'Ajith is one actor who has an international look'
Vishnu Vardhan became a name to reckon with in Tamil cinema after he remade Rajnikanth's Billa with Ajith in the lead. It became a landmark film for the stylish way it was made.
His next film, Arrambam (The Beginning), again with Ajith in the lead, has been making news from the time they started shooting.
In this interview, Vishnu Vardhan talks about the film and directing a big star like Ajith again.
Was it with Ajith in mind that you wrote the story of Arrambam?
No, it was not like that. We decided to do a film together and then we worked on a story.
As the story kept developing, we started thinking of which actor would perform which role.
When you were writing the story with Ajith in mind, did you have to alter the story to suit his image?
Of course, you have to keep in mind the fact that Ajith was going to play the main role.
As a commercial film-maker, I must keep in mind the image of the hero who will play the main protagonist. You have to make sure that nothing goes wrong in the way you play with the image of the star.
Whether we like it or not, fans of big stars like to see them in a certain way. They also like to see the entire story moving from his point of view
Image: Ajith in Arrambam
'You can't have Ajith running behind a girl or around trees'
When you have Ajith as the male protagonist, what are the things that you keep in mind?
It is very difficult to explain. It is about how you want to see the hero. For example, you can't have Ajith running behind a girl or around trees; that will not suit the image he has.
So, I design a character that would suit his image. While writing, you constantly visualise how Ajith will be when he performs.
In this film, he plays a mature guy; he plays his age.
Does having a big hero as the protagonist put pressure on you as a writer and director?
The pressure is always there when you make a film, but, yes, the pressure is more when the protagonist is a big hero because you have a responsibility.
It is very much like the Spiderman dialogue, the greater the power, the greater the responsibility!
But when I write, I make sure that I am not pressurised, because then you tend to overdo things. You have to keep his image in mind and also what the story requires.
If the character has to go through certain things that don’t suit the image of the star, you should have the courage to let the character go through that. What is more important is the story and the character and not the image of the star.
Image: Vishnu Vardhan and Ajith
'I have a great comfort level with the people I work with'
Ajith acquired a larger than life image after Billa...
That is true. But the working style of Ajith has not changed at all. There is no difference between how he was then and how he is today.
Is it because of the comfort level that you direct Ajith or Arya or Nayantara again?
I must admit that I have a great comfort level with the people I work with. When you first meet an actor or anyone for that matter, you get a vibe and that decides whether you can work with that person.
The other person has to respect you and your views, and there has to be a very healthy interaction with him or her.
These people don’t behave as if they are big stars. I also put them in their comfort zone. So, the discussions are always between me and the person and nobody else is involved.
That is why I am able to handle the huge ensemble cast in this film. Also, they trust me and that gives me phenomenal confidence.
Ajith sports a salt and pepper look in this film. Did you want him to look like that?
Yes. An actor has to be bold and confident enough to sport such a look in real life.
Ajith is one actor who has a phenomenal international look. No wonder he is called the George Clooney of India! Nobody else can carry off such a look in India.
Image: Ajith in Arrambam
'Arrambam is the biggest film I have made so far'
You are doing the post production work of the film. How did you feel looking at the product?
I am quite excited. This is the biggest film I have made so far.
I have Ajith, Arya, Nayanthara, Tapsee, Rana Daggubati in a special role, Mahesh Manjrekar, who is a director, and Atul Kulkarni, a National award winning actor.
Is it because the film was set in Mumbai that you have Mahesh Manjrekar and Atul Kulkarni in the film?
Yes, the story happens in Mumbai but they are in my film because they are excellent actors
What is the genre of the film?
It is action drama. There is not only action but lots of drama too in the film.
Image: Arya, Ajith and Nayanthara in Arrambam
'The film is about one man's battle'
It took you some time to announce the title of the film. Why?
Many said it was a marketing strategy not to announce the title initially. It was not like that. We wanted an appropriate title and it took us a while to come up with one. We also wanted a name that reflects the concept of the film and not the nature of the character.
Whose arrambam or beginning is it?
It is the beginning of the hero's fight. He is a warrior and the film is about one man's battle. Even when the battle ends, there will be a new beginning.
When will you be able to come out of this Arrambam and make a new beginning?
The moment the film reaches the public, it is the end of Arrambam for me. Hope they won't kick me out! Jokes apart, for every film-maker, once the film reaches the public, he has no hold over it. It is not yours any more.
After that, I have to move on to another project…another beginning. The end of one film is another beginning for me.
Image: Ajith in Arrambam