Sense of a Scene: Love, untold- Livingston talks about the sollamale climax
In this week's column, Livingston, who played the lead in Sasi's Sollamale, talks about the film's shocking climax
"The 90s was a period dominated by films with positive endings, and until Sollamale, all my films had them too. So many suggested that Sasi and I tweak the climax like Mundhanai Mudichu, where the doctor sedates Urvashi instead of performing a family planning operation. But Sasi was determined to go ahead with the script and his courage has paid off. It's been more than twenty one years since the film released, but everytime it is played on TV, I get flooded with calls lauding the climax. Sollamale can be called the turning point of my life. Only after this film did people begin respecting my work.
Sasi wrote Sollamale keeping Prabhudheva in mind, and he felt it would be an added advantage as he could get away with the dance portions. But the producer, RB Choudary, insisted that I play the lead. Once I came aboard, Sasi shaped me in a way that I perfectly matched his lead character. Nataraj might seem like an easy role to pull off, but he has a lot of layers. He is a timid painter who’s fighting inferiority complex and is constantly in pursuit of love that he has been deprived of, throughout his life. As my strong zone is humour, I constantly checked with Sasi whether I was doing fine or going overboard. Especially during the pre-climax shot where I stand in front of the mirror, feel my throat and start shouting, 'I love you Shwetha', I felt highly skeptical that the audience might end up laughing as they had known me only as a comedy actor.
We shot the entire hospital episode for three days and throughout the shooting, I acted with an empty stomach. I felt that gave me the urge to deliver my best. I laid hands on food only after I reached home after the shoot during those days. The final scene where Kousalya's Shwetha confronts Nataraj along with his friends, was actually shot on the shores of Mahabalipuram beach and our cinematographer Dudley insisted that we begin shooting for it at 4 am to capture the natural lighting in the background. So we used to assemble as a gang around midnight and start to the spot. Reaching that place around 2 am, we would gather in circles, sing songs and crack jokes till the clock struck 4. We got hardly 45 minutes each day as the sun would start rising around 5:30 am. It was indeed a tight deadline. But we had fun shooting for it. If you feel the climax moves you, it's not only because of me, Sasi and Kousalya, it is also because of the lighting, cinematography and music.
There is a difference between representing unrequited love and glorifying it. The extreme decision that Nataraj takes in the climax is completely out of the platonic love he had on Shwetha. I wouldn't advocate it as the right thing to do, but it was natural for a person who hasn't experienced love all his life like Nataraj, to do so. Cinema is magic. A writer and director can justify anything on screen as long as they know how to handle the screenplay. My director Bhagiyaraj made Antha 7 Naatkal and Puthiya Vaarpugal with contrasting themes. While the first film insists that a girl shouldn't leave her husband because of the thaali sentiment, the heroine in the latter throws away the same thaali to escape a forced marriage and joins hands with her lover. Both films were hits and were equally loved. It is all about making the audience empathise with a character. If you try and connect it with reality, you might find a couple of things to be strange in every film.
Being a writer myself, I often come across the question, 'Would you have changed the ending of Sollamale, if given a chance?', and my reply has always been constant: Indha kadhaiku alteration-eh kedayadhu sir. Idhuku idhudhaan seriyaana climax."
(As told to Navein Darshan)