Nobody has become an alcoholic because of my films: Director Rajesh
The filmmaker, in this pre-release interview, talks about social responsibility in films, including in his latest release, Mr. Local, starring Sivakarthikeyan and Nayanthara
Director Rajesh is back with Mr. Local, three years after his last release, Kadavul Irukan Kumaru. His first collaboration with Sivakarthikeyan, Mr. Local has been touted as comprising several departures from his usual tropes, the biggest being the Rajesh hero's affinity for alcohol.
Excerpts from a conversation:
Did you have to design your characters to suit the star status of your lead pair, Sivakarthikeyan, and Nayanthara?
Sivakarthikeyan is a mass hero today. People adore him and his films have a wide reach. He has fans across age groups, including kids. When you work with a star, the director has to keep his image in mind. This script was designed after we knew we had Sivakarthikeyan and Nayanthara onboard. So the dialogues and the character were written for them. Siva's character is a middle-class youngster, who has a certain level of aggression in his responsibility.
Similarly, Nayanthara has her own star value. She is now doing several roles where she headlines the film. I can't give her a role that has appearing just for a song. In fact, she found playing just the heroine a welcome change from the several woman-centric films she has been doing. Had I had different actors, I would have devised some other script.
Is that what prompted the no-Tasmac song decision? Will this continue? Do you feel directors need to be socially responsible?
Oru padatha paathu matum oruthan kettu poran nu sollamudiyathu. I don't believe that. Just because I place a TASMAC scene, people aren't going to be influenced and flock to bars. But I have heard from the censors that I could have considered avoiding it. So with Mr. Local, I am happy I didn't have to hear that criticism again. I will try to avoid it as much as possible, and keep it only if the script absolutely demands it. As a filmmaker, I know I need to be responsible. I will definitely try to keep that going in my future films as well.
There has been talk that this film is influenced by Rajinikanth's Mannan.
Mr. Local is in no way connected to Mannan. It is not the official remake; neither is it inspired by the Rajinikanth film. I would say it is inspired by one of my own films, Siva Manasula Shakthi. Mr. Local is an upgraded version of SMS. SMS-eh konjam mass-a iruntha, adhan Mr. Local; you can call it, SMS 2.0. The story follows the ego tussles between two characters, Manohar and Keerthana. We wanted it to be a fun, summer entertainer.
Both you and Sivakarthikeyan have a track record of doing 'fun entertainers'. How was this collaboration?
I only had one single comedian in all my other films. But here, I have three -- Robo Shankar, Yogi Babu, and Sathish. That was a huge change by itself. Also, I have never felt the need to shoot abroad for my stories. I have only shot song sequences. But for this film, the story needed us to go to Europe. This is also the first time I am collaborating with Hip Hop Aadhi, Radhika, Sivakarthikeyan, and Yogi Babu. It was a new experience.
I loved working with Siva. Back during Siva Manasu Sakthi, we needed someone to imitate Rajini sir's voice. I used to watch Siva's shows and was a fan of his mimicry. We got him dubbing for that portion in SMS. Since then, his growth has been phenomenal as an actor and a performer, but he still remains humble.
Any plans to collaborate with Santhanam, your erstwhile regular, as a hero?
I would love to. We were supposed to work on a project but it didn't take off. We eventually got busy with our respective projects. He is a hero in his own right and is picking scripts that suit him. I am very happy for him.
All your films have had humour as the core. What is the biggest challenge in writing comedy?
The biggest challenge is to get the person in front of you laughing. I am a happy-go-lucky person in real life as well; quips, and repartees come naturally to me. I think that helps me write comedy. While writing about trending topics, it's important to make sure that it doesn't become stale by the time the film gets released.
Any chance that you will direct a serious film sometime?
If I get a producer, sure! But no producer will agree unless I produce it myself. I don't see myself doing it.