'The success of Nimirnthu Nil feels like my rebirth'
Actor/director P Samuthirakani’s films Naadodigal (2009) and Poraali (2011) both achieved box-office success and were later remade in other South Indian languages.
He entered the film industry with dreams of making it big as an actor. After several years of struggle, he proved his mettle in Subramaniapuram and Easan.
His latest venture, Nimirnthu Nil, a bilingual, simultaneously made in both Tamil and Telugu, starring Jayam Ravi and Nani respectively, ran into some trouble just before its release.
Later, it opened to good reviews and was declared a hit.
In this interview with rediff.com, Samuthirakani shares the pain he felt due to the film's unexpected delay, countering rumours about his suicide, and the joy of creating good, meaningful and entertaining cinema.
Your film Nimirnthu Nil has been declared a hit. How does it feel?
It feels almost surreal.
There was so much stress when the film did not release as scheduled on March 7. I am still unable to believe that we eventually did manage to open the film on time for the evening show on the 8th.
I am deeply grateful to all the people who kept coming back to the theatres despite being turned back after the unfortunate delay.
This success feels almost like a rebirth. Today, the film is doing very well, the producers are happy, the distributors have called back with positive news, and it really feels great.
Even you seemed to have made the news. What caused the ugly rumours about you?
Actually, I am not quite sure how that rumour started. I believe that in some village in Virudhunagar, another person with the same name unfortunately committed suicide.
This coupled with all the issues related to the delayed release made people connect all the wrong dots and come up with this completely bizarre story, that I had committed suicide.
Image: Jayam Ravi and Samuthirakani
'If you have a good film, then the audience will never let you down'
You must be a relieved man now.
Today, I have learnt that come what may, whatever problems you may have to face, if you have a good film, then the audience will never let you down.
Though I knew I had a good film, a lot was at stake and this delay came as a huge set back.
It was truly an emotional moment for everyone involved with the film when everything was finally sorted and the film released.
Does the film target a particular audience?
We are targeting the youth of the country, but the film has been enjoyed by people of all ages.
I want everyone between the ages of five and 17 to watch the film. I strongly believe that this is the right age to teach and guide children towards the path of right and wrong and help them imbibe good values and principles.
Strong values imparted at this early stage will stay with them throughout their life. It is the responsibility of every parent and teacher to reach out to children and inspire them to follow the right path.
What inspired you to make the film?
Inspiration for this film is everywhere. This is something that I have gone through, you have gone through, something each one of us has had to face in almost every stage of our life.
Was there any particular reason you named your protagonist Arvind?
It has been two-and-a-half years since I gave my hero the name of Arvind. It was much later that the name acquired political significance (referring to the Aam Aadmi party leader Arvind Kejriwal).
I have a friend called Arvind, who was so totally disillusioned with the entire system in the country that he has given up and settled abroad.
Sivasami is the name of an honest government official that I am acquainted with and that is the reason I named my character Arvind Sivasami.
There was absolutely no political intention whatsoever.
Image: A still from Nimirnthu Nil
'Directing is a very exhausting and painful experience'
Tell us about Ravi and Nani.
Both are extremely talented actors and have worked with lots of energy in the film. Their equation, especially with me, was simply great. After Sasi (actor Sasikumar), I have found two more brothers.
With them, I have never had to worry about anything. Both are very humble and have no hang-ups about being a big star. They were fully involved and totally committed to the film
What about the others in the film, Amala Paul, Ragini Dwivedi and Sarathkumar?
Amala is very dedicated and sincere and does her job perfectly. Ragini too is a hard worker. I have to really thank her; I had informed her earlier on that she would have just one song and a few scenes. But she was very enthusiastic and insisted that she liked my work and wanted to work under my direction.
Sarathkumar has given a fiery performance and so has Gopinath.
And Soori, of course, will change everyone's perception of him as a comedian. I wanted to bring out his potential as a character artist and he has certainly proved himself with his fantastic performance.
I have been truly blessed to have directed such a great team.
You have also proved yourself as an actor. Does directing give you more satisfaction?
Directing is a very exhausting and painful experience. I have seen that pain and know what it can do to you.
But despite all the problems, beyond all the pain, is this intense desire to entertain people with good films and a positive message.
I love directing and believe it is a God-given gift.
Image: A still from Nimirnthu Nil
'Everything I know today is because of K Balachandar'
Do you still find time to act?
I like to keep myself busy. I believe that you should keep on working till you have the energy.
It has been 22 years since I came to Chennai, and I still work with the same enthusiasm, energy and dedication.
Currently, Vemal and I are working on a film called Nee Ellam Nalla Varuva Da, where I play a police officer. I am also playing Dhanush's father in Velaiyilla Pattathari.
So after 22 years, have you finally found the magic formula for success?
No, I have definitely not found any magic formula for success. I don't even know if it is possible for me to do that.
Finding it would be like finding God.
We are all trying to find this elusive success formula, it is a continuous ongoing process, and today's success cannot determine your success in the future. It is a continuous struggle; nobody can claim to have this formula.
Which is your next directorial venture?
I am planning a film, but we have still not finalised the details. Everything is still in the discussion stage.
There are rumours that your next film is with Ilayathalapathy Vijay.
There is nothing to say as of now. If anything is finalised, we will announce it officially.
You have had the opportunity to work with the legendary filmmaker K Balachandar. What have you learnt from him?
Everything I know today, I have learnt from him.
He is the God of Cinema.
He taught me to be humane, to treat a man as a man, receive everyone with happiness and humility, to never let success go to my head or failure to my heart, and be myself always.
Image: A still from Nimirnthu Nil