Irumbu Thirai starring Vishal, Arjun and Samantha and directed by 30 year old debutant P.S. Mithran will finally release this Friday after numerous delays. It is a cyber-crime thriller about information theft and the vulnerability of our data in this current internet age. Vishal plays an army man, Samantha a psychologist and Arjun the smart antagonist who can manipulate technology. With the recently launched trailer generating a lot of positive buzz, we speak to director Mithran about what to expect from his debut film.
The trailer looks great …
We had to release a trailer since it’s been a while since the teaser was launched (in December-end). Ideally, just a teaser would’ve been great as I don’t want to reveal much content pre-release. Due to the release delays and the long production time frame of the film, we had to give out a trailer to keep the buzz going.
The trailer reminded viewers of Thani Oruvan (the cat and mouse game between a smart hero and a smarter villain) and Naa Peru Surya (the hero playing an aggressive army man). Your comments on these similarities?
I wasn’t inspired by any of these films. Thani Oruvan hadn’t released when I started working on the story and Naa Peru Surya is a very recent film. I didn’t take even an iota of inspiration from any film. I can assure you that there is something in the film beyond what you saw in the teaser and the trailer.
The ‘RK Nagar by-election touch’ in the trailer (Vishal holding a newspaper whose headline talks about the by-election) has been noted by all. Was it a deliberate inclusion?
Frankly, I didn’t know that he was going to contest in the by-election when we were shooting this scene in November-end in Tirunelveli. I randomly bought a newspaper for that scene and it happened to have that headline. Only in early-December, when we were about 9 days from total completion of the shoots, did Vishal coolly come and tell me that he was going to contest in the RK Nagar by-election.
Insiders say that you have been researching for Irumbu Thirai for more than 4 years.
I wasn’t just sitting with this story. I had written many stories over the past 4 to 5 years starting from 2012. A personal incident which happened to me and my friend led me to conceive the story and plot of Irumbu Thirai.
I generally don’t do things in a hurry and have used all this time to try and deliver a quality product
All the release delays must have been a dampener for any budding debut director. How did you deal with it?
I’m used to delays and long waits from all my experiences over the past 4 years. I learnt to handle it. The film has seen many hurdles due to various events not under my control. I narrated the story to Vishal in 2015, got committed to the project under his production house in August 2016, and we began shooting in October 2016. Each process and step has taken a long time.
I’ve always wanted to do a big film. In fact, I didn’t take up many offers to do small budget films. My close friends were frustrated due to this prejudice that I had against smaller films. I generally don’t do things in a hurry and have used all this time to try and deliver a quality product. I’m confident of the film’s quality.
Since you’ve talked about doing ‘big’ films, can we infer that director Shankar is your inspiration?
It’s not just one filmmaker who inspires me! I started seeing films on my own in 2000, when I was an adolescent. With a group of friends, the period 2000 to 2007 was when I picked and chose the kind of films that I wanted to see. I would call it the golden era of Tamil cinema, as great filmmakers of varied styles were entering the fray then. For stylish urban films we had Gautham Menon and Vishnuvardhan, for mass commercial films we had the likes of Hari, Dharani, Lingusamy, A.R. Murugadoss, Perarasu and Saran. Then we also had Ram, Bala, Mysskin, Ameer and Selvaraghavan. Shankar sir also gave his best films in that time frame. I see it as a huge peak in Tamil cinema.
I would say it started with Kamal sir’s Hey Ram in 2000 and ended with Subramaniapuram in 2008.
Irumbu Thirai will have the essence and influences of that era. It’ll be grand and have all the family sentiments and other elements organically placed in the script without appearing forced. It’ll be a nostalgic outing for film buffs who grew up in those years.
Vishal trusted a newcomer like me and went really big with the resources to make it grand
The idea to screen extensive footage from your film pre-release (slated to happen on May 9th) is something new for Tamil cinema. Whose idea is it?
It is a team decision and we are just testing the waters. No one has done it here before. It happened recently for Avengers: Infinity War and many other films regularly in Hollywood. We have nothing to lose. Irumbu Thirai has a very formulaic, engaging first half, and we’ll mostly show it at the screening.
How was it to work with Vishal as an actor and producer?
Vishal is an amazingly co-operative hero; we could shoot in a narrow, cramped locality like Richie Street in Chennai with a hero of his stature only due to his involvement. He used to wait for the shot in a small auto for hours with a walkie-talkie in hand. We had to shoot it discreetly. A celebrity caravan can’t enter that locality either!
We share a very close bonding. It is more than just the relationship between a producer – director and hero – director. I’ve travelled closely with him in his non-film pursuits too.
Have you ever wondered why Vishal takes up so many things?
Yes, always. I’ve also told him about this. He is a very impulsive and instinctive person; he’ll do it if he feels like it! I wouldn’t have gotten this film too if he weren’t an impulsive person. He trusted a newcomer like me and went really big with the resources to make it grand.