'Today’s comedies fail to make people laugh'
... says director Sakthi Chidambaram, who is marking his return to filmmaking with Charlie Chaplin 2, starring Prabhu, Prabhudheva, Nikki Galrani, and Adah Sharma
The name may not be particularly familiar, but if you have browsed through the Tamil comedy channels, it is highly likely you would have come across scenes from Sakthi Chidambaram’s comedies, including Maha Nadigan, English Kaaran, and Kovai Brothers. After a hiatus of over eight years, the director is now back with Charlie Chaplin 2. "I was never away from the film industry. I was just waiting for a good script, while keeping myself busy with production and distribution work," says the director. "Cinema thavara vera ethayum nenachu kooda pathathu illa (I've never imagined any another career apart from filmmaking)."
Sakthi vows that Charlie Chaplin 2 wasn't made to capitalise on the sequels trend. "The film won't be a continuation of Charlie Chaplin. We made a story, and with Prabhu sir and Prabhudheva sir on board, and felt that calling it Charlie Chaplin 2 would be useful," says the director. Charlie Chaplin (2002), incidentally, was among the director's biggest hits and went on to be remade in six languages. "I'm very keen on coming up with concepts that work across regions. Charlie Chaplin 2 is also such a film." On the story, he says, "Technology is both a boon and a bane. Thinking about how we should use it is the need of the hour and the film will talk about the repercussions of technology being taken for granted. But it's all said keeping the comic flavour intact."
Unlike the first film, which was a family drama, the trailer of Charlie Chaplin 2 suggested the inclusion of a lot of action sequences. "We focussed on showing them in this trailer as the producer asked for it and of course, for the Hindi rights (laughs). The film is very much a comedy with fights that are justified," says Sakthi, who heaps praise on the film's leads, Prabhudheva and Prabhu. "When the first film happened, Prabhudheva sir wasn't a director, but now, he has directed a lot of films and that's an advantage for me. He has been in Bollywood too, so his tips were handy. We discussed a lot of ideas and the ones which I felt apt have all made it into the film. We have also discussed Charlie Chaplin 3 and he's ready to do more such films. We're planning to make it into a franchise with perhaps the most number of films in one."
On Prabhu, the director says, "We all know what a good actor he is, but more than that, he's a wonderful person. Not only does he bring food for all of us from his house, he even serves it himself. Thanks to him, the sets always felt like a relative's place. We got so used to it that when he's not in for a day, the unit would actually get upset (smiles). I'd call him 'nadippule Sivaji, character-le MGR'. Every filmmaker would want to work with Sivaji sir. I wasn't lucky enough to do that, but that dream came through by directing Prabhu sir."
The film also marks the Tamil debut of sports anchor, Samir Kochhar. "We've got a considerable portion happening in Andhra and we needed a villain who'd look the part. Samir Kochhar fit the bill perfectly." The film became the talk of the town recently when the song, Chinna Machan, sung by Senthil Ganesh and Rajalakshmi, became viral. Speaking about the song which has now raked in more than 70 million views, Sakthi says, "The voice of the duo made it a success, and we also owe the success to music director Amrish. We didn't actually imagine it would be such a huge hit, to be honest."
The director evinces unhappiness with the comedy scene in Tamil cinema. "In the name of dark comedy, we are seeing a lot of distasteful scenes. Comedy should make the audience forget their issues. These days, people promote their films as comedies, but we have to actually sit and look for funny portions. Only the characters in the film seem to be laughing," says the director, who claims to have taken great care to avoid vulgarity in his film. "That's why films such as Kadhalikka Neramillai, Ooty Varai Uravu and Ullathai Allitha ended up becoming evergreen comedies. I want my comedy scenes to be enjoyed by families for years."
Ask Sakthi the secret behind the popularity of his comedy scenes on television, and he says, "I don't know to write anything else. I'm a big fan of Radha Ravi sir, so satire comes to me naturally even when I'm actually aiming for slapstick." Speaking about satire, the director's next film will be a political satire starring Jeevan. "I'm waiting for the election season to release it. It's titled Englishkaran 2 and alongside Jeevan, features a host of comedians such as Robo Shankar and Yogi Babu.”