Napoleon: I did Vattaram only so I could wear a suit
The veteran actor, along with co-producer Tel K Ganesan, discuss their upcoming feature film, Devil's Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge
Actor Napoleon, who has worked across South languge films, adds another feather to his cap, with his Hollywood debut, Devil's Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge, all set to be released on a OTT platform. "I have known the film’s co-producer, Tel K Ganesan, who hails from a village that's just four kilometres away from mine. It was a surprise when he wanted to produce a Hollywood film and I was even more surprised when he wanted me to be a part of it," says Napolean, as he joins Tel over a video call to have this conversation...
Excerpts from the conversation:
What is it like to make your Hollywood debut?
Napoleon: It's a different experience. I play a museum curator in the film and it's a role unlike anything I have done before in our films. Only after accepting the film, I realised that the film was going to be made with live sound. I had a tough time being part of Telugu and Malayalam films, but at least there, I could rectify mistakes during dubbing. Here, there was no question of bringing in dubbing artistes either. I had to write down my lines and practise pronouncing the words right. I joked, ‘Naane butler English vechu ottitrukken’, but Tel convinced me. Fortunately, the character is of Indian descent, so I didn't have to get the American accent perfectly.
Nain Rouge is the name of an urban legend famous in Detroit. Is this film based on that?
Tel: Yes, it’s a mythical creature famously known in the Detroit, Michigan area, and the film is based on the legend behind it. A series of murders happen and when the police cannot decipher the happenings, they turn to a museum curator played by Napoleon.
Napoleon, how does the technology used in a Hollywood film compare to what we have here?
Napoleon: Hollywood is leaps and bounds ahead. For our films, we would need more than 100 people for shooting a scene, but here, the number is just around 15-20 which means that each person is tasked with more responsibility. Even from an artiste's perspective, unlike back home where we would each have a driver, a manager and others, here we had no such liberty. This helps them cut production costs, but of course, because of the currency exchange rate, it still feels like a lot to us.
Part of the curiosity over your Hollywood debut has to do with the number of rural characters you have played here...
Napoleon: Right from my first film, Pudhu Nellu Pudhu Naathu, to Seevalaperi Pandi in which I turned a hero, I have predominantly been a part of rural films. Ore oru colour satta, ettu muzham veshti, kodu potta pattapatti, kaila aruva… When I’d look forward to shooting in different locations, they would tell me that a farm, and a pump set would do for the setting. In fact when director Saran told me that my character would wear a suit in Vattaram, I immediately said yes without even hearing the story. I wanted to wear a suit in a film.
We learn that you have more Hollywood releases lined up?
Napoleon: I have got back to back English films produced by Tel Ganesan. I'm also a part of this film called Christmas Coupon, and in another film titled Trap City, I play the bodyguard of the lead character played by Brandon T. Jackson (of Percy Jackson and BoJack Horseman fame). I think I have the hang of it now (smiles). In Tamil, I am a part of Karthi's Sultan that's directed by Remo director, Bakkiyaraj Kannan.
What's your take on this film getting released on a OTT platform?
Tel: We wanted to watch it and have the Indian audience too, watch it in theatres, but based on the current situation, OTT seems to be the best option. Right now, the film is out on Amazon Prime Video in USA and Canada, and we are in talks about the India release.
Napoleon, are you aware that some of your famous film contributions, like the song, Panju Mittai Sella Katti, or your role in Pokkiri, have become fodder for memes?
Napoleon: My family and friends forward such memes to me. I find some of them to be extremely funny. I am happy that the people of my land still remember me.
(The designation of Mr Tel Ganesan as the film's 'Producer' has been changed to 'Co-producer' after receiving a mention from official sources.)