I told Ajith sir that I was afraid to do Nerkonda Paarvai: H Vinoth
In an exclusive chat with us, director Vinoth talks about his upcoming film, Nerkonda Paarvai, comparisons with Pink, and working with Ajith
The story of how director Vinoth got on board for the Tamil remake of Pink — Nerkonda Paarvai — starring Ajith in the lead, is a story worth making a film on. "I wanted to do a film with Ajith sir and I kept contacting his manager for three years. He was busy but I did not have any other source, so I kept bothering him," says Vinoth, who finally got to meet up with the actor and was in for a surprise.
Excerpts from the conversation with the Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru filmmaker.
So, what was the surprise?
I narrated a film in which he has a negative shade but he said he has done a fair share of such roles. He also said that both he and his fans have grown up and he should do roles that would give hope to those who follow him. Sir felt that he has done commercial films continuously. He liked a script and wanted to go ahead with it. 'Naa ithuvum pannuven, janangaluku pudichiruka illeya nu avanga mudivu pannatom.'
He also said that he is aware of me following him for a long time and he would like to work with me. He acknowledged that I was good with writing and this film would need a good writer. That is when I got to know that he had promised Sridevi madam during English Vinglish that he would do a film for her banner. Even though she's not alive anymore, Ajith sir was keen to fulfil the promise. In fact, Sridevi madam was the one who recommended that he do the Pink remake. Then, after her demise, Ajith sir requested Boney Kapoor sir to get the remake rights.
Did you have apprehensions of doing a remake?
Apprehension is an understatement. I was saying to myself, "Thambi, neeye ippo dhaan develop aagitu vare. Ippo ithule sikkanuma?" I know about Ajith sir fans. I have had a tough journey to build a career, and a mistake could spell disaster. I realised that there could be two issues — how his fans would consume this film and how a cult film that has admirers across the country could be remade by retaining the essence. We should first at least understand half of Pink(laughs). The challenge was also to find the right cast and crew. I told Ajith sir these issues and that I was afraid to do this film. He told me that he would not pressurise me and told me to concentrate on another script.
But I came back home and started seeing Pink on loop for three days. I realised that the film, despite having seen it a few times and knowing the twists, kept me engaged every single time. I also realised that it was an opportunity that I could not afford to miss and such a distinguished film in my filmography would always be a great addition. I met Ajith sir again and told him that I will explain the crux as a one-liner and if he is on the same page, then we can go ahead. It's a film about how we see and understand women and how they should be seen and understood. He said that was exactly what he thought as well.
Apparently, you also recommended that he collaborate with a woman director for this film?
Yes, but Ajith sir felt it would be a huge mistake. According to him, if a woman directs this film, it could be misconstrued as being one-sided. He felt strongly that Nerkonda Paarvai is not a film for women but something that men should watch. 'Pasanga dhaan ponnungala paththi therinjikanum.' The clarity he has astonished me, and it was obvious that he was not doing a film just for the sake of it or for money. Boney Kapoor sir also surprised me by asking me not to worry about trade aspects and concentrate completely on shaping the film.
How was it to work with Ajith?
I might not have much experience but working with him was more comfortable and easier than working with a newbie. He ate the same food the unit did, and if something went wrong on that front, he would rectify it. We would sometimes wonder if as an actor, he was acting to retain his image. However, if you spend time with him, you realise that it is really what he is. He will make you feel like he is your friend and at the same time, he would make sure no one can take advantage of that friendliness.
How will Nerkonda Paarvai be different from Pink?
Pink has a lot of layers and subtext. My skills should first include trying to understand all these nuances. Next would be to translate the hard-found elements in a simpler way that a layman can understand. We are also aware of what fans expect from Ajith sir's film. The pressure of living up to those expectations was there in the beginning but after mingling with Ajith sir, I realised that fans don't follow him for his films but his personality. His real-life persona is transparent. If he wants to fall in love and get married, he does that. If he wants to race for the country, he does that as well. Just like many of us, nothing was offered to him on a silver platter. The struggle he had in his life and how he overcame those to become what he is, is what I believe is the reason for his fan following. These fans were with him during his worst times, so won't they be with him when he's trying something new?
I cannot divulge much about his role but Ajith sir is waiting to surprise you all. Pink did not have songs or fight sequences but Nerkonda Paarvai will have two songs as well as a fight sequence.
Considering the importance of female characters in the film, the casting must have been challenging.
The original film's writer (and director), Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, made the job easier for me. We have had ample discussions, so we knew we were strong on the content side. The casting was actually the toughest part. Getting artists who would understand the writing and not considering it just as an Ajith film was challenging. I worked more like an engineer — alavu eduthu seiya vendiyatha pochu. If an artist is not sensible enough to understand the character, it would just not work.
The film also marks the Tamil debut of Vidya Balan and Kalki Koechlin.
Both of their roles are cameos. Kalki appears in a song while Vidya comes in a flashback scene. Both are brilliant performers and they pulled off their parts easily.
'Sensibilities' is a word that we hear often when a film is remade in a different language. Do you believe in the word?
Speaking openly about sex, or women drinking is considered to be a taboo in our nation but in Western countries, it's not. We have reduced the practice of using our caste as our surnames, and those who still do are often criticised, but this is casual in the north. Even women are treated differently by us when compared to the north. Though we have our own set of unwanted elements, we treat women considerably better.
Pink was treated as a metro film, with a lot of English dialogues. But when it is an Ajith starrer, it automatically becomes a mass film, so we had to make tweaks. The original film was shot candidly at places by hiding cameras and shooting the artists without their knowledge, but here, we have reduced the rawness and treated it a little cinematically. This will make it reachable for more people.
We know your next film is also with Ajith.
Yes, and there are various speculations making rounds. Yethavathu nalladha maatuna nambale senjidalam (laughs). I still haven't zeroed on the script and we are working with just a basic one line. It will be a huge project that demands a lot of planning. Once Nerkonda Paarvai gets released, this film will go on floors.