Sense of a Scene: Vijay's Love Today - A climax that defied the 90s
In this week’s column, director Balasekaran talks in detail about his unique climax of Vijay-starrer Love Today (1997)
"The climax was the first thing I wrote. Filmmakers usually have the introduction and interval in place before they think about the climax. However, I have the habit of writing a unique climax first and then tracing the story backwards. A lot of films that were released during the 90s, had a heavy influence of Romeo Juliet, and the lead couple would often end up committing suicide in the climax. I didn't want my film to be such a tragedy and yet, I didn’t want to settle for a cliched happy ending. Love Today was born out of a what-if. What if a boy who dares to go to any extent for love, ends up opting out of it? I pitched this line to my producer, and wanted to stick to it at any cost.
The audience of the time were so used to watching films whose hero and heroine would unite at the end. In order to make them get used to such a climax, I had to design the father's character, played by Raghuvaran, in such a way to convey that his affection and care could replace any other kind of love. I needed the audience to believe that if a boy loses such an affectionate father, he would be so depressed that it would be hard for him to think about love.
I also did something to make the audience sub-consciously ready for the final twist. Right after Dhamu and Vijay get hit by Ramji, Karan asks, “What is more important to you? Friendship or love?” Without answering him, Vijay reaches out for a log in the scene to convey that he is the sort of person willing to sacrifice his love if something were to happen to his dear ones.
Before the film went on the floors, I had apprehensions that the audience might misinterpret the climax as being against women in general. This is why I took great care to project all the women in the film in the right manner. The women I saw in my life like my mother and sisters, were inspirations for the character of Suvalakshmi. Most middle-class girls of the time avoided romantic love to ensure that they could reach their other goals in life. Even when the hero refuses her eventual advance, he doesn't blame her. He simply says, "I don't like love now, so I don't like you anymore."
Locations were a big part of this film. I have always believed that a location should tell a story by itself. I chose the beach as the location for the climax as it symbolises the internal battle both face. I initially planned it to shoot it in Kovalam, but the film's producer RB Choudary was so impressed with the climax that he suggested that we shoot it in the scenic beach of Vizag. Till now, many people think I must have taken two or three days for the sequence, but, we took barely three hours to film it. We began at 2 PM in the noon and wrapped up shoot by 5 PM. Back then we didn't have the practice of rehearsing scenes, so everything you see on screen was performed first on location.
Vijay sir has an amazing memory; he never pauses to recall dialogues. He performed the entire scene in a single take. We reshot the sequence only for different camera angles. We didn't have great technology back then to elevate a scene—like monitors, for instance. I believe that technology is secondary to strong writing.
I gained the confidence that the film would be loved when I was shooting the pre-climax portion that has the hero getting to know about the death of his father. I simply conveyed the mood of this scene to Vijay sir, and he improvised the entire sequence. His fall near the door and the shot where he hits himself with Karan sir's hands were completely unscripted. The entire unit including lightmen were in tears. That is when I knew the film would be successful.
Oru nalla climax iththanai varsham appromum pesa padudhu nu nenaikrappo perumaiya iruku."