'We have retained the look of Delhi Belly in Settai'
R Kannan made his debut as a director with Jayam Konadan that had Vinay Rai, Lekha Washington and Bhavana in the lead roles. The film was a box office success.
Then he remade Jab We Met with Bharath and Tamannnah and this film also was a success commercially. His last film Vandhan Vendraan with Jeeva and Tapsee was a moderate success.
Now, he is ready with Settai (Friendship), the Tamil remake of Delhi Belly. The film has Arya, Santhanam, Premjee, Hansika Motwani and Anjali.
Kannan talks about remaking Delhi Belly and his serch for the right actors.
When the Tamil remake of Delhi Bely was offered to you, what was your initial reaction?
In fact, it was I who suggested to Mr Dhananjayan (of UTV Movies) that we could do a remake of Delhi Belly. I knew UTV had the script and rights to remake it in Tamil. When he asked me to do a film for UTV Movies, I said, why not Delhi Belly?To make the script suitable for the Tamil audience, Dhananjayan also joined me and John Mahendran. For six months, we worked on the script and only after that did we start the pre-production work of the film.
Image: A scene from Settai. Inset: Director R Kanan
'For the Tamil audience Settai will be an original film'
What gave you the confidence that the story would work in Tamil? The general belief is that the Tamil audience is a bit conservative.
Even though Delhi Belly had daring scenes and adult comedy, it had a soul. That was what interested me. I made that soul the focal point of my film and developed it and made changes for the Tamil audience.
I wanted to concentrate on the dreams of a young journalist and how he achieved them. The friendship between the three young journalists played by Arya, Santhanam and Premjee is stressed upon in Settai.
Their life in Mumbai, their friendship, their love interests are all shown beautifully in our film.
As a director, do you feel a film like Delhi Belly will not be acceptable to the Tamil audience?
If I followed the Hindi film exactly the film would get an A certificate. That will restrict the people who come to watch the film. How many multiplexes do we have here? Only in Chennai, we have a few. Most theatres are single screens in other cities.
When you make a film spending so much money, you can't rely on a handful of multiplexes. We can recover money only if the family audience comes to watch the film.
Another thing is, only 10 per cent of the audience here might have watched Delhi Belly. Others may not even have heard of it. So for the 90 per cent of the Tamil audience, Settai is an original film. We wanted to concentrate on that 90 per cent of the audience.
Image: A scene from Settai
'Remakes are more difficult and challenging'
You said you had only taken the soul from Delhi Belly. Does Settai look totally different?
We have retained the look, the retro tone and ambience. Like the natural performance of the Hindi actors, we have also made our actors perform in a subtle and natural way. The film also has a sophisticated style and urban look.
What we have not retained are the adult comedy and the so called vulgar scenes.
You have made original films and also remade films like Jab We Met and now Delhi Belly. How different was the experience of making an original film and a remake?
My first film Jayan Kondan was based on my own story and script. People went to watch the film without any pre-conceived notions. If they liked it, they liked it. It is an easy job for a film-maker.
When I did the remake of Jab We Met, every day I was asked questions about how I would remake a successful film like that. I was also asked, 'How could you take Tamannah for a role made memorable by Kareena Kapoor?'; 'How will Bharath who had till then done action roles based in rural Tamil Nadu, do a sophisticated role beautifully done by Shahid Kapoor?' and 'How could you add comedy by Santhanam?'
I would say I find making original films easy. Remakes are more difficult and challenging as those who have watched the original would compare the remake with the original.
Then, why do you do it?
It takes me three years to write my own script as I do a lot of research. I take very little time to shoot a film but I need a lot of time to write the script.
So, while I write my own script, if I get a good and challenging script like these two, I take them up. Because there is a script, it is easy to work on it.
It is a kind of balancing act that I am doing.
Image: A scene from Settai
'I am confident that people will enjoy Settai'
Is there any difference in the kind of satisfaction you get as a creative director when you make an original film and a remake?
I get satisfaction from both kinds of films though the feeling is different.
When Imtiaz Ali, the director of Jab We Met came for the audio launch, he complimented me by saying I corrected the small mistakes he had made. I felt happy when he made such a statement.
Yes, the satisfaction you get when you make a film based on your story and script is slightly more.
I would say I derive happiness from both but in two different ways!
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you were making Settai?
The main challenge was casting. None of the actors in Delhi Belly looked like stars or actors; they looked their characters.I wanted my actors also to look their characters.
Without bonhomie between the actors, the film will not work. To my advantage, I got Arya, Santhanam and Premjee who are friends in real life for 15 years. That solved half my problem. But it took us quite a while to cast these three.
When we cast Hansika, her film Oru Kal Oru Kannadi had not been released, in which she had acted as an air hostess. It was sheer coincidence.
Till we signed Anjali as a journalist, she had been acting only as a rural or middle class girl, but in this film she is an ultra-modern Mumbai girl. We took quite a lot of effort to give her the look of a Mumbai based journalist.
The most challenging aspect was getting someone for Vijay Raaz's role. He was simply superb and he had performed like an athlete, I felt. We chose Nasser to play the role.
When Nasser told his son that he was doing Vijay Raaz's role in Settai, his son told him that he would never be able to act like Vijay Raaz. Nasser told him that he had acted with Sivaji, Kamal etc. But his son felt acting like Vijay Raaz would be impossible. Nasser now says, he has done the role to impress his son!
What are your expectations from Settai?
I am confident that people will enjoy the film. Settai is a film that will entertain all sections of the audience.
Image: A scene from Settai