'All my films are my dreams'
Director Saran discloses his secret mantra for success
No other Tamil film, in recent times, has received the kind of response the Vikram starring Gemini has recieved.
The huge success of the film has brought the smile back to the Tamil film industry. The director of the film Saran is a happy man.
Saran was the person who gave the action hero image to Ajith through his highly successful Amarkkalam. His next two films did not do well commercially, especially Alli Arjuna. With the success of Gemini, Saran is the hottest young director in the industry.
His next film is going to be for the banner Oscar Films with Srikkant as the hero.
Shobha Warrier spoke to the director about Gemini and other films.
Your last film Alli Arjuna failed at the box office. Were you nervous before the release of Gemini?
No. I feel very exhausted before the release of my films.
On the day of the film's release, I go to the theatres with my assistants and watch the films to feel the pulse of the audience. I go not only to the city theatres but to the villages too.
I had no time to brood over the failure of Alli Arjuna as I was busy with Gemini.
How do you feel now that Gemini is a big hit?
I don’t feel too excited about successes. I expected Gemini to be a hit but not a mega hit. I must admit it surprised me. And when people tell me that Gemini is the best thing that has happened to the industry, I feel very happy.
How much has Vikram’s dream run at the BO, the hit song Oh Podu and the massive advertising campaign of the AVM banner contributed to the success of Gemini?
I have to thank AVM first for publicising the film so well that people felt the urge to return to the theatres.
To me, songs are visiting cards given to people, asking them to visit you at the theatres. So, thanks to Bhardwaj, the visiting card was a huge success, especially Oh Podu. Wherever I go, be it Singapore or the interiors of Tamil Nadu, I hear people singing it. It has become such a huge hit that Oh Podu is the latest catchword -- to the extent that even the MLAs [Members of Parliament] in the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry assemblies use Oh Podu while they talk!
Above all, Vikram is the hottest actor now. His last three films Sethu, Dhil and Kaasi have been big hits. The best thing about Vikram is that because of the variety in his roles, he has fans among women, children and youth. These factors did help Gemini.
Kalabhavan Mani has become the toast of the town. What made you take him in the film and use his talent in mimicry?
I first came to know about Mani because of the Malayalam original of Kaasi (Vaasanthiyum, Lakshimiyum Pinne Njanum). I also learnt that he imitated a Gorilla at a function. Thats when I wanted to make use of his talent in my film.
When I told Vikram about my decision, he was very happy because Vikram idolises Mani.
Because of his commitments in Malayalam, Mani didn’t want to do Gemini. But I told him that I needed him for 12 days only and that I couldn’t cast anyone else in the role. So he agreed. I rescheduled the shooting so that I could finish Mani’s work first and let him off.
When he came for the shooting, I asked him to exhibit all his talents, which he did. I selected whatever I needed for the film. So, here is a villain who mimics a different animal when he attacks the hero and that has become a huge hit.
Did you expect him to be such a big hit?
Yes. After Satyaraj, we have not had a villain who could act with a tinge of comedy. Kalabhavan Mani is a good mimicry artist, a good comedian and a very good actor too. I would have been surprised if he had not become a hit.
You have another Malayalam actor Murali delivering an excellent performance in a major role...
Yes, everybody has appreciated Murali as the police officer. I saw him first in Dum Dum Dum as Jyothika’s father and I found him very dignified. I needed that for the DGP’s role in Gemini. Besides, I did not want a known face.
Ironically, I had earlier decided to make him a villain at the end of the film. But I was amazed to see awe in everyone's eyes when Murali entered the sets and when he performed. People praised him after each performance and nobody knew that he would become a villain the end.
I realised if I made him a villain at the end, the audience would not be kind to me, and that would even kill the film. So I made him a very strong, good police officer.
Vikram has been in this industry for the last decade but nobody gave any attention to him till Bala discovered him in Sethu. Since then, he's the hottest star. Why didn’t the industry see his talent before?
Although he has worked with good directors earlier, the roles were not very good. Inbetween, he would disappear to act in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam films. Besides, luck plays a major role in an actor’s career.
Both Bala and Vikram worked very hard for Sethu but no distributor was willing to touch the film because none of Vikram's films had done well commercially till then.
We must understand that someday talent, effort and hard work will be appreciated. The pains that Bala and Vikram took for Sethu finally paid dividends.
After Sethu, Vikram met directors and companies for work. He had no ego hassles. He went to Vinayan’s place and convinced him to make Kaasi. The result of all that hard work is what we see now. Now, people agree that, after Kamal Haasan, he can do various kinds of roles.
Is Gemini based on a real life incident?
Yes. It happened a year ago in Chennai. Two rowdies wanted to reform themselves and return to the society. A police officer helped them do so. I was fascinated by the incident.
Did you ask Vikram to sing Oh Podu because the Anuradha Sriram version of the song was very popular?
No, Vikram wanted to sing the song. When Vikram found that wherever he went, people were shouting Oh Podu, he had this desire to sing it. He said, 'I am a singer. Let me sing.' Then, the producers agreed to have him sing the song.
We decided to have the Vikram's version of Oh Podu at the end of the film. We had given only a small footage for that song but soon we received calls from distributors and theatre owners that they wanted the full song as people were not satisfied with its length. In some places, the audience resorted to violence and theatre owners rewound the song and played it again. So we sent the entire song.
Earlier, films dealt with drama, emotions and family-related subjects. But if we take this year’s New Year releases, all the films are action-oriented. Has the taste of the audience changed, in turn changing the kind of films?
Yes. The standard of the audience has come down. The audience, which liked family-oriented stories, sit at home and watch television. Besides, nowadays, it is very expensive for a family to go to the theatres even once in a month as it costs around Rs 300-400.
Class audience has disappeared from the theaters. Those who come to the theaters are college students and people belonging to the lower classes. So we have to make films to cater to their taste.
Here, I must add that a film like Azhaki also has become a hit. It may be because the audience needed change.
Sometime back, films were the filmmakers' creations -- a Sridhar film or a Balachander film or a Balu Mahendra film. Today's films are described as an Ajit film or a Vijay film or a Vikram film when actors form only one part of a film. As a filmmaker, how do you react to this?
This, again, is because of the audience and their taste. They watch a film for the actor and not for the film. But this will change soon. Shanker announced his new film with newcomers. In Telugu, you see a lot of youngsters entering the field. Soon a time will come here when films will be known as a filmmaker’s creation.
You said producers wanted you to make only action films. What kind of films do you want to make?
I am very happy, proud and satisfied with the kind of films that I make. All my films are my dreams. If I say that my dream is to make an artistic film one day, I will be degrading all the films that I have made so far.