Gautham Menon’s latest Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu (titled Life Of Muthu in Telugu) stars Silambarasan in the lead role. The film follows the life of Muthu, as he travels to Mumbai and gets involved with the city’s underworld.
Menon and Simbu have earlier collaborated on romantic dramas such as Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010) and Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (2016). In this conversation with Lahari Velicheti, the filmmaker reveals that they were initially set to make yet another interesting love story together, but went for Life Of Muthu instead, when writer Jeyamohan got involved.
Menon had met writer Jeyamohan for another project. But after listening to the short story he narrated, Menon asked him for a story about an underdog gangster. The filmmaker says, “ I wanted to make a low-lying gangster film without touching the gangster kind of stories that have been done earlier. I didn’t want the story to be about the bosses. So I remember telling Jeyamohan about the Pandya character in Kaakha Kaakha (2003). I wanted the story to be about how a character like him reached the place he did. Then he said that the story that he narrated earlier could be developed in that space because he knew some true-life characters.”
Soon after that, Jeyamohan wrote a set of scenes with character names and everything within ten days. Menon reminisces that it was like reading a book. “I immediately thought this is what I should make. I had to convince only Simbu and the producer. They said, “If this is what you want to make, go ahead and make it.” Simbu said, “I will do this for you. I will give you the transformation. I understand what you are trying to make and let’s do this.”
Among the songs in the film– all composed by AR Rahman– the song ‘Mallipoo’ went on to become a sensation. The song, which plays out as part of the film itself, was shot as a single shot sequence. Talking about its making, Menon says that it was AR Rahman who suggested the song. “While we were talking about the moment, AR Rahman sir said he liked the moment and suggested that we extend it to a song. He later sent the song and I loved it. It was very different from Rahman’s songs.”
Menon adds that the song is about the guys (gangsters in the film coexisting in a cramped space) connecting with the world.. “When you listened to the song, you might have thought that it was a number with women. But we didn’t want to do that at all. It is about the guys and their connection with the rest of the world through a phone,” says Menon.
Talking about its staging, the filmmaker says, “It is a single-shot sequence and Brinda Master (choreographer) was brilliant. I told her, “You are choreographing Muthu and not Simbu. I don’t want to see Simbu, I want to see Muthu. It was a small space so we all couldn’t stay there while shooting. Brinda, Siddhartha (cinematographer), my team, and I - all of us were in a close space, huddling looking at the monitor. And the actors were there in the other space, with the camera person on a gimbal moving around. So, I think it was brilliant filmmaking.”