Persistence is what has kept Vijay going through his twelve films. His latest film, the Prabhudheva-starrer Lakshmi, released last Friday. “I ventured into filmmaking in 2007 with Kireedam. I’ve seen both success and failure. I learn from my mistakes and move on. It’s better to focus on positive things than talk about what went wrong in the past,” he smiles. Excerpts from a conversation follow:
You are among a handful of directors who often write scripts for children.
It’s always great to work with kids because their emotions are pure and inspiring. They don’t work for call sheets, money or fame. Their intention is just to make me happy. I’ve witnessed this with Sara Arjun (Deiva Thirumagal), Veronica (Diya/Kanam) and Ditya Bhande (Lakshmi). They don’t like to see me upset. Konjam en face dull aana kooda, you’ll see them tell, “Uncle, I’ll try again!” They live in the moment, and that reflects in their work. I took them to restaurants and beaches post-shooting. Also, they dropped in by my home, and I cooked for them. To be honest, there’s less content for children because we don’t risk to make films for them.
What made you write Lakshmi?
Lakshmi was the result of discussions that Nirav Shah (cinematographer) and I had during the making of my previous film, Diya. He told me it would be nice if I direct a dance-film featuring Prabhudheva, and I developed the idea. The story is built around the relationship between a dance master and a student, which tests the length to which he goes to ensure her dreams become true. She’s similar to Prabhudheva in a way — dance means the whole world to her. She dances anytime, anywhere. Even a death procession isn’t spared.
Lakshmi isn’t an extraordinary title. You could have come up with something else.
Lakshmi denotes prosperity, fortune and wealth. You call a girl child ‘Lakshmi’ (the goddess). Hence, I thought it was apt.
Ditya Bhande seems a terrific find. How did you zero in on her?
All thanks to Prabhudheva. He had gone to judge a reality show in Mumbai and spotted her. She’s spontaneous and a bundle of talent. Ava vera level! When I met her, I wasn’t convinced because of tomboyish looks. We did a screen test eventually, and I was super-pleased.
You chose to team up with Prabhudheva again because Devi/Abhinetri/Tutak Tutak Tutiya was a hit?
Not at all. If that were the case, we’d have done a sequel to Devi immediately. Prabhudheva is an ideal actor. He knew Ditya was the protagonist, yet was encouraging. The story, as you know, revolves around her. As a team, we wanted to celebrate dance. And, who else could be the right person to cast? The one and only Prabhudheva — the god of dance.
Moreover, I love music and dance. I was into both as a college-goer. Then, I realised it wasn’t my calling. (Grins) But, I pay extra attention to my films to make sure the songs are a hit. Take Thalaivaa for instance. Dance-ku konjam importance adhigamave irukkum. I love interacting with choreographers in general. I absorb a lot of positive vibes from them.
Prabhudheva is also a director. Was there any conflict of ideas on the sets?
(Smiles) Prabhudheva never interferes in the filmmaking aspects. And, that’s the best thing about him. Also, when you’ve got an understanding person by your side, it becomes easy. He’s not only a mentor to the kids in the film, but also in reality. That’s why there are so much authenticity and life in the film.
I felt the relationship between Prabhudheva and Aishwarya Rajesh could’ve been explored more.
Of course, there was a backstory. But I didn’t focus much on that because it wasn’t necessary. I wanted to stick to the storyline and did whatever was required.
How was it to work with Prabhudheva?
When I narrated the script (Lakshmi) to Prabhudheva, he had a clear vision of how he was going to approach the film. He shows a humongous amount of involvement in whatever he does. Besides, he’s a wonderful human being. And, you know what? We’re collaborating for the third time — a sequel to Devi.
Lakshmi reminded me of the Step Up series.
(Laughs) Naturally, because of the reality show angle. I am sure Lakshmi will open the doors for more dance-based films in Tamil cinema. We wanted to prove that dance isn’t limited to the small screen. When you blend an art form with emotion, it can cater to the big screen audience. But, Lakshmi is not a copy of the series. I didn’t want to make another ABCD either.
Having said that, you do you handle criticisms?
When I made Madrasapattinam, they told me it was similar to the Titanic. But it was not. Criticisms are nothing but perspectives. They represent one man’s point of view — not the universe’s. Constructive criticisms kandipa eduthuppen.
Prabhudheva is an ideal actor. He knew Ditya was the protagonist, yet was encouraging. As a team, we wanted to celebrate dance. And, who else could be the right person to cast? The one and only Prabhudheva — the god of dance.
Let’s talk about Diya. Did you introspect why it was a failure?
Would you believe if I say there were many who asked me when Karu was releasing? I think I made a mistake by changing the title Karu into Diya. The film is close to my heart, and my family is proud of me to have made it. I knew I had good content. I worked hard to deliver it. A failure-film doesn’t (always) mean a bad film.
Do you think you’re a ‘serious’ filmmaker?
I think am, but I’d love to play with emotions. At the same time, I am open to experimenting with different genres. When I started writing Lakshmi, I wanted to make a lighthearted film. That’s why I brought in Kovai Sarala. You see, a film has to reach the audience, and that’s more important. I make films for them, and I need to make them watch my product. How do I achieve it? I need to strike a balance between emotions, humour, sentiments, values and the related factors. I believe films are, after all, an extension of life, and I enjoy the process — irrespective of the results.
What are your thoughts about exposing children to reality shows?
Let’s not get into the ugly side of it. Ditya bagged a movie chance only after her stint in a reality show. Children do get noticed for their talent.
Can we expect you to direct a film like Thalaivaa again?
Oh, absolutely. I’d love to. If given a chance with Vijay, that would be a double bonus.