Traffic Ramaswamy is a bit like Jesus: Director SA Chandrasekhar
The director plays the social activist in the upcoming biopic
The teaser of Traffic Ramasamy -- the biopic about the social activist -- is yet to be released for the public, but some of us who got to see it were floored by hints of some great performance from director-actor SA Chandrasekhar, who plays the protagonist. At a recent event, the film's director Vicky, who used to be SAC's assistant, believes that the veteran actor-director is best suited to play the role. "While shooting for another film a few years back under SAC sir's direction, he wanted a few posters to be removed. I got into the drainage to remove the posters and suddenly noticed another pair of hands helping. I was astonished to see SAC sir who was in knee-deep sewage helping me do what he wanted me to do."
SAC, who has done films with Rajinikanth, Vijayakanth, Chiranjeevi, Rajesh Khanna, and Jeetendra among other top actors, talks about his own dedication to cinema. "I haven't studied much but I've done films in languages like Kannada, Telugu and Hindi. When doing my first Telugu film, I didn't know a word of that language. For my second film, I was teaching my actors the lines in Telugu. Similarly, in Hindi, all I knew was 'achaa' but I learned it too. It's because of dedicating myself to the art form," says SAC. "That's how I was able to give silver jubilee hits in other languages too. Love for cinema keeps me young."
The director, known for his thought-provoking films consider cinema to be the medium that people most connect with. "Media is a weapon that can be used to convey to the masses what's good for them and what's bad. When said through cinema, it reaches more people. The Marina protest by our youngsters is a sign of this," he says. SAC talks about an incident that happened a couple of years back. "A group tried to rob a bank in a small village. The villagers somehow managed to stop them, and when the press came the next day wanting to know how the villagers pulled it off, they said they had watched Neethikku Thandanai (a 1987 film by SAC). The film's climax, they said, gave them the courage," he says. "Over the years, films have started showing the reality of life. That's how films like Dangal and MS Dhoni have come out. And Traffic Ramaswamy is one such."
A polarising figure, Traffic Ramasamy has had his fair share of negative publicity too, but SAC says that there's more to the activist than meets the eye. "His actual image was intentionally distorted, maligned and reduced to a clown who goes on a sabotaging spree. His real identity has been deliberately kept away from the general public by politicians and officers. There is a lot more to him than you know," says the director, who admits to not thinking much of Traffic Ramasamy till he read a book about him. "When reading his life history, the hidden truth in it inspired me to do this film. He is a bit like Jesus. Jesus was crucified once and he was resurrected; Traffic Ramasamy too has been crucified many times and every single time, he has managed to come back stronger for the welfare of the people."
The veteran director has no qualms in openly admitting that he's outdated as a filmmaker. "Seeing what the young directors are pulling off and their technological prowess, I feel outdated. Some don't want to accept it but only if we accept the truth can we prepare ourselves for what's next," says SAC, who believes that acting under the direction of a 24-year-old is a positive step for him. "I've surrendered myself to his vision, and done everything he wanted me to do for this film. If I had born the arrogance of a director who has done 69 films, I could've told Vicky to use dupes for the action sequences, or use camera tricks, but the film wouldn't have come out well. I wanted to learn how the current generation works."
SAC feels that he's at a stage where he is doing films for his own satisfaction. "There was a period in the 80s when I had to earn money and fame but not anymore. Thanks to god, all the artists I've introduced have done well for themselves. I know my strengths. I was away from films for two years, but this story made me come out of my hiatus. If another inspirational story comes my way, I might resume work again." Ask him if his son, Vijay, has seen the biopic and a smiling SAC says, "Vijay will always see only the film's final cut, and similarly, he won't show his films to others until it's completely done. He wasn't happy about me acting in the beginning and would ask why I wanted to strain myself at this age. But he later understood my dedication."