For a director who has become synonymous with grandiose, AR Murugadoss is a particularly small-built man. Unassuming and friendly, one wouldn’t be wrong to doubt if he is indeed the same man who made blockbusters such as Thuppakki and Ghajini. As we settle down for a chat at AVM’s dubbing garden, the firebrand in him comes alive and we find the Kaththi film-maker at his incisive best. Excerpts:
Spyder, with Mahesh Babu, is your first bi-lingual. Simultaneously making a film in multiple languages is an art unto itself.
I have made remakes and I’ve shot in multiple languages, but a bi-lingual is just so much tougher. It really feels like you’re making two films at the same time. Just when you somehow manage to get a scene right after many takes, an AD comes to you and says, ‘Sir, now we have to shoot the Telugu version’. It is physically and emotionally draining.
So are there chances of a scene being great in one language and mediocre in another?
There are… that’s why one must approach them as two different films. For instance, we might have achieved a perfect scene after six to seven attempts in Tamil. But that doesn’t mean we take the perfected scene and then repeat it in Telugu. The second version too must go through those same mistakes before we get it right. That’s why bi-linguals take so long to make.
Is it fair to call them two separate films then?
We have tried to make a ‘sincere’ bi-lingual. In that sense, both are standalone films, where we haven’t repeated even wide angle shots and silent shots.
Does this difference also arise from the fact that Mahesh Babu is a superstar in the Telugu market, though he’s just debuting in Tamil?
There is certainly an effort to balance his stardom. A Telugu commercial film follows a more heightened portrayal of heroism. If you repeat the same for Tamil, it tends to disconnect the audience. While Spyder will have all the elements of a heroic Telugu film, the Tamil version holds its story as the backbone.
Did it help that Mahesh Babu was raised in Chennai. He speaks good Tamil, doesn’t he?
He does. He studied in Loyola and he has all the vibes of a Chennai boy. If you see both films, you will notice how perfectly he has modulated his voice to suit each language.
You say people don’t watch your films for hero worship. Do you think that phase is over… in Tamil cinema at least?
Heroism will exist as long as cinema exists. But the way one portrays heroism will keep changing. MGR giving the poor money on screen was once considered heroism, but it is now outdated. We now show a hero in low angle shots, using slow motion. This too will get outdated. Heroism, though, will not. Even religion is a kind of hero worship, isn’t it? We all need heroes who can destroy evil.
Apart from villains, all your films also have a strong sense of anger against society at large.
I am from a lower middle-class family and I studied in a Government school. I practised the alphabets by writing on sand because we didn’t have pencils or chalks. Naturally, that anger and suffocation I felt, will reflect in my films as well. My hero’s dialogues are a manifestation of the anger I still feel.
Just take a look around… we needed a cyclone or a flood to see humanity among our people. Why should we wait for a disaster to be good to others?
But as someone who has been so successful despite these odds, hasn’t some of your anger subsided?
Not at all! I may travel by car today, but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand the mind of a woman who has been standing in a crowded bus for hours. I haven’t forgotten the long miles I had to walk to be here.
Perhaps, if I had had a protected upbringing, things would have been different. A lower middle-class person is always ruled by just three emotions… sleep, hunger and anger.
As one of India’s biggest filmmakers, how important is it that you have a certain social responsibility? You are against the portrayal of smoking on screen.
We underestimate the power of cinema and how it can influence thought. I think big filmmakers and stars need to have a certain responsibility. You can’t show smoking and drinking casually. But if I want to make a film about smoking, then its hero has to be a smoker.
Can you give me an instance where you’ve witnessed the negative effect of cinema?
See, if you look at films from around 40 years ago, we had what were called ‘teasing’ songs. Usually, these songs featured the hero walking past the heroine and commenting on her beauty.
Everyone enjoyed seeing this on screen, especially when it was between MGR and Saroja Devi. Invariably, such songs are sung by men to eve-tease. What’s ‘okay’ in cinema is not acceptable in reality.
Are people taking cinema far too seriously?
Of course they are. Cinema is my bread and butter, but I myself don’t take cinema that seriously. It’s meant to entertain, as a source of relief. But there are so many people around who politicise it for their own benefit.
Are you referring to politicians who target films just before a release?
Today, we have people who specialise in this. They want to either extort money from producers or get their two minutes of fame at the expense of the film. I have just one thing to say to them… instead of picking on a film, why don’t you do something positive. Build toilets for women, spend money on educating children… good deeds can make you famous too.
– Source : Vishal Menon @ THE HINDU