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Feb 22

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I am dying to work with Ajith again – GVM

Ennai Arinthal Ajith (36)Filmmaker Gautham Vasudev Menon on the success of his latest outing Yennai Arindhaal, plans on its sequel and his desire to make a woman-centric flick

It has been nearly two weeks since Yennai Arindhaal released. Are you happy with the response?
Absolutely. But when I was making the film, we didn’t think about all this. Ajith was very helpful right till the end and if at all there was pressure, he took it off me. He’d encourage me to do the kind of cinema I’m known for and not let me indulge even slightly to satisfy his screen image. I didn’t treat Ajith like a superstar and that’s what he wanted. I treated him like an actor. Having said that, I really wish we had little more time in the post-production, but I’m glad the film got released and is doing well. I usually switch off post the release of my film. I didn’t read the reviews, but I kept getting feedback from my producer Rathnam, and he’s very happy. The thing with my films is, the industry doesn’t say nice things. My films take a while till they are accepted as good and I think Yennai Arindhaal too will go through that phase.

Why do you think the industry doesn’t warm up to your films?
I could talk to you for 15 hours about that. Here, the appreciation comes rarely and trying to put down someone’s film is what always happens. I don’t conform to these kinds of things. For instance, Anegan released on Feb 13 and our film released a week earlier, which meant that we could get most of the theatres only till 13. Now, I never wished or conformed to the idea that Anegan shouldn’t do well because Dhanush is someone I like and I’m hoping his film does well too. I don’t know why other people don’t wish the same for my film.

Now that Yennai Arindhaal has been adjudged a hit, what are your plans on the sequel?

I think right from the word go, there was always a plan that in case the film does really well and people like Ajith’s character, we could get into a sequel and take this journey forward. Satyadev is no longer a police officer, so the story can be devoid of all the police activities. I would like to take up this story and I’m sure Ajith will also be interested if I convince him with a good screenplay.

Do you feel the film would’ve been equally successful or even more with a different actor?
I think so. The problem here is the mass image of Ajith, if at all you consider it one. The initial response was that the film didn’t have all the quintessential commercial elements, though I consider it as my most commercial venture. The film would’ve done really well with somebody without an image but it’s just a hypothetical situation because I knew Ajith was going to be my hero and I always try to keep the image of an actor out of my screenplay.

But going by the response to the film, despite the mixed reviews, you admit stars still control the box-office?
If Ajith sir wasn’t part of the film, I don’t know if the film would’ve collected so much. You need stars to create the buzz and bring audiences to the cinemas. I know we’ve pulled off a big film like Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa sans the commercial elements, but it worked due to the combination of Rahman and Simbu. The three of us made it work. And the film became a hit through word-of-mouth. But when you have a superstar on-board, everything is automatically taken care of.

Few present women like the way you do in your films. Have you thought about making a full-length woman-centric film?
I don’t consider it a big deal. When I portray them respectfully in stronger roles, the reason it gets highlighted is because women are not shown in good light and they’re merely used as objects of glamour and somebody’s lust in majority of our films. I don’t think you have to pull out a director and say you’ve portrayed women in your film very well. It’s the only way I like to portray heroines in my films. Even if they were to essay a negative character, I’d show them in a certain way people would still appreciate. With woman as a central character, I’d love to do a film and I also have a few ideas.

Not many directors would dare to put their film on hold and start a new project. You did with Simbu’s project to start Yennai Arindhaal. What gave you the confidence?
I think the fact that Simbu being a good friend said that I need to go ahead and do this big project. Things were not good when Suriya project (Dhruva Natchathiram) got shelved and which is why we started Simbu’s film and even shot for about 30 days. Moreover, I didn’t want to let go of an opportunity to work with Ajith because I’ve always wished to team up with him and you might not know, but it could also lead to so many other things. So there was a motive and a plan but strangely, it ended up being a good friendship with someone I really admire.

Any plans of reviving Dhruva Natchathiram with Suriya?
I don’t know. Right now, it looks very unlikely because he’s also busy doing multiple projects and I’m going to resume work on Simbu’s film and probably work on another film, which will be soon announced. I don’t think it’ll ever happen

Are you and Suriya on talking terms?
No, we’re not.

After Dhruva Natchathiram got shelved, you went through a tough phase. You almost hit rock bottom of your career before starting Yennai Arindhaal. Any learning from this whole experience?
At that point, I didn’t have the financial stability and I ended up working with the wrong people who turned against me and filed all these crazy cases. And somebody whom I thought was a friend, Suriya, who completely recognised that I’d be able to pull off something with the script, didn’t actually come forward and give his nod to the script I wanted him to be in. It (the script) would’ve been something very new-age and different. Those were the only rock-bottom points and there was never anything else. Even when the Simbu project was being planned, something had come up with Vijay Sethupathi. But I picked Simbu because I knew I’d be really comfortable with him. Through Yennai Arindhaal, I discovered a commercial side to me and realised that I can venture into these areas as well. What was really nice about this whole experience was Ajith believing in me and encouraging me to do the kind of films I’ve been doing.

As a producer, you’ve been producing some small and offbeat films. Do you do that because you can’t afford to make such films with non-stars?
We did want to get into the bigger league, but people don’t easily come forward and offer you films. If you approach a big actor and show interest in producing his next film with some other director, they’re not so forthcoming with the idea. No big director would like to work with a production company that has another big director at the helm of affairs. I produce these small films because I liked the narrations when I heard them and I thought as a viewer, I’d like to see this film in a theatre. Both Thanga Meengal and Tamilselvanum Thaniyaar Anjalum happened like that.

When do you resume work on Simbu’s project?
We’ve already started working on the music with Rahman sir. We resume shooting from Feb 21. It was initially titled Sattendru Maraathu Vaanilai, but we had some issues with it as somebody had already registered it. I want to see if I can take the title from them but they’re really not interested and also it’s not right to take away the title from someone who has already censored their film. Currently, it’s not yet titled.

In the past, you had expressed interest to work with Mohanlal and Mahesh Babu. Any plans of teaming up?
I always think of working with Lal sir, but somehow it has never materialised. I’ve even met him with a story, but I don’t think he liked what I narrated. Hopefully, something should happen in the future. The same applies for Mahesh as well.

Any other actors you would like to work with?
My wishlist still has something with Amitabh Bachchan. I’d also like to work with Kamal sir (already worked once) and Rajinikanth sir. And after having worked with Ajith now, I’m dying to work with him again.

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