Tamil film fans are eagerly awaiting director Krishna’s upcoming venture Pathu Thala, which centres around Silambarasan TR’s eccentric sand mining mafia chief. The film also marks the director’s return to Tamil cinema after nine years. In an exclusive conversation with VJ Krishna, the director opens up about the challenges he faced while making his debut and sophomore movies, Sillunu Oru Kaadhal (2006) and Nedunchalai (2014).
“It took me around two and a half years to find a producer for Sillunu Oru Kaadhal,” reveals the director. “I had narrated the story to many heroes. They were all hesitant to take up the project because they didn’t want to play a father to a young child. So, just because of that reason, the film kept getting delayed until I got a producer.” The film follows the romance between Kundavi (Jyotika) and Goutham (Suriya), parents to a 5-year-old daughter.
Despite the rejections, the director recalls being firm about not removing the character of the five-year-old girl from the film. “I had a strong belief the film would not reach completion if we didn’t have the role of the child in the film. Several heroes asked me to do away with that role. But I was very firm and said no to them.” Krishna confesses that he was stuck without a lead actor for a year after Suriya initially turned down the project. “Even Suriya rejected the role after being approached. He also was apprehensive about playing a father on screen. After he said no, I couldn’t find a hero for my film for a year.” However, Jyotika, who was Krishna’s first choice for Kundavi, agreed to play Kundavi upon narration.
When Suriya finally hopped on board, Krishna was relieved. “Suriya and I shared a very good rapport right from when I was an assistant director on the sets of Kaakha Kaakha. All of a sudden, one day I got his call, asking me if I had found a hero for my film. He told me to come to his home to talk. Once I went to his home, he asked me to narrate the entire film to him again. After I finished narrating, he told me he would play the role.”
While the film emerged as a super hit at the box office, casting challenges continued to plague Krishna in his second film Nedunchalai. Recounting his experiences, the director revealed that there were no takers for the film's dark subject matter. "I remember one of the actors I narrated the film to expressed doubts over whether the film would work. There was one more big hero I pitched the story to. He listened to the narration very keenly. Once I finished narrating, he told me he was expecting a love story like Sillinu Oru Kaadhal. He told me he didn't anticipate a genre like this, and that the story did not register in his mind."
Nedunchalai received positive reviews, but could not scale the box office heights of Sillunu Oru Kaadhal. Reflecting upon the response, Krishna says, “The reception was good. But I wouldn’t call the film a massive hit. For a film to be successful, it is not just enough if the content is good. There should be enough theaters screening the film. Still, the audiences gave me good feedback for the film, and the critics too liked it.”