different about this role is that usually, you dig from your subconscious and just deliver. But there was no such part in this character I had even any remote understanding of. I was not the first choice for this role. He came to me after two or three other top actors said no. And even when he came to me, he wasn’t very sure I would do it. It is not the usual heroine role.

Yes, we see you with a knife in your hand…

He warned me that you’d ask about that. Kumararaja wanted to unravel certain things in a very organic way and I think he has everything planned. What you see in the trailer is the film; every shot is genius and every shot is painstakingly long.

“Painstakingly long” is something everyone talked about; Mysskin talked about it, so did Ramya Krishnan. They all said they did many many takes. What is your number?

I don’t know what it was. I think with Kumararaja it was around five takes. I think I had the least because I think that we both understood my character exactly the same way. So I think it was easier.

How many times did you dub for the film?

I cannot count. I slept on the dubbing floor. I had breakfast, lunch, dinner…every meal there. Because the man, even if it’s a hum, it has to be perfect.

You spoke about how you see the monitor after all those takes and feel it was worth it. Actors after a while, even if you want to push yourself, it’s like you’ve cried all the ways you can, you’ve smiled all the ways you can. Can you describe what you felt when you saw yourself in Super Deluxe versus the other roles you’ve done?

When I see roles Alia plays or Kangana plays or Deepika, it’s always such admiration, such appreciation for the level of talent and effort. With the films that are up for release this year, I actually feel like this is the closest, though still far, I will ever come to be like them. But it still gives me a sense that I can take this path and I’m very proud to be a part of films that are different.

I would disagree with you a bit there because I thought you were spectacular in Neethane En Ponvasantham. I thought that was a very difficult character, unusual for a romantic film.

For a very long time, I wasn’t very confident about who I was. I was not aware of how I looked on the screen; my expressions and how they translated on screen. I was an insecure and cautious person. If you’re not from the industry, a newcomer can feel like a deer caught in the headlights. You have nobody to tell you that everything’s going to be fine. I had to make the mistakes and it took a whole lot for me to not care about what I looked like on screen when I’m crying or when I’m a big scene. I guess it took time for me to ‘just be’. Just feel the character instead of trying. In the last two years, that has been the big change that has come over me and it has contributed to other aspects of my life as well. Too bad it has happened so late.


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