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I don’t fall on another man’s feet; I don’t do item numbers: Director Ameer- Cinema express

I don’t fall on another man’s feet; I don’t do item numbers: Director Ameer

The director, who features in a prominent role in Vada Chennai, talks about the film, how he got on board and his future projects

Published: 16th October 2018

With Mounam Pesiyadhe, Raam, and Paruthiveeran, director Ameer changed the respective fortunes of their heroes (Suriya, Jiiva and Karthi, respectively). At a time when people expected him to continue this golden streak, he made a surprise acting turn with Yogi. Apart from two cameos since, the actor in Ameer went on a long sabbatical, and now, he’s again resurfaced with a pivotal role in director Vetrimaaran's Vada Chennai.

Excerpts from the interview:

The Past

“I have worked a wide variety of jobs, including that of a load man. In each of those jobs, I knew it wasn’t my destination. Cinema has been a long-term dream. As that voice in my head grew louder, I packed my bags to Chennai and became an assistant director in Sethu. That blind belief and passion have ensured that even today, at a time when I don't understand the business of cinema, I try to be involved in it in some form or other. I love it too much.”

The Turn

“I didn’t want to become an actor. If I did, Paruthiveeran would have been my star turn. A couple of my close friends, who heard the story, told me to take on the lead role. I was firm in just directing though, as there’s a special joy in it. The fallout from Paruthiveeran meant that I played an actor in Yogi. I got several opportunities after that, but didn't take them up as I got involved in many things (FEFSI union elections, Eelam, etc). It compromised both my acting and directing, and life just was moving at a snail's pace.”

The Respect

“During this period, I came in contact with director Vetrimaaran's work. In Aadukalam, before the title card, he thanked Paruthiveeran for inspiring his film. I liked that honesty. Whatever awards I couldn't win for Paruthiveeran, he won for Aadukalam (close to six awards) and that increased my respect for him. Finally, when I watched Visaaranai, he went right to the top of the list of people I admire. When he approached me for playing Rajan, I said yes.”

The Demand

“When Vetri first asked me to play the role, it was almost like an interview. He asked what I thought about acting in someone else's direction and I said it depended on the person asking. He then put his name forward and asked if I would act in his film. I said yes, but that I had two conditions, nay requests. One, that I wouldn’t ever fall down on another man's feet, even if it is acting. The second, that I wouldn’t do intimate scenes. This request was because of the item number I did in Yuddham Sei. Even today, if that song comes on TV, we don't watch it. My daughter was in Class 6 back then. She told me that if I ever acted in such a scene again, she would stop going to school. It was a lesson for me.”

The Shock

“Just before I went for the shoot, I learned that Vijay Sethupathi was supposed to do my role. Then I heard that Rana Daggubati and STR were also considered for it. Imagine the presence of Rana, as opposed to mine. I was the only person who was entering the shooting spot 30 days after it had been going on. It took two-three days for me to adjust, but once I did, I felt reassured of Vetrimaaran's choice in me. He told me that when he conceived the story with Sethupathi, the role was for only about 20 minutes of screen time. But once he started to shoot with me, the edited footage came up to 55 minutes. Obviously, you can't have that much in a hero-centric film, especially that of Dhanush, whose fans come to see him. I expect the final cut to be around 30 minutes with the rest of the scenes becoming part of song montages.”

The Method

“My character, Rajan, is someone who fights for his community and his character has negative shades. You have seen similar characters in Nayagan, Godfather, and RGV's Sathya; so it is not necessarily a new character. Acting to me is what I teach my actors when I am directing. I tell them to be like a horse with blinkers on. Don't get distracted. If that isn't possible, think of everyone else as fools and you as the only intelligent being there and perform with that confidence.”

The Romance

“I was hesitant to act with Andrea but didn't show it. She is taller and fairer and more fluent in English but showed no airs. I haven't even told her but I think she is the most comfortable artiste I have ever worked with. I wasn't comfortable with the intimate scene which I had to shoot but we cheated, and thanks to filmmaking tricks, we shot it. Even as late as Sunday, I was asking Vetri if it was okay to remove four to six frames. He told this to Andrea, who laughed at how even she hadn’t asked for any cuts.”

The Message

“The world's civilisations started on riverbanks and coastal banks. Vada Chennai starts from the coast and is the story of coastal people who have two jobs: Fishing and 'rendaam number thozhil'. This film deals with the latter. While taking this storyline, we have weaved in a message of how these people, born and brought up here, have been evicted over a period of time.”

The Learning

“Shooting a boat scene wasn't new to me. I was part of a scene in Nandha when Bala, me and Laila were the only ones who weren't seasick/vomiting. But talking Madras dialect was new for me. I don't know anything else other than Madurai Tamil.”

The Future

“After Paruthiveeran, if I had wanted to, I could have made five village films at least. There have been close to a 100 films including Kadaikutty Singam, based on that theme. I didn't want to do one and get the sort of rural image Bharathiraaja had. So I took up Aadhi Bhagavan (which was shot abroad). I am currently doing Santhana Devan, a village film; Achamillai Achamillai with my assistant, which is a story set in Tirupur; and Peranbu Konda Periyorgale, a political satire. But I am most excited about making a road trip film before Santhana Devan with fresh faces. I am really looking forward to seeing how I do it and how the audiences take to it.”

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