'Anirudh and Dhanush make an exceptional combination'
Dhanush's 25th film, Velaiyilla Pattadhari has been running to packed houses since its release.
Ace cinematographer Velraj makes his debut as a director. Velraj had previously worked with Dhanush in Polladhavan, Aadukalam and 3.
The music by Anirudh is quite the rage among the young.
Revolving around the plight of the increasing number of unemployed graduates in the country, Velaiyilla Pattadhari seems to have struck the right chord with audiences.
Amala Paul plays the female lead opposite Dhanush, supported by Vivek, director Samuthirakani, and Saranya Ponvannan.
In this interview with rediff.com, director Velraj talks about the immense responsibility of making his directorial debut with Dhanush's 25th film, his long association with the actor and their understanding of and respect for each other.
Your film has been declared a huge hit. How does it feel?
I feel really very happy. People tell me that the film has had an opening similar to that of an Ajith or a Vijay film.
All the shows are houseful and no tickets are available. It is truly overwhelming.
I watched the film in a theatre in Chennai, Ramnad, as well as in Madurai, and everywhere the reception has been great.
I saw first hand how much the youngsters, especially college students, enjoyed the film. They keep coming back and seem to know all the dialogues too.
Image: Anirudh and Dhanush
'I became a director by accident'
From cinematographer to director… what prompted this decision?
I would consider it more of an accident. I have known Dhanush for eight years now. Over the years, we have grown quite close, and it was during a casual conversation that this idea cropped up.
Dhanush remarked that we should work together and as we discussed it, we got more and more involved. Slowly we developed the script and added the characters.
Initially we had planned a very small set up, a small unit, simple story, nothing grand or elaborate.
But when we realised, it would be Dhanush's 25th film, we decided to make it a total mass entertainer. Something for the fans to celebrate and enjoy.
Any particular reason why Dhanush chose to trust you with his 25th film?
As I mentioned earlier, I have known Dhanush for many years. We work well together.
Nothing was planned, I never thought that I would be a director, nor did I ever imagine that I would be given the opportunity of directing Dhanush's 25th film. Things just happened.
I thank Dhanush for entrusting me with this responsibility, but I never questioned why he did it. He gave no reasons for choosing to work with me either. We share a special bond.
Many have asked Dhanush this question too, and once he replied that he did not know if I was a good cameraman, but he knew I was a good human being. This is a huge compliment.
Was it additional pressure on you - this being Dhanush's 25th film and your debut as director?
I was apprehensive at first, but it was his trust in me that inspired me to do my best.
He had given me a huge responsibility and I was determined to do everything I could to make the film a success.
I remember, Balu Mahendra once told Vetrimaaran that a film destined to be a hit would attract everything positive by itself. I believe many things just happened without much effort or planning.
We wanted Janakiamma for a song, and she agreed, though she has not sung for over 10 years. We found a wonderful team of supporting actors. There was never any problem with any of the locations. No obstacles, no untoward happening or delay in shooting.
And then when the music became such a huge sensation, we knew we had something good on our hands.
We worked together as a family, a team, and I think everyone's positive vibes and energy has made the film a success.
Image: A still from Velaiyilla Pattadhari
'Dhanush and I understand each other perfectly'
Tell us about Dhanush the actor.
Dhanush is a wonderful actor, very committed. He would come to the sets at around 7 in the morning and be with us the entire day. It was never about just his role or his scenes. He was involved with every aspect of the film and gave valuable suggestions.
I have worked in many of his earlier films. We understand each other perfectly and things went off very smoothly.
How did you deal with Dhanush the producer?
We never had any problems from the production side at all.
The film did not require any grand or elaborate sets, nor were the songs planned in exotic locations. Our requirements were very simple and we stuck to our plan.
We completed the shoot in just 52 days on a budget that was actually less than what was allocated to us.
Image: A still from Velaiyilla Pattadhari
'The chemistry of Dhanush and Amala has worked very well'
How was the experience of working with director Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponvannan?
Both director Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponvannan have taken the film to a whole new level. They had major roles to play and to be honest, I cannot claim any credit for their brilliant performances.
We just had to tell them what the scene was and they would effortlessly handle every small nuance of the performance, bringing to it a spontaneity that is wonderful.
Actually, Vetrimaaran, the director, suggested Samuthirakani. We had doubts whether he would agree to play a father character. But he wanted to do it for Dhanush.
Saranya Ponvannan is without doubt one of most talented actors of today. No one else could have done justice to the role. Both their characters played a vital role in the film, and we were truly blessed with two top class actors.
And Amala Paul?
Amala Paul with her girl-next-door looks was the perfect choice for the character we had in mind. She plays a doctor in the film and is quite literally the girl who lives next door as well.
Dhanush and Amala made a good pair; everyone felt that their chemistry has worked very well.
Image: Dhanush and Amala Paul in Velaiyilla Pattadhari
'I am already committed to a number of projects as a cinematographer'
The music has created quite a sensation.
Anirudh and Dhanush together make an exceptional combination. They took over the entire responsibility of the music.
We were on a very tight schedule and I neither had the time, nor did I feel the necessity to interfere in their work.
Dhanush penned the lyrics for all the songs and has also sung many of the numbers along with Anirudh. Between them they handled everything and the results have been outstanding.
All the songs and the background score have been appreciated. The Janaki-Dhanush number is definitely one of the highlights of the film.
Which is your favourite scene in the film?
The scene where Dhanush loses his mother was the most touching and also the turning point in the film.
This is something that can happen to anyone. We often ignore calls without realising that someone is desperately trying to reach us and needs our help. It could be an accident or a death in the family. We regret it later, but can do nothing about it.
It was a very important scene in the film and my favourite.
Now that the film is a hit will you focus more on direction?
For now there are no immediate plans to direct any new film. I am taking things as they come. I am already committed to a number of projects as a cinematographer.
I am working on Aishwarya Dhanush's second film Vai Raja Vai, starring Gautham Karthik. We have just a few more days of shooting left.
We are currently on location for the film Komban starring Karthi and Lakshmi Menon. I will also be working on Vetrimaaran’s next film.
Image: Dhanush in Velaiyilla Pattadhari