If Nayanthara had refused, I’d have made that character a man: Ajay Gnanamuthu
The filmmaker who made his debut through Demonte Colony, talks about how he put together his second, Imaikka Nodigal
Imaikka Nodigal is Ajay Gnanamuthu's second film after the hugely successful Demonte Colony, and the director says it was originally conceived as a double hero subject. "I asked the writer to change the character of the elder brother to that of a sister," he says. "I felt the emotions would be better conveyed with them, and I couldn’t think of anyone but Nayanthara ma'am to do justice. If she’d said no, I’d have made the character a man." He also adds that he isn't a fan of writing dependent women. "I grew up around strong women. I don’t like to see female characters breaking down easily, and Nayanthara’s character is a personification of that."
Interestingly, this was the first script Ajay had written. "Over the years, I have edited it several times but the crux, as I had written in 2013, remains the same," says the director, who didn’t conceive it as a multi-starrer at the time of scripting. "There are two ways to write a film. You write a script and then pick the cast, or vice-versa. When writing this script, I had only the characters in mind, not the actors."
Demonte Colony had thriller elements though it was a horror film. This time, with Imaikka Nodigal, the director steps into completely thriller territory. He believes the genre gets the best out of him. "A thriller can make you stay glued to the screen in a way other genres can’t," he says.
Ajay says shooting the film in Bengaluru was a big challenge. "But we enjoyed it. There were scenes that needed Nayanthara ma'am walking the streets of Bengaluru; so you can imagine. We used hidden cameras to shoot and also orchestrated fake shoots to divert the crowd." Despite all this, a day's shoot had to be called off due to ineffective crowd control. "We took extra precautions after that and had no other issues."
The film marks the debut of Bollywood director Anurag Kashyap in Tamil cinema. "I tried to rope in Gautham Menon sir for that role but he was busy. I wanted someone who hadn't done villain roles. That's when I saw the trailer of Akira (the Hindi remake of Mouna Guru directed by AR Murugadoss, who Ajay has assisted). I asked Murugadoss sir to talk to Anurag sir during the premiere of Akira and went on to meet him," says the director. "He held a cigarette in his hand while listening to the script and his swag was exactly what I wanted for that character. Thankfully, he loved the script. During shooting, he gave me more than I expected. He was also careful about avoiding lip sync issues, and got his lines two days in advance. He'd sing his lines to remember them."
On Atharvaa, the director says he was the first person to listen to this script. "This happened way back in 2013. As I hadn’t yet made my debut, I couldn’t quite get the project on the road. That's why I did Demonte Colony in between. Atharvaa’s interest in the project remained, and the film materialised," says Ajay. "Raashi Khanna too, I felt, would be perfect for the role."
Ajay opted for Pattukottai Prabhakar for dialogue writing responsibilities. "Demonte Colony’s main characters were around my age; so I could write the dialogues easily. But in this film, the characters are more complex, and I didn’t want to ruin the lines with my limited experience," explains Ajay, who’s also all praise for composer duo, Hip Hop Tamizha. "They have worked very hard for the film. I'm selfish and demand that every technician give their best for my film. They have gone over and above what I wanted."
The director is in no hurry to begin work on his next. "It all depends on the feedback I get for Imaikka Nodigal. I also need some personal time," says Ajay, who worked on several films as an AD including Thuppakki. Ask him if he's got a script ready for Vijay, whom he’s a big fan of, and he signs off wistfully by saying, "It’d be a dream come true. Some day…"