ARM suggested Samantha's name to me
His directorial debut, Azhagai Irukkirai Bayamaai Irukkirathu, did not work at the box office and many had written off cinematographer SD Vijay Milton as a wannabe. But he made the industry sit up and take notice with Goli Soda. Here he is, talking about his follow-up film to the 2014 sleeper hit starring Vikram and Samantha, among other things ...
Goli Soda is still fresh in the minds of people. Any pressure to deliver the next?
Actually , this film is also very much in the spirit of Goli Soda -in fact, this is another Goli Soda... simple characters take on the powerful ones. I would call this a blown-up, sophisticated version of that film with a treatment that is at a realistic level even though there are fights, romance and songs.
Is it based on any real-life incident?
A story develops in two ways, it either forms organically in your mind or you create it bit by bit. It's like the difference between a Barbie doll and a real child. You manufacture the doll, but it has its own beauty . Goli Soda was based on what I had come across and observed, but this story is an assembled one. It is not exactly a road movie, but there is lot of travel. I had originally written the script as a road movie, but films like Paiyya released after that and so, I changed the tone of the film.Vikram plays an expert driver, who takes up work on call. Such drivers have a certain attitude.Their thinking is faster, and they're often split-second decision takers... So, for them, 10 seconds is quite a long time. How quickly this character reacts when he gets into problems that's the concept of the film.
Did you write the film with Vikram in mind?
No, I had written the script much earlier.During my film institute days, we had to do a project film and Vikram was the hero in my film. At that time, he had just started his acting career. So, I have been seeing him since then. I worked with him again in Pudhiya Mannargal, for which I was the last assistant cameraman, and then in Samurai for which I was the cinematographer.
So, we share a good equation. When Vikram, after viewing Goli Soda, asked me if I had any stories for him, I narrated this one. He liked it and I modified it to suit his image.
What kind of image do you think Vikram has?
With stars like Vijay or someone else, you can somehow paint a picture, but for Vikram -he can act as a father, as a romantic; he can do any role and can also adapt to any role. When we began 10 Endrathukulla, he was coming from having worked on I, for which he had undergone a transformation. So, there were a lot of changes on his face and body , and I wanted a look that can overcome those and make him look young and handsome. Also, Samantha was playing his pair and even Vikram felt that the chemistry between the two actors should come across onscreen despite the age difference.
And, why Samantha?
Samantha came on board thanks to Murugadoss sir. He was shooting Kaththi at that time and suggested her name. Apart from that, the first recognition that Goli Soda got was a tweet from Samantha after she had watched the film. So, I wanted to meet and thank her for the gesture. I decided to narrate this story , and luckily , she liked it. In this film, the heroine will be there in almost every scene because it is about a hero and a heroine travelling together. Perhaps, this is why Samantha considers this role special.
Reports suggest she is playing a double role and one of these is that of a Nepali girl...
No. I think this rumour arose because we shot some scenes in Nepal. But the film happens in Uttarakhand and we used Nepal as a stand-in for the state as we did not get the kind of locations that we wanted there.There seem to be a lot of villains in the film...Pasupathy is playing a character as interesting as Samantha's. Generally , we don't like the bad guy , but we will like this character a lot. Having such a character is like walking on a knife's edge because a little slip can turn the character comical and audiences might not fear him. But Pasupathy got that balance superbly when we shot the scenes. Abhimanyu Singh and Rahul Dev play villains in the respective regions where the story moves to; when the film takes place in Andhra, you will see Charmmee and a bad guy from the place, and when the action movies to Madhya Pradesh, you get Abhimanyu Singh while Rahul Dev will be seen in the Uttarakhand portions.
The visual tone feels different from usual Tamil films -was a conscious effort?
Yes. We decided to avoid the colours red, blue, green and yellow and instead went for muted colours like olive green, beige and so on. Both the hero and the heroine are not rich and I wanted the audience to see them as just a guy from Vannarapettai and a girl from Trichy . Avoiding bright colours automatically made the characters appear down-to-earth. Moreover, I wanted the actors and the props to merge with the background.Even Samantha was shocked initially , but after we had finished a schedule, she saw the footage and was very happy because there was so much difference in her costumes and looks in this film.
You have gone for a foreign action director, Lee Whitaker. Any particular reason?
It is not that we wanted to have a foreign stunt master. We do not have drivers here who can drive cars as expertly as the scenes demanded. One shot needed a particular type of skid and we do not have anyone in India who can execute that. We asked around for names and that is when Lee Whitaker's name came up. He has worked in the Fast & Furious films. We also consulted with Formula drivers like Narain Karthikeyan to make the stunts look authentic.
The film has been in the making for quite some time...
Yes, the filming took almost a year. The main reason is that this film is about a journey , so we needed a lot of locations.And we had to be at these places at the right time.For example, we had finalized Sikkim for a schedule but when we went to shoot there, the place witnessed landslides. Similarly, we had to go to Nepal during a particular period as it is only then the ice peaks of the mountains in the background will be visible. And Samantha is a busy actress -so we had to take her dates into consideration. We needed around 70 days from her but we couldn't get bulk dates because she had her other projects as well.And her presence was needed in almost every scene in the film. So, whenever she had dates -five or six days at a stretch -we shot during those days.
Credits : Times Of India / Chennai Times