Gautam Menon's debut film Minnalae, starring Madhavan and Reema Sen, was a big hit in Tamil Nadu. The film, and Harris Jayaraj's music, was a rage among college students.
Menon remade the film in Hindi as Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein. It was Menon's, Madhavan's and Jayaraj's Bollywood debut. RHTDM bombed at the box-office.
If Minnalae was a young college love story, Menon's second Tamil film is the mature love story of a police officer. Titled Kaakka Kaakka (an invocation where a devotee asks God to protect him), it stars Surya and Jyothika.
"I want my film to be released with [actor] Vikram's Sami, which is also a 'police' film. Sami is a commercial film; mine is realistic. I want to see how these two films will do when released together. Both are different. I don't mind the competition," Menon smiles confidently.
He talks to Shobha Warrier about Kaakka Kaakka, expected to release in May.
How different isKaakka Kaakka from the many police films in various languages?
My film is the love story of a police officer. It shows how his personal life gets affected because he takes on some gangsters. I will not show a single corrupt police officer in this film. My film will show the human side of a police officer.
Were you inspired by any issue?
I read a couple of articles in The Week about how some encounter specialists shoot gangsters and how their families get threatening calls. That was the inspiration. I decided to make a film on one such encounter specialist.
Actually, it is an ideal Hindi film story because such encounters happen more in Mumbai than in any other place in India. There were such encounters in Chennai four or five years ago [but they don't happen any more]. I decided to make a Tamil film first. If possible, I will remake it in Hindi later with Ajay Devgan as the police officer.
Why did you choose Surya for the title role?
After I wrote the script, I thought of actors like Ajit and Vikram because I wanted someone larger-than-life to play this down-to-earth character. His actions are like those of a super hero, but he does them in a very simple way. But I was hesitant to approach them as they did not respond to me.
When I saw Nanda, I felt Surya was also capable of powerful performances. In my film, dialogues are minimal; the officer talks through looks and subtle smiles. I wanted to go a step further than what Bala made Surya do in Nanda.
Why didn't you think of Madhavan?
I felt he did not suit the role. Madhavan is more suited for the Minnalae kind of roles.
is a police officer's story. Does the heroine have a significant role?
The story revolves around her. A teacher is attracted to a police officer, but he tells her life with him will not be safe. He does not accept her love. But she convinces him. That is when his life changes. That is what the film is about.
Any particular reason why you chose Jyothika?
I have always been a fan of Jyothika's although I felt her potential has not been tapped fully. I have given her a lot of subtle dialogues. I have also taken close shots of her face and eyes. Jyothika's visual treatment is different from what has been done so far.
I wanted Jyothika because I wanted a popular actress willing to play a slightly offbeat role. She wears cotton saris and minimum makeup. That Surya and Jyothika are good friends also helped me.
While writing the script, did you mould him after any particular police officer?
I had The Week's articles in my mind while writing the script. Once I wrote the first draft, I met many police officers in Chennai. Among them was Radhakrishnan, a police officer who had shot down a gangster a few years ago. He liked the idea [of my script] and gave me a lot of inputs and technical advice.
While writing the script, did you have former Mumbai joint commissioner of police D Sivanandan in mind?
No. I thought Mohanlal's was a very powerful enactment of a police commissioner [in Ram Gopal Varma's Company]. By the time the film released, my script was ready. But it gave me the impetus to start my film.
Kaakka Kaakkais very different from Minnalae, which was a typical song-and-dance film.
Minnalae was a yuppie kind of a film with all the commercial ingredients. But Kaakka Kaakka is a straight narration of a different subject.
I wanted to show people I could make films like this too. Though Minnalae was a huge hit and made a lot of money, it did not give me the recognition I deserved.
Is Kaakka Kaakka a big-budget film?
No, it is a medium-budget film. The industry is in such a shape that you cannot have big-budget films.
Did RHTDM's failure disappoint you?
Definitely. My disappointment started halfway through the shooting since it did not go the way I wanted [it to]. Even the heroine [Diya Mirza] was not my choice. Although the project went through because of Madhavan, he was not accepted [in Bollywood].
The film was supposed to be very simple; it did not need any lavish treatment. That was how I shot Minnalae. But people in Mumbai do not like anything simple. The film, which was to be shot in Mumbai, was shot in New Zealand and South Africa. So I had to make Durban look like Mumbai!
What do you think Hindi remakes of successful south Indian films are doing badly? Except for Saathiya, none of the Hindi remakes have succeeded.
The simplicity of the Tamil version changes in Hindi. Even Khushi lacked the simplicity of the original. Dhil was an action film, but it had its simple moments. In Hindi, it was made on a very lavish scale and that took away the simplicity of the treatment that was there in the original. They [Bollywood] also add more songs and scenes.
Saathiya[directed by Shaad Ali] is the only film that stuck to the original [directed by Mani Ratnam in Tamil]. Though Vivek Oberoi was no patch on Madhavan, who was excellent in Alai Payuthey, Saathiya worked to an extent.