Tamizh Padam was stolen from Lollu Sabha: Rambhala, director of Dhillukku Dhuddu 2
The filmmaker, who's second film starring his long-time associate Santhanam is releasing tomorrow, opens about his film, Lollu Sabha and more.
Lollu Sabha was revolutionary television, and went on to redefine even Tamil cinema humour in many ways. The show not only introduced the spoof genre to the Tamil audience but also proved to be a big break for actors like Santhanam, Swaminathan, Manohar and Yogi Babu. It also gave us a director in Rambhala (who originally conceptualised and directed the series), who made his feature film debut with Dhilluku Dhuddu (2016), starring Santhanam in the lead. And now two years later, the director is back with the sequel, Dhilluku Dhuddu 2 (DD 2), with the same team.
The success of the first part, he says, gave them the push to come up with the sequel. “The audience liked our work in Dhilluku Dhuddu and we wanted to explore the comedy elements that we left untouched in the first part,” he says. Santhanam himself mentioned in a recent press meet that the last forty minutes of DD was well received by the audience than its first half, when asked if they had made any changes in DD 2 based on their learnings from the first. The director adds, “I had written a different screenplay for the first half, and what was on screen wasn’t the version we had originally conceived. We had to make changes due to certain reasons, but when we began DD 2, we were determined to deliver a comedy that engages the audience right from the first frame.”
The director feels slapstick comedies have longer shelf life and get a wider audience. “I believe no one can recreate the magic of legends like Charlie Chaplin, Laurel Hardy, Norman Wilson, and Jerry Louis. Slipping off the floor, accidentally banging the head on the door… these ideas have been done to death. So, we’ve tried our best to employ it economically. “
Rambhala has, first hand, witnessed the rise of Santhanam from a small-screen comedian to a full-fledged lead actor and for a while now, producer too. He says, “He was one of the few actors to involve themselves with the script and have healthy discussions with the director. This has made him stand out from the rest. He started his career with a salary of `50 and when I left Lollu Sabha, he was earning `1,200. Twelve years later, he has transformed into a hero and he is earning in crores. This has all happened because of his dedication, hard work and knowledge.” He also believes that Santhanam can never be shown to be unattractive. “Avar oru azhagaana aalu sir. I believe he has greater heights to reach. He has a lot of unexplored potential within him.”
Despite many comedies releasing in Tamil cinema, Rambhala feels there is a vacuum in the genre. “When I formed the core crew for Lollu Sabha, I wanted to make sure that every actor had a unique style of comedy. Be it Manohar, Yogi Babu or Swaminathan, each one of them is irreplaceable. But moneymaking has become the priority these days and not many directors work enough on the comedy portions,” he says. “They randomly assign a comedian and expect him to make the audience laugh without giving them content to work with. When you get annoyed by comedy, it’s always because of the director, and never because of the comedian.”
The director then makes the big complaint that the Tamizh Padam series and some other comedy programmes on TV are rip-offs of Lollu Sabha. “Tamizh Padam isn’t an honest spoof. This may sound harsh, but I want to make the point that Tamizh Padam was stolen from Lollu Sabha. I can pinpoint the innumerable references and comedy elements taken straight out of our work,” he says. Asked if he has ever confronted director CS Amudhan (who has since gone on to make a sequel to the film too) regarding this issue, he says, “I spoke to Amudhan before the release of Tamizh Padam, after noticing the similarities in the trailer. He assured though that both are entirely different and insisted that I watch the film first. But I was shaken when I saw that the film was a replica of Lollu Sabha.” He also believes that the famous TV show, Konjam Nadinga Boss, is stolen from a Lollu Sabha episode. “As long as people keep forgetting, they will keep stealing. Many dialogues used in comedy films these days were written by me twelve years ago. I don’t want a share in their profit, but all I demand is recognition for my work. But none of the people who used my ideas are willing to give me that.”
While even the sitcoms of the 90s like Friends, are available on online streaming platforms and channels, Lollu Sabha isn’t. Asked if he had ever thought about making Lollu Sabha available on such portals, he says, “No, I have never thought about it. To be honest, we weren’t this knowledgeable back then and we didn’t realise that our programme will get such a huge market. Our only priority was to earn a name in the industry and money was never our concern.” He remembers that every single episode was shot within a budget of 10-30k. “Only after finishing Lollu Sabha did I come to know that the actual budget allotted for an episode was `1.5 lakh. We had nobody to teach us about the monetising our ideas. If I had someone to do that, I might have earned a lot of money and bought multiple properties, but I am happy that even after so many years, people recognise my work and talk to me fondly about it. I’ve gained a name for myself, and that’s all that matters to me.”
I ask if he would take any spoofs of his own films lightly, and he says, “Absolutely! I would love to watch my films being spoofed. I genuinely enjoy comedy. I really loved Junga and congratulated Yogi Babu for it.” The director believes his best is yet to come, and shares that he’s not done with creating laughs out of ghosts. “My next film after Daavu, will again be a horror comedy, bankrolled by Abhishek Films. I was unable to execute certain comedy sequences in the DD franchise due to time restrictions, so I’ve planned to employ all of that in that project.” About Daavu, which has Kayal Chandran in the lead, he says, “The film is about reincarnation and I’m confident that it will be a hit. We are resuming the shoot soon, and we have planned to wrap the shoot by March-end.”
CS Amudhan responds:
“Why would we copy from a particular series, when we have the entire 70-year Tamil cinema to draw from? I am a big fan of Lollu Sabha myself. But we have not taken anything from it. Their humour is dialogue-oriented and they break the fourth wall often, but we follow a build-up and drop structure. An average viewer can spot this.”