Neophyte Kalaprabhu Thanu, the young director on the sphere whose maiden directorial venture Sakkarakatti hit the screen last week, is a relaxed man. He has an impressive lineage in the form of his dad, the eminent producer Kalaipuli S Thanu, who has a track record of setting the box office on fire with imposing productions involving the leading stars of the industry.

Prabhu, in a friendly tête-à-tête with Behindwoods, talks about his film, his family, A R Rahman and much more. Read on to discover this young director who has made an impression on Isaipuyal A R Rahman to score music for his first film.

 
 

I go happily in torn jeans, rubber chapal and
dirty T shirt to see Rahman

What kind of person are you?

I’m a pet only to my mom and to the rest of the world, a super, naughty brat…

Who is Kala in your name?

I am Prabhu and my mom is Kala. As I want my mom to be always with me, I have prefixed her name with mine in her memory.


What was your dad’s contribution to your film?

It is a general feeling that my dad helped me in certain things. Well… you can say that. (chuckles). Actually, you can only say that.

As regards my dad, he can get me a hearing time of one hour from the crème-la-crème of the industry in India and I can narrate my story to them. However, how I utilize that one hour to my optimum benefit rests entirely on my capabilities. Though the initial impetus came in the form of my dad, A R Rahman agreed to this project based only on the merit of my story.

How did your sister help you realize your dream?

After my mom, I’m very close to my sister and we share a good rapport with each other. My dad was completely against me entering the film industry. However my interest was only in films and somehow I wanted my dad to give a green signal on this. In this process I had made a couple of short films but even this did not help me get my dad’s assent. Having sensed my disappointment, my sister Kavitha helped me get dad to hear my story.

 

My dad can get me a hearing time of one hour from the crème-la-crème of the industry


Did your dad listen to the full story?

Well... No. I had narrated the story of Sakkarakatti till the interval and when I had stopped to get his feedback, he said that he had total faith in me and asked me to start work right away. I would like to tell you something. Till date he has not listened to the second half of the story at all!

Your friendship with Sundar C Babu?

Sundar C Babu is one of my close friends. When I knew that it is going to be an uphill task convincing my dad, I tried various things like multimedia, music album etc. Sundar and I have done a couple of songs for a music album and that’s how our friendship developed.

How was your school life?

I have not much to say about school life. I was a very troublesome boy at school and was pulled up for anything mischievous. Of course, those days, I felt like a hero for being in the limelight for the wrong reasons but I realize my follies now.

Which was the first film shooting that you attended?

I used to visit my dad’s production ventures whenever I felt like. “Yaar’ was the first film shooting that I remember attending. I should have been 10 years old. In the initial stages it was only a desire to watch a shooting but later on it changed to an active pursuit and I started taking keen interest and wanted to learn the nuances of film making. The first film that I watched with an interest to know more about film making was Gharshana, the Telugu film when the shoot was going on in Hyderabad.

A R Rahman agreed to this project based only on the merit of my story

 

How difficult was it to rope in A R Rahman?

When my dad took me to Rahman sir, I was not able to believe my luck at all. I belong to the generation which has grown on Roja and here I am in front of him in flesh and blood. I was given 45 minutes but I exceeded my time by another 45 minutes and then he had agreed to do my film. The magnitude of the situation struck me when I came out of his room. I saw many distinguished people waiting for hours to get just a glimpse of him and here I go happily in torn jeans, rubber chapal and dirty T shirt and had his rapt attention for 90 minutes!. I simply could not believe my fortune and should thank the Almighty and my dad for such an opportunity.

Did you and Rahman discuss the music?

Yes, of course. I had explained about the placement of songs and the feel of them and he had those as reference points. Later when the tunes were played, they were one hundred times more than what I had sought out for. The tracks would be given and the lyricist asked to pen their verses. The time taken for each song to get completed was different. ‘Taxi taxi’ took us four days while ‘Elay’ was completed in almost 24 hours. When it came to lyrics, Rahman can never be easily satisfied and he would be at it till it reached a stage of perfection. I was privileged to have Muthukumar and Paa. Vijay working in sync with Rahman and they understood each other perfectly.

Any interesting anecdote during music composition?

While working on ‘elay’ number, Muthukumar was in Rahman’s house till midnight and completed it and was asked to come again next afternoon. The next day when we went and gave the completed lyrics, Rahman sir looked at the paper and there was one word ‘ulagam thiranda vaazhai’. He was apparently impressed with the word and said, “Wow! This phrase is nice, we can start from this.” And we ended up having a totally different start to the song.


Rahman as a person

When you work with him in such close quarters, you realize that besides being an ace music composer, he is such a wonderful human being. His presence makes you feel that you still live in a good world. At the same time he does not take anyone lightly and gives everybody their due respects. He is always concerned about society and talks constantly about the welfare of people. I am certainly blessed to have worked with such a great person.

Can you say something about ‘taxi taxi’?

