'I haven't thought about directing my father, Rajnikanth'
Ever since Rajnikanth's eldest daughter Aishwarya R Dhanush announced her first directorial venture titled 3, it has been in the news. With Shruti Haasan joining the film opposite Aishwarya's National award-winning husband, Dhanush, the film has become really big, as it is the coming together of the daughters of Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan!
The friendly Aishwarya spoke to Shobha Warrier about this family interconnectedness and how it works out on the sets.
You used to be a Bharata Natyam dancer. How did the transition from a dancer to a filmmaker take place?
I have always been interested in script writing. I used to write a lot for my school and college magazines. Yes, dance is my first passion and I gave my everything to dance.
How did dance happen?
Dance happened only because my mother put me in a dance class. I started learning Bharata Natyam very early and soon had my arangetram. But I also wanted to have hands-on experience in film-making. So, I started working with Suresh Krissna for Baba.
Image: Aishwarya R Dhanush
'I always wanted to be behind the camera'
Was it because your father was in films that you got interested in this medium?
It always happens. Like a lawyer's son becomes a lawyer and a doctor's son becomes a doctor, we cannot think of anything but the film industry as we are born and brought up in it.
Why behind the camera, and not in front of it?
I always wanted to be behind the camera. I feel the director is the captain of the ship and a director's job is very challenging, very creative and satisfying.
Did your father discuss films with you?
Yes, out of the blue, he would talk about a scene. Our lives were intertwined with films. That is how I joined Suresh Krissna as his assistant for Baba. Being an assistant director is very strenuous and it was like that for me though my father was the hero of the film. Working as an assistant trains you in every department and that too the hard way.
Because it was your father's film, were you pampered on the sets?
On the contrary, because it was my father's film, I was not. In all the other sets, people might not ask me to do strenuous things. They might not ask me to go and see whether the artist is ready, or ask me to bring something. But on my father's sets, I would be treated like any other assistant director.
Image: A still from 3
'Selvaraghavan is a protective brother-in-law'
No privileges as Rajnikanth's daughter?
Nothing except that I came in a car instead of a bike or a bus!
After Baba, I got married, and the next one year I spent travelling with Dhanush. Then I had my first son, Yatra. When I was at home taking care of my son, I used to make short films based on my own stories with my friends acting in it. That was how I learnt many things about film-making like angles, lighting etc.
Was it done with an eye to becoming a film-maker in future?
Yes, I did want to become a filmmaker at some point in my life. I didn't know when it would be. So, when I had the time at my disposal, I thought I might as well get some experience. Anyway, I could not practise dance!
Dhanush was very encouraging. He said, as you keep making short films, you learn something. He was happy that I was using my time well.
When did you start assisting Selvaraghavan in Aayirathil Oruvan?
After my son Yatra turned one, I joined Selvaraghavan. It was tougher than Baba, which was a city-based film and so easier to shoot. But for Aayirathil Oruvan we shot in deserts, forests, places like that.
Could you discuss the intricacies of film-making with Selvaraghavan as he is your brother-in-law?
Selva has a unique way of working. He works within himself. He was a protective brother-in-law and saw to it that I was comfortable and there was a car to pick me up. Other than that, there was no special treatment. In fact, once or twice I came late and he made me stand outside the whole day! Working in Aayirathil Oruvan gave me the confidence that I could make a film of my own.
Image: A still from 3
'I have a moral responsibility to Dhanush's fans'
When did you write the script of 3?
After Aayirathil Oruvan, I conceived my second son. Again, I had time on my hands. It was supposed to be a short film with Dhanush. While writing the script, I had only him in mind; the role was tailor made for him. But the script impressed him so much that he asked me to write a full length feature film.
Even after taking Amala Paul in the lead, you said you had Shruti Haasan in mind while writing the script...
Yes, I had Shruti in mind as I felt Dhanush and Shruti would make an interesting combination. They look nice together. But then she was doing two Telugu films and couldn't allot dates to me. I was planning a quickie to be finished in 64 days. I also wanted to release the film for 2012 Pongal.
Were you disappointed when you could not get Shruti?
I was a little bit disappointed as I had written the script with her in mind. After Shruti, the only actress that came to my mind was Amala Paul. I was really impressed with her performance in Mynaa. After confirming, she had some date problems when some of her films got postponed. Then, I thought I might as well go back to Shruti. Everything was amicably sorted out with Amala. There were no hard feelings. I think the role was destined for Shruti.
Now with Rajnikanth's and Kamal Haasan's daughters working together, the film has become really big. How do you feel about it as a film-maker?
I wouldn't say it is a big responsibility because we are Rajnikanth's and Kamal Haasan's daughters. I would say I have a responsibility to live up to the expectations of my father, my husband, and Selvaraghavan. I have a moral responsibility to Dhanush's fans as he is a commercial hero. It is a challenge and I like it.
Does that mean you wrote the script with his fans in mind?
Yes, I come from a background where my father is a commercial hero. I know what I expect from a film of my father. So, the role is written keeping both performance and commercial considerations in mind.
Image: A still from 3
'Both Dhanush and my father are very adjusting actors'
It is a very strong, emotional love story. I don't want to say anything more about it.
How did you come up with a title that is just a number?
I wanted something different and wanted people to remember it.
How was the first day of the shoot?
I was a bit tense on the first day. When I booked Dhanush, he was not a national award winner. Now, I am directing a national award-winner. But he made me feel very comfortable. Once we reached home, he said, do what you want to do, I am just an actor on the sets. Both Dhanush and Velraj, the cinematographer -- he is the one who shot Polladhavan and Aadukalam -- made me very comfortable.
How did your father-in-law become the producer of the film?
Dhanush told him that he had given me dates as I had a very good script. Then, my father-in-law said, she is my daughter-in-law and I have a production house. If anyone has to produce her film, it will be me first.
Do you want to direct your father next?
I haven't thought about it. It would be great to write a script for him.
Will you be scared to direct him?
No, I have already started directing my husband. So, there is no question of feeling scared to direct my father! Both Dhanush and my father are very adjusting artists to their directors.
Image: A still from 3