Yogi Babu didn’t want to play the lead in Gurkha: Director Sam Anton
The filmmaker, whose fourth directorial and first production venture, Gurkha, is getting released tomorrow, talks about the film, and Yogi Babu's contribution to it
After the Atharvaa-starrer 100, which was Sam Anton's most serious film yet, it appears that he now returns to his comfort zone—humour—with the Yogi Babu starrer, Gurkha. "100 was a pressurising film. But just like Darling, my debut film, I had a lot of fun making Gurkha. As we were the producers as well, it was far easier," says the director.
Excerpts from a conversation.
Was turning a producer always on the cards?
Not really. When we decided on the script of Gurkha, we did not want to compromise on certain aspects. We had a whacky idea and we (the team of 4 Monkeys Studios -- editor Ruben, cinematographer Krishnan Vasant, distributor Kishore, and Sam) shared it with Babu who loved it. We did not know how the business would work because we were afraid that other producers might quote a lesser budget and make us compromise on the quality. It is safe to say that the story of Gurkha turned us into producers.
Can you explain the relevance of the title?
Yogi Babu plays a security guard at a mall, and comes from the bloodline of Gorkhas. In the 70s, a Gorkha marries a Tamil woman and our hero is their child. That's why he looks different from his other cousins. There was some backlash after the first look was released, but we gave an explanation saying that we have not portrayed the community in a bad manner. The story justifies the title.
We heard that Yogi Babu’s rapport with you resulted in you getting a lot of his dates.
(Laughs) We share a great bond and that's why I approached him immediately after getting the idea for Gurkha. It all started with Enakku Innoru Per Irukku, at a time when he hadn’t become the phenomenon he is today. Even then, I used to give him the freedom to improvise. I used to say 'enna venalum pannunga' because I simply wanted the scene to work. The same happened in 100; his improvisations made me laugh out loud on the sets. He was initially sceptical when I asked him to play the lead. He didn’t want to change things around in his career. This was when we were working on 100. I assured him that Gurkha’s storyline would work. Convincing Babu was the difficult task. Sivakarthikeyan releasing the first look and the response it got, gave Babu the confidence.
During scripting, I would call Babu up and ask for suggestions. So improvisations were actually minimal in this film. We planned the schedules really well; that helped me get bulk dates from him.
You have called Gurkha as being inspired by Paul Blart: Mall Cop and the Die Hard series.
Yes, and it's not wrong to be inspired by other films as long as you don’t do a scene-by-scene copy. Paul Blart is the story of a bank robbery inside a mall, but Gurkha, in aspects concerning the villain, is more like Die Hard. The teaser has a character comparing the events to that film. The villain here is more serious and ambitious. Hollywood has a lot of films under the heist genre with hostage situations such as the Antonio Banderas-starrer Security, which also happens inside a mall. Actually, even my previous film, 100, was inspired by Halle Berry's The Call.
You tend to deal with sensitive issues with humour. In Gurkha, there is a scene that parodies the Tuticorin protest incident. Where do you draw the line?
In Darling, Karunas' character would pray in a humourous manner. Similarly, in Enakku Innoru Per Irukku, GV Prakash would set out to become a church pastor. The censors let go of such scenes because I am a Christian. They even pointed that out to me. In Gurkha, I reference dark incidents with humour, so it can reach a wider audience. The same question was asked by the censor committee, and I replied saying that I belong to the same city, and in my previous film, I had shown how righteous cops can be. However, this incident triggered me to point out that some cops will carry out orders, regardless of what they are. I want to register this in the mind of the audience. Referencing current incidents is a trend right now, but I see it fading in a year or two.