This song is a super duper hit and is on everyone’s lips now. We felt that this number would be on the top list while we were recording and we are proved right.


On Chinnamma chilakkamma taken from Hindi movie Meenaxi?

When I went to Rahman to tell the story, I felt that he would be too busy and thought that it would help him ease out if I had taken few Hindi tunes of his. However, Rahman sir took his Hindi ‘Meenaxi’ number for Chilakkamma and the rest of the songs are all freshly scored for Sakkarakatti. As regards Rahman sir, I think he would accept any film only if likes the story and if there is any scope for his performance. And I am glad that he did my debut film.

Graphics in the songs and Saundarya Rajnikanth’s role?

My friend Karthik is the only reason behind this. Through him I got to know Sunil who is the visual coordinator at Ochre. Initially it was only Chinnamma chilakkamma song. However they ended up doing all the numbers. There is a solid team there and I liked their working style. We had brain storming sessions and worked in unison. If one of us felt something was not alright, we would analyze, discuss and take the remedial course.

 

Rahman sir took his Hindi ‘Meenaxi’ number for Chilakkamma

After a rigorous search we zeroed in on Shanthanu

 


Why not bigger stars like Vikram instead of a new comer?

My script needed a newcomer, one without any image as my story is a sweet little love story with a different treatment. My hero is a ‘boy next door’ who hails from Chennai boat club area who appears very cosmopolitan. After a rigorous search we zeroed in on Shanthanu who fitted the bill perfectly.

In which scene did Bhagyaraj get totally involved?

When I first went to narrate my story to Bhagyaraj, he sized me up and asked if I had worked as an assistant director to someone and I said no. Then he started listening to my narration and I could see his involvement from the 3rd minute which was made known by his facial expressions. There were some occasions where I had gone a bit fast and he stopped me and asked me to repeat. After I completed my story, there was a pregnant pause for a few perceptible moments and I was nervous. Then he started speaking. He said that my film is full of technical domination and mentioned about the growth or progress in my script which should ideally be there in any story in every four scenes.

It is being said that you narrate your story with lot of oral sound effects...

According to me when one wants to enter cinema, one should shed all their inhibitions especially when it comes to script narration. When I visualize how a scene should appear on screen that includes sound effects also. So, it is only natural that I bring in lot of oral sound effects when I tell my story. I want my listener to get the complete feel of my script.

How would you polish your story narration?

Generally I record my narration and keep on hearing and honing it till a point when I am totally satisfied with it.

 

Who are the directors you like?

I like Mani sir. In the younger brood, I like Venkat Prabhu.

As a young film maker, you are talking about Rudraiya and Mahendran. Comment?

I have heard many assistant directors speak about Iranian films and other world films. But according to me, to have a feel of realism and to connect with the audience and to strike a chord with them, one should watch Rudraiya’s or Mahendran’s films. In Aval Appadithan or Mullum Malarum the character portrayal strong enough to transcend time barriers. Their films are woven around their characters and the story is moved ahead with the help of these characters who appear fresh even after fifty years. Such films are a rarity these days.

Can you tell us something about Vamsi?

I am a big devotee of Vamsi sir just like the way I worship A R Rahman sir. Vamsi sir’s songs are amazing and it is unfathomable how he contrived them those days when facilities like graphics never existed. His hard work would have been palpable in every minute shot. He would have taken utmost care about the smallest of smallest sounds that would go with every shot and sometimes one can see more than two frames which would keep changing.

Didn’t you want to shoot Sakarakatti in those unusual Kadaswamy locations?

My father encouraged me and gave me the total freedom of choosing the shooting spot. But as a debutant director working with newcomers, I knew my limitations and was keen to work within a framework. As my story also did not demand exotic locales, I shot my entire film within south India. It was mainly in Chennai, Bengaluru, Kodaikanal, Vaagam and Pereecham.

Will you do films for your dad or for outside banner?

How can I forget my dad? Not only me but whoever has done films for my dad’s banner would like to come back and work for him. He would go to any extent to do anything if he feels it is essential for the story. But to convince him to do that is a mammoth task and once it is done it is a smooth ride from that point.


In the recent times, what are the films that you enjoyed watching ?

The film that I enjoyed completely is Chennai 600028.

Where does Tamil cinema figure in world cinema today?

Tamil cinema is also a world cinema. When a foreigner sees our film, it is a world cinema for him and vice versa. Tamil cinema is on par with world cinema- be it in the script department or in any other. Just like Hollywood, Tamil films also try out varied themes.

About your family

My dad, my elder brother Parandaman and his wife, my younger sister Kavitha and her husband Nataraj, children and a whole load of aunts and uncles. My family is very big and it would require almost one day to talk about them.

 

The film that I enjoyed completely is Chennai 600028

Venkat Prabhu Actor Jeeva Actress Tejasree Lekha Washington Director Mysskin Director A.R.Murugadoss
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