Suresh Krissna's golden milestone
Suresh Krissna is a popular and eminent name in the South Indian film industry having directed films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and supervised a film in Kannada. He has helmed films in Hindi too.
Suresh has worked with all the big stars in the South and is now directing his 50th film, that too a script by none other than Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi (called Kalaignar).
The film titled Ilaignan with an ensemble cast of lyricist Pa Vijay, Meera Jasmine, Ramya Nambisan, Namita and Khushboo is directed by Suresh. The film releases this Pongal (January 14).
Suresh Krissna shares his experience of working with Karunanidhi on Ilaignan, his 50th film and his journey in films so far. Excerpts:
For your 50th film Ilaignan, you have chosen a story penned by Karunanidhi. Why not your own script?
All my career I never chose anything. Everything happened on its own. The same can be said of Kalaignar Karunanidhi's script. This may sound unusual but it is true especially in my life.
Image: Pa Vijay and Suresh Krissna
'I am absolutely comfortable with other writers' scripts'
How did you choose to direct this? Are you comfortable directing scripts written by others?
Pa Vijay approached me with a proposal. He had gotten the approval of Kalaignar Karunanidhi for a script but Kalaignar wanted an experienced hand to direct this subject. Pa Vijay, who was my regular lyric writer, approached me and I happily agreed. For the record, this is the 75th film of Kalaignar and as a writer, he has done some marvellous works.
I have directed many scripts of other writers like Chirnajeevi's Master, Daddy, Sangamam, etc. I am absolutely comfortable with other writers' scripts also. It's all a matter of adaptability.
Have you played a role in the screenplay or given your inputs? What's your contribution besides the direction? Did you interact with Karunanidhi on the script?
As a director, I gave my inputs to Kalaignar and we had a very open and healthy discussion on many occasions. He gave me the creative freedom to visually treat the film.
Image: A scene from Ilaignan
'Great writers like Salim-Javed, went through a phase where they too gave average films'
Ilaignan is supposed to be set in the 1950s and revolves around a mother and son. Do you think this kind of tale will be received well by the audience?
Illangnan is set in the year 1959. It is not really a story between a mother and son, it is the story of a youth -- in short, the power of youth. When you talk of the power of youth, then anytime in any period it is pertinent. It's about issues where the youth should wake up and fight for a cause. Rang de Basanti is a good example where a problem that happened during Independence was now being recreated in modern times. The problem is the same, only the period and faces have changed.
Karunanidhi's scripts in the past have not worked. Even the films have not done well. Is it because his scripts have not been in sync with the times?
All writers, even great writers like Salim-Javed, went through a phase where they too gave average films. You cannot blame the script alone. There are so many factors responsible for a flop. Just like there are so many reasons for a film to be hit.
Is there a love angle also in the film?
There is a love angle but it is not predominant.
Image: Movie poster of Ilaignan
'The entire cast was recommended by Kalaignar'
The casting seems interesting. You have lyricist Pa Vijay, Meera Jasmine, Ramya Nambisan, Namita, Khushboo, Suman, Nasser etc. How did you select these actors especially Pa Vijay?
As mentioned earlier I did not select Pa Vijay; he selected me. At first I was worried if he would suit the role but then much to my surprise, he has given a very confident and intense performance. Being a big budget film, to cut costs I was very hesitant to have a huge star cast but then Kalaignar insisted on a correct cast. The entire cast was recommended by him.
The film seems to be set in a ship. Does a major part of the story happen there?
The film happens is set in a ship building industry. It does not happen in a moving ship. The whole film happens in stages when the ship is being built. As it was happening in the 1950s, there was no way we could have shot in Vizag or Goa ship building industry which have all become very modern. So we approached set designer Thota Tharani. It was a mammoth task taking almost four months to complete. Its cost was almost Rs 3 crore. The ship is 100 feet in height and 200 feet in length.
Does this mean that the film is a big budget one?
Yes, the film is around Rs 25 crore.
What is special about this film?
It's like a classic film with grandeur which is not computer generated. A backdrop of ship building industry is itself new and involves a huge cast. The film also has excellent music for which the recording was done in London.
Image: A poster of Ilaignan
'I forgot that I was making my 50th film when I realised how big the film was becoming'
The songs by Vidyasagar seemed to have been recorded in Chennai, Budapest and London. Why three cities?
As the film is a period film, we felt a live orchestra would be perfect. Hence we have the Indian music and songs recorded in Chennai, western chorus in Budapest and the symphony orchestra troupe in London. The audio is a big hit.
How was it directing your 50th film? Any special moments?
To be honest, I forgot that I was making my 50th film when I realised how big the film was becoming. The mammoth work kept me focussed throughout. As Sachin Tendulkar very aptly said, 50 is just a number, finally it's about putting your full effort and making a good film.
Do you still have the urge to do something that you have not done before?
I am still enjoying my work. The joy of creating something from nothing is a great feeling. There are still so many subjects which I have not done, say a suspense film, a historical or a mythological. As long as the urge and joy of cinema is alive in me, I will continue to direct. God has been extremely kind to me for so many years and I pray that he continues to shower his love on me.
Image: A scene from Ilaignan
'I have never taken credit for my success and failure'
Were you happy with the way your last few films have fared at the box office?
I put my 100 per cent in all my films, but then some films work at the box office and some don't. It's again a learning experience.
How do you handle highs and lows which are part and parcel of your career?
Being a strong believer in the Almighty, and as I said at the beginning, everything just happens to me. I know who is running my life and it it to him that I surrender everything. When you realise this truth that he is the doer and we are just instruments, ego just dies.
I have never taken credit for my success and failure, I just accept. A great spiritual master told me, "with Baasha you reached Mount Everest, it is but natural that you have to come down, but like the mountaineer who has reached the top of the mountain comes down happily after the conquest, you too should accept the descent gracefully.You are coming down so that you can then scale many other new heights". So true was the Master's words and that is how I have taken my highs and lows in my career.
Image: A poster of Ilaignan