Mozhi arrived in the theatres silently, but now it is creating a storm. No other film in the recent times has created so much excitement after its release. The film has received not only rave reviews but excellent public response too. The success of a sensitive film like Mozhi heralds the growing up of the audience to higher level and a new beginning in Tamil cinema.
National award winning actor Prakash Raj is one actor who is passionate about films and interested in encouraging good cinema. His production house Duet Movies has been producing simple, realistic films and fortunately all have been successful so far.
Radhamohan first made Azhagiya Theeye under the banner of Duet Movies and it was a surprise hit. His second film, Mozhi, also for Duet Movies, has just been released.
A calm Radhamohan spoke to Shobha Warrier about Mozhi.
When you made Mozhi, did you expect it to create waves?
Honestly, I expected the film to be appreciated by all. You don't see these types of characters often in Tamil cinema. Physically challenged characters have always been portrayed as serious, sad human beings with no sense of humour. Films on physically challenged persons have always been tearjerkers.
But I wanted to portray the deaf-mute Archana (played by Jyothika) as a very independent, positive person who doesn't want any sympathy from anyone.
Before it got released, there was not much hype about the film. Now, everybody is talking about it. We didn't have a big star cast in the film, so there was no hype. But the posters of these four people laughing made many people curious about the film. Usually you see only angry men staring at you from posters. We wanted to give the impression that this is a feel good film. I am happy that people liked it.
From where did the idea to have a deaf and mute girl as the heroine come?
When I was in school, I used to see a girl like that in our colony. At the time itself I used to wonder how she would communicate with others and what was in her mind. Somehow, her image never left me.
Was she also a positive person like your Archana?
I don't know. She went to school and seemed to be a happy person. More than that, I didn't know much about her. She looked quite normal except that she had a hearing aid.
When I decided to make this film, instead of a housing colony I created an apartment complex in tune with today's times. The characters in the film are the people I have seen in my colony and some of the incidents also are real.
When did you decide to make a film based on her?
When Prakash Raj asked me what my next project was after Azhagiya Theeye, I narrated this story. He liked it very much, and soon I started writing the screenplay. That was how Mozhi happened.
Did choosing the actors just happen or did you have anyone in mind while writing the script?
While writing the script I had only Jyothika in my mind. Somehow I felt only she could do the film and nobody else. When I met her, she said she had decided on retiring from films. We asked her to go through the script anyway. Once she read the script, she agreed and said, 'Thank God I read the script. Otherwise, I would have missed something like this'. I am very happy that Mozhi is her last film.
Why did you cast Prithviraj, a Malayalam actor, as the hero?
I wanted a fresh face and not the usual heroes who have an image here. I had seen Prithviraj's Malayalam films like Nandanam, Swapnakoodu, Vellithira, etc, and I liked the guy and his style of acting. He has also acted in K V Anand's Kana Kandein and made quite an impact.
So, I suggested to Prakash, why not try this guy? That was when Prakash was about to do Paarijatham with Prithvi. He said, 'I am going to meet him on the sets. I will ask him.' Prithviraj liked the story when we narrated it and did not demand anything like, 'I need a fight, I need a song,' etc.. I wanted an actor like that.
The chemistry between Prakash Raj and Prithviraj is amazing
Yes, it is amazing. Even off the sets, we are great friends, and that got reflected on screen too. We -- Prakash, Prithviraj, Viji (the dialogue writer) and myself -- clicked well, and we are a sort of a gang now. This bonding happened even before we started shooting.
Did you always want to be in films?
Though no one in my family was associated with films, even when in school I was writing plays and skits and acting in them. When I grew up, I knew I wanted to be in films. That was where my interests were.
How was it for a person with no background in films to get into films?
It was very tough. It was even tougher to become an assistant director. It took a lot of time and effort to get that opportunity. I kept trying, going from door to door and only after two to three years of trying that did I get to work as an assistant to R V Udayakumar. That also happened with the help of a friend. That was in 1992. I was also working as a marketing executive for a company then.
I worked as his assistant in four films. Then I moved to television serials. This was followed by the second innings of struggle to become a director. This time, I went around with my scripts.
My first film, Smile Please. never got released but I met Prakash Raj because of it. I thought I should catch him young! I showed him the script and he became my hero. It was quite heartbreaking to make a film and never see it in the theatres. He then did Mani Ratnam's Iruvar. I kept hanging out with Prakash Raj and we soon became good friends. It took another three years for me to make Azhagiya Theeye and Prakash was the producer. But for a producer like Prakash, the film would not have happened at all. Looking back, it has been quite a journey.
Azhagiya Theeye was about the struggles of an assistant director. Were they your experiences?
Yes, of course. I was there, my parents were there; they are real characters. What made the film unique was the character's ability to laugh even when he was down and out. That was the spirit we all had. Prakash, myself, Viji -- we are all like that; we could laugh even when we failed. We could laugh at our setbacks. Otherwise, you can't survive in this world; it will be very stressful.
Would you be continuing this trait of yours in all your films?
I have understood that humour is my strength. I think I should hold on to it.
I am reminded of the Malayalam scriptwriter and filmmaker Srinivasan. He also has this uncanny ability to laugh at himself in all his films.
Srinivasan! I just love his films and scripts. Charlie Chaplin also had this ability.
(The next film to be made by Duet films is the Tamil version of Udayananu Thaaram titled Vellithirai. The script was done by Srinivasan in the original. Viji will direct the Tamil version with Prithviraj and Prakash Raj playing the roles enacted by Mohanlal and Srinivasan.)
Have you been inspired by any filmmaker?
Yes, Charlie Chaplin.
Is it true that a film like Mozhi is doing well only in A centres?
It is doing very well in A centres and we are pushing it in the other centres as well. We also had proper releases in Mumbai, Delhi, Malaysia, Paris, America, etc. Now we know that there are audiences for our films all around the world. Only thing is, you have to identify them. We got a fantastic response in Malaysia. It is a learning process for us too.
What is cinema to you?
Cinema is the way I look at life, the way I like to communicate with people. I don't want to make anything that my family, friends or I would not like to see.