'Rajinikanth was to do Bhaskar Oru Rascal'
... says director Siddique, who returns to Tamil cinema after a short hiatus with yet another remake of a Malayalam hit
Siddique, who directed films like Friends, Engal Anna, and Kaavalan, is back in Tamil cinema with this week's release, Bhaskar Oru Rascal, starring Arvind Swami and Amala Paul. This one, again, is a remake of a Malayalam film -- his own -- Bhaskar the Rascal, which starred Mammootty and Nayanthara in the lead.
How different is the industry after your seven-year hiatus?
Tamil cinema has always welcomed good subjects. But now, films from different genres, made by new directors, do well commercially. At the same time, it doesn't affect the market of stars and veteran directors. This balance is something which wasn't there before; films without big stars rarely made it big.
How did Bhaskar Oru Rascal happen?
Bhaskar the Rascal became a huge hit in Malayalam. Mammootty sir did a great job in it and we wanted someone who could pull it off in Tamil. That's when Arvind Swami made his re-entry. I immediately told the producer that he would be perfect, and Arvind, too, liked the film. He has done a brilliant job.
Was Nayanthara approached for the Tamil version as well?
The remake was planned a long time back but for many reasons, it didn't take off. Rajinikanth sir was supposed to play the lead in the film and Nayanthara was to reprise her role. But when we were finally ready for the remake, it was hard for her to join us as she had a lot of commitments in Tamil and Telugu.
Why didn't the film materialise with Rajini?
I couldn't meet him when the producers met him, as I was in the US. Though he didn't commit to the film, he watched Bhaskar the Rascal and liked it. I'm unaware of what happened after that, but when I got back to India, all I knew was that it wasn't happening. I had to wait a long time to find the right actor, and fortunately, we got Arvind Swami.
Your film, Bodyguard, was remade in all South Indian languages as well as Hindi. But that's not the case with your other films. What decides whether remakes will work in certain languages?
It depends on the subject. Films such as Kabooliwala and Ladies and Gentleman aren't suitable for remakes as they are rooted in the Malayalam landscape. If I had to make such a film in other languages, the core would have to be changed and that jeopardises the chances of it being successful.
So, the potential success of a film justifies remake value?
Not necessarily. It's the adaptability of the script that decides. For example, Bodyguard's remakes in Tamil (Kaavalan starring Vijay) and Hindi (Bodyguard starring Salman Khan) were huge hits when compared to the original Malayalam version, which was only a moderate hit. The relevance of the subject matters.
Do you see remake potential even during scripting?
Yes, and we even decide who will be starring in the remakes when confirming the actors for the Malayalam version. This pre-planning helps make sure that the actors we want in the other languages are also available. This way, when we are done with the original version, we can move on to the remakes immediately. Bhaskar Oru Rascal was supposed to have been so, but as I said, it got delayed.
What are the challenges in doing the same subject in different languages?
When a film's remade in another language, it has to be redesigned to suit the culture there. Bhaskar Oru Rascal, for example, was tweaked to suit the Tamil audiences. With Kaavalan and Friends, too, there were many differences from the original versions. People have to believe that the story is happening in their land and starring their hero. Bringing that feel is where the talent lies. Tamil-la pesura Malayalam padam mathiri irruka koodathu. Even the speed of the film has to be increased if it's a Tamil or Hindi film. Malayalam audience expects their films to be slow.
How did you manage to understand the pulse of different cultures?
By watching a lot of Tamil and Hindi films. They help keep myself updated on changing trends. I've been an audience during all the years I wasn't a director. That's why I am able to come back after seven years and still give a film with top actors.
Luckily for me, language isn't an issue. I can speak Tamil well, as I assisted Fazil sir (of Kadhalukku Mariyadhai fame) for a long time. Most of my technicians including my editor, KR Gourishankar, who has worked with me from my first film, are Tamilians. I can manage pretty well with Hindi too.
Your films such as Friends and Engal Anna were multi-starrers. We hardly see such films anymore.
The trend has changed. Family subjects, which give rise to multi-starrers, have moved to TV. People don't want to see such stories on the big screen anymore.
Tell us about your future projects.
My next film in Malayalam will be with Mohanlal sir. It will get released in April 2019. Before that, I'll be doing the Hindi remake of Bhaskar the Rascal. Also, I can assure you that my next Tamil film won't take as long as this one.