With just two films to his credit, director Thiru is raring to go with his next in the Tamil film industry. His last two projects – Theeradha Vilaiyattu Pillai and Samar – fared well at the box office and helped him bag a big project with Disney UTV titled Naan Siggapu Manithan. An ardent fan of Hindi cinema and having worked with a few Bollywood actors in both his previous films, the director connects with us from Chennai to talk about his career and his passion for films
What is the buzz like about your upcoming film Naan Siggapu Manithan?
We are planning to release the film on April 8, on the Tamil New Year. Expectations from the film are huge because this is the first time that actor Vishal, who also featured in my last two films, is working with Disney UTV. Both Vishal and UTV are producing the film together. So this is my third film with Vishal and my third film too! The combination of Vishal and actress Lakshmi Menon was a super hit at the box office earlier. Since this film has the same star cast, there is already a good buzz about the film. I am sure they will work their magic on screen this time too.
Was it a calculated decision to release the film on the Tamil New Year?
Yes, the Tamil New Year is very big here. In fact, the Tamil New Year is to the South film industry what Diwali is to Bollywood. Just like in the Hindi film industry, most big-budget films release during Diwali, all the big stars in the South release their films on the Tamil New Year or other holidays like Pongal also Diwali. This is when the audience gets to watch big blockbuster films. It is a very special time for us.
You have worked with Vishal as your lead actor in all your films. Why is that?
I have a good rapport with him, and I guess it is simply coincidental that we did those three films together. I cast my actors according to the requirements of the script. So there is no special reason. But I must add that he has played a different character in each of the three films. In my last film, Samar, he underwent a makeover for the part. In this one, he plays the boy-next-door and he has a very casual look. But the characterisation is very fresh and out-of the-box.
This is the first time you are working with a corporate studio. What was the experience like?
Their planning and scheduling is spot-on. The unique thing about working with them was that they first planned the release date and then we worked backwards to achieve our deadlines. We had a definite goal about when we wanted to release the film so everyone worked very efficiently to meet that deadline. Everything down to shooting schedules, camera work, pre- and post-production plans was fixed from the very beginning. It was a very good experience to work with such great discipline.
Since Disney UTV is also a prolific producer of Hindi films and we are seeing a lot of South remakes, are there chances of your latest release being remade in Hindi?
Yes, there are a lot of South films being remade in Hindi. In fact, this is not a new trend but the point is not whether we are remaking Hindi films or whether Bollywood is remaking South films. The good thing is this interchange of stories is due to good scripts. Ultimately a film’s backbone is a great story and if people are moved or inspired by a great tale, the language they are being adapted in doesn’t matter. The cross-pollination of scripts is very healthy.
To answer the first part of your question, as far as me directing a film in Hindi is concerned, I think UTV plans to remake a South hit in Hindi, which I will direct. But the plan is still to firm up.
Now-a-days, South directors are signing contracts with producers which state that if their films are remade in Hindi, they will direct these films themselves. Are these terms and conditions justified?
Absolutely. The script is their baby, so they will obviously be possessive about their scripts. A filmmaker and his script are like parent and child. You can’t put up your children for adoption because you love them. Similarly, a script is a director’s baby and they would naturally want to direct it themselves. But when you remake a film in another language, certain improvisations are required to suit a different audience. You can’t serve the same thing twice.
Another trend in cinema is that South actresses do very well in Hindi films but actors don’t fare as well. Why is that?
Actresses like Sridevi have done equally well in both industries but I don’t fully agree. Kamal sir (Haasan) has done some great work in Hindi films too and is very well known in both industries. Besides that, indeed, our heroines are much more accepted in Hindi films. But there is a dichotomy here. In Tamil films also, Hindi actresses do much better than Hindi heroes. This applies to other industries too, like Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu. I guess you’re right… actresses have the upper hand when it comes to these things! (Laughs)
You mentioned earlier that you would be open to directing a Hindi film. Is there any actor in particular you would like to work with?
I am a very big fan of Shah Rukh Khan. I have watched Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge around 30 times. I also liked his last release Chennai Express a lot, so I would love to direct him.
Having said that, I worked with a few Hindi actors in my first film, which had three leading ladies from Bollywood – Tanushree Dutta, Neetu Chandra and Sarah Jane Dias. In my second film, I worked with Manoj Bajpayee, who is an awesome actor and a great human being. I like their sincerity and dedication.
You wrote all the films you have directed…
I think it is very important to write your own films. The characters, body language and every little nuance is fixed in your mind. Therefore, you will have no problem conceptualising scenes while you are on the sets directing the film. The nitty-gritty of voice modulation and where your characters should stand or look are all taken care of. I have not directed a film written by someone else so I don’t know what it is like to direct films like that. So, right now, I am not very open to the idea of directing a script that I have not written.
How has the Tamil film industry evolved over the years?
Business and revenue has certainly grown. Around 10 years ago, business was very very low. Nowadays, Rajini sir’s movies do business of ` 100 crore, and the films of actors like Vijay and Ajith do really well at the box-office. South films are also hitting the ` 100-crore mark and their business is as much on the growth chart as that of Hindi films. Five years ago, it was only Hindi films that would achieve the ` 100-crore benchmark. Now, Surya’s Singham was a blockbuster and it did similar business.
In terms of technology, many of our DoPs have worked in North India. So whether it is Manikandan and Murugadoss, they are equally active in the North and the South film industries.
Since your film is a festival release, obviously expectations are tremendous. How are you handling the pressure?
I am quite kicked about the film, more so because I am working with UTV. They are known for their marketing muscle and I am sure the promotions will be huge and the film will get adequate screen space. I am sure it will be a grand release. In terms of handling the pressure… I am not unnerved. As usual, I am just waiting for that coveted Friday! (Laughs)