With the digitally remastered Vetri Vizha releasing this Friday, the film's director Prathap Pothen takes a walk down the memory lane
Tamil cinema is always accused of aping the West, but Vetri Vizha was possibly one of the first films to be way ahead of the curve, according to director Pratap Pothen, whose Vetri Vizha, now digitally mastered, is re-releasing this Friday, 28 years after he originally adapted Robert Ludlum’s book Bourne Identity.
Talking about how the project came about, he recalls, “Kamal Haasan did a guest role in my Malayalam film, Daisy, and Sivaji productions were also shooting another film around the same area. I had a good relationship with Ramkumar. Sivaji Productions had a shortlist of directors it wanted to work with, and I happened to be on that list.”
Vetri Vizha was the first film that Sivaji productions produced with an actor outside its family.
How did he come up with the idea for the film? “It just so happened that I was reading the book at that time and it seemed terrific. It was basically Kalidasa’s Shakuntala with lot more action.”
But Bourne Identity didn’t have a character like Prabhu. “True. Nor did it have five songs. Prabhu really wanted to be on board.” Speaking of songs, Maarugo Maarugo was quite the hit. “Yes. There are two distinct numbers. One is the slow theme that plays at the start and then comes the more popular duet version. When I first played the song to Kamal, he was so taken with it that he put his own spin on it by combining it with the other popular song of the time, Puthu Maappillaikku of Aboorva Sagotharargal. Ilaiyaraaja gave me such a fabulous score.”
The other thing most people remember about the film, is its villain, Salim Ghouse. “There is a famous Hitchcock maxim — ‘The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.’ I was looking for such a villain. I met Ghouse, when I was doing a play called Androcles and the Lion as part of Madras players. He really liked the script and got on board.”
“Though he is only introduced 90 minutes into the film, which by the way was not something that was ever done till then, we ensured his presence was always there. I guess that’s also a reason for the film’s success.”
Given the sequel craze, does he want to make a sequel to Vetri Vizha? After all Bourne is a trilogy. “I have been hounding Kamal with a script for sometime now (laughs). It is up to him now.”