'If Ajith sir calls me, I'll be there'
Director Siva chats about his third consecutive film with Ajith, Vivegam, and delves into what went into the making of this action film
Siva says he hasn’t slept in a while, that Vivegam’s post-production work has kept him up for weeks on end. “My wife’s pretty angry with me,” he laughs. The director has never discussed an upcoming film of his as many times before its release as he has for Vivegam. “It’s all been different for Vivegam.”
Excerpts from a conversation:
It seems a given these days that if it’s an Ajith film releasing, it’s by director Siva.
(Laughs) Not like that. But yes, I’ve done three films with him now, and given the terrific actor and person that he is, I’d love to keep working with him. If he calls me, I’ll be there.
In a sense, that’s the nature of how films are made here, no? Stars seem to call the shots.
But directors also have control, I feel. My simply reasoning for our association is this: when there’s happiness in our bond, why break it? Both of us have great respect for each other’s hard work. In fact, I don’t know if I’m talented, but I can vouch for my obsession with work, with seeing on screen what I put on paper.
Could you elaborate?
I have put in unconditional work for Vivegam. It’s been a couple of weeks since I had decent sleep. We shot in trying conditions, which includes shooting in temperatures of minus 15 degrees. We climbed mountains without safety equipment just for a good shot or two.
Isn’t this comparable to what filmmakers generally do?
Not at all. Let me compare it with my previous films. I’ve never done so much for a film before. Ever since I conceived Vivegam as an international spy thriller, it was clear that it would demand this level of work.
I understand that Ajith has put in a lot of work to look the part.
The film required that he be put through physical strain. I was concerned for him, as I knew he was recovering from a surgery. But both of us knew he had to do these demanding action sequences, which form a crucial part of this film. He is an action hero with terrific reflexes. It was necessary for the film that he be in a condition to do such scenes.
The action set-pieces were my favourite part of your last film, Vedalam. You’re clearly a fan of action.
I love action blocks! I’m a big admirer of heroism. Such moments really compliment charismatic heroes like Ajith sir. I think the audience will love the action segments in Vivegam. I diligently write them down first, get them storyboarded, and then figure out how they can be accomplished with my stunt choreographers.
You must have felt a lot of pressure to outdo the sequences in Vedalam.
Not just Vedalam, we wanted every action block within Vivegam to be totally different. There’s a fist-fight, a sword fight, a nunchaku fight… And all these fights are guided by an underlying emotion which dictates everything from the location of the fight to its intensity. One dramatic fight happens between two moving trains. I assure you, you have never seen anything like it in Tamil cinema.
How do you integrate the masala elements you’re known for into a genre film like Vivegam?
When I take up a genre, I try to be as honest as possible to it. But there are certain mandatory elements I believe in, like comedy, love and sentiment. In Vivegam, there’s a wife sentiment angle that has come out really well. I think Indian films should be emotionally rooted. Perhaps it’s because of how I was brought up. I may be wrong about this, but these are the films I like to watch.
But do they always work? In Vedalam, for instance, I thought the main problem was…
Soori’s comedy, I know. But it worked big time in the B and C centres. I was told that it didn’t work only in A centres. When I make a film that’s designed to appeal to all centres, I think it’s okay that a few parts don’t work across centres.
In Vivegam though, there’s no separate comedy track. The jokes are integrated into the script. They are all in the form of dry, funny one-liners, like the one you saw in the trailer.
Veeram was about a man of violence. Vedalam was about a man who unleashed his violence with glee. Vivegam’s trailer ends with Ajith’s character saying, “You will see my rage.” Is it fair to say they are all part of a rage trilogy?
Wow, I never thought of my films in this light. I made them as three independent films. Maybe now that you’ve put this thought into my mind, I may think about this.