Sense of a scene: A transformation for the ages
In this week’s column, Baashha’s director, Suresh Krissna, elaborates on the making of the iconic pre-interval scene in the film
I didn’t know this interval scene would have so much impact. It wasn’t even there in the script originally! What we were sure was that we shouldn’t reveal the protagonist’s life as a don in the first half. That’s why we are constantly showing him being an innocent auto driver. However, we also had to tell the audience that there’s more than meets the eye, and hence, those scenes where we tease them -- the DIG sequence, for instance. What we did know was that the transformation should happen at the halfway stage. To make this happen, we needed a conflict and that’s where Anandraj’s role came in, after we decided that the brother would just be trying to do his job. The brother character too was a last-minute idea.
It was a huge risk to not give Rajini sir an action scene in the first half, given his image, and the fact that our first collaboration, Annamalai, had such a scene. Producer RM Veerappan sir was extremely unhappy with the scene where Rajini sir gets tied to the pole and beaten up. He told me I was making a mistake and was worried that fans would tear the theatre screen apart. Rajini sir came to his office to assure him that he believed in me. He also assured Veerapan sir that the film would be shown to him a month before its release, and that if he sstill did not like the scene, we would have enough time to reshoot it.
As for the scene, in order for Manickam to break the promise he had made to his father, we needed a big-enough situation. We felt that Indiran (Anandraj) tormenting Manickam’s step-mother and step-sister would do it. If he wasn’t going to blow his cover for this, what else was he going to do it for?
The moment Rajini sir lands his first blow, there is a still silence in which you hear the distant sound of a train. Even in my first film, Sathya, the hero stays next to Chetpet train station, and so we played with some train sounds. I believe that a scene’s impact can be amplified with silence and felt that this sound of a train would really impact the scene. Rajini sir’s body language, voice, the way he looks, and his whole behaviour changes. The ‘ullae po’ line was a significant landmark, and aimed to show how he had changed. That’s why the fight sequence too does not have a lot of cuts. We were trying to make it look real. In fact, Rajini sir himself fell many times and didn’t want to use dupes.
The scene when we realise Baashha has arrived is when he flicks his shirt back and stands in control. We took a couple of shots, one closer than the other, and gave it the dissolve effect as we did not have VFX during those days. That’s when the film’s theme music also plays for the first time (until then it is only used for flashback reels). We just knew that the audience would love this scene.
Once the fight is over, everyone comes forward to kiss his hand, and I confess that this bit was inspired from The Godfather (laughs). Rajini sir even jokingly asked why we needed that shot, but I said, ‘Athule oru kick irruku sir.’ The famous line, ‘Oru thadava sonna..’ was improvised too. It was originally ‘Oru vaati...’, but Rajini suggested we go with ‘thadava’. The whole set expected him to say ‘oru vaati’, but we knew this line would be a huge hit because, after he said ‘thadava’, everyone on the sets began using this line. You can’t plan for these things.