28 and Venkat Prabhu came out of nowhere and stormed the box
office. No, that isn’t quite true: they didn’t
storm it as much as slowly seduced the audience away from
the other blockbusters until all of Chennai was talking about
this movie about boisterous youngsters and cricket. Prabhu’s
Saroja is now eagerly awaited. The debutant director took
time off from the shoot to talk to us about how Chennai 28
really happened, and what he has in mind for Saroja.
expect another Chennai 28 from Saroja”
of all guys, thanks for including me in your list
of top ten directors of the year. I was flattered
that as a debut director I was featured in Behindwoods.
What prompted you
I never had a clear
ambition of what I wanted to do in cinema. I only
knew that I wanted to make a mark and tried my hand
at many things. Acting was one of them and I was continuously
associated as an actor with Charan’s productions
like Unnai Charanadindhen and Mazhai. I have even
tried running a movie magazine in English which too
did not work out. It was during one of these low periods
that I suggested a one line thread to Charan. I wanted
only to hint at the story, but Charan was of the opinion
that I have to direct it. As we worked out the details
we understood that the budget could not be met by
us. So, the project had to be shelved and what happened
next was Chennai 28.
How have you and
Charan known each other?
We have known each other
right from our early days. That our fathers worked
together very often gave us opportunities to meet
each other, sometimes on foreign tours. However it
was in the late 90s that our friendship really took
off. The reason being that one of us had gone to the
UK and the other to the US for education which meant
that around 8-9 years went off without much contact.
It is after coming back home that we restarted our
Tell us something about Chennai 28’s
It certainly has a bit of an autobiographical
element. My friends and I belonging to RA
Puram played for a team called Evergreen and
I picked up a lot of what goes into the movie
from my experience there. There was a boy
Dileep, who also used to play for Evergreen,
who contributed a lot of small ideas for the
movie. SPB Charan and a friend called Saravana,
now in Singapore expressed faith in my abilities
in spite of having no formal experience of
direction and convinced me to take up the
reigns of the movie.
How did you zero in on Vijayalakshmi as
I have known Vijayalakshmi for some time
now. Myself, Charan, Aravind Akash and Vijayalakshmi
have worked together for a film by Agathiyan
that unfortunately never got released. It
was on the sets of this movie that I met Vijayalakshmi
and while auditioning for characters for Chennai
28, her face flashed across my mind. She fit
the bill perfectly as the girl next door.
28’s victory function,
I got some threats for taking
too much freedom with Rajinikanth Sir.”
Chennai 28 impressed Rajnikanth.
We had arranged a special show of the movie for him
and after seeing the movie he was full of praise for
us, as he always is with any budding film maker. He
said that maintaining the jolly mood throughout the
film was a really difficult job as was showing a sport
so extensively. His gesture at the victory function
was magnanimous. I don’t have the stature to rub
shoulders, literally, with a man of his caliber. But
he took my arm and put it over his shoulders, something
which made me feel very uncomfortable at first, but
he was so friendly and appreciative of my work. Even
at the event, a photographer had given me a rather stern
look, but Rajini Sir saw to it that it didn’t
happen any more. After the event too I got some threats
for taking too much freedom with the Superstar and I
told him this, he asked me not to worry. Recently, he
launched the Telugu audio of Saroja and I got an opportunity
to interact with him again, it was a great experience.
What did Kamal have to say about the movie?
Kamal Sir is a man of few words; he doesn’t let
us know what is going on in his mind. He enjoyed the
movie, but he told us to move on towards our next film
and next victory and let our parents savor this one.
That was very motivating. He also said that he and Rajini
Sir will come again to attend the victory celebrations
of our next movie. Another thing that I feel very proud
of is that I and Kamal Sir share the same birthday,
November 7 and have wished each other often.
Chennai 28 with big stars….
No, stars would have been given away the climax, the
hero usually wins in the end. The presence of a hero
would have shifted the focus of the audience away from
the actual proceedings, it would have become the hero’s
film, now it’s a collective effort.
Chennai 28s Telugu version was not a success, why?
What released in Telugu was not Chennai 28. The producer
who bought the rights made so many changes that the
essence of the movie was lost. In fact, the climax match
with the Bad Boyz 11 was completely removed, song situations
were changed and it looked like a different movie, far
below par. Even the release time was inappropriate.
But for Saroja we ensured that things are better. It
was after starting the filming that the idea of a Telugu
version cropped up. So, after a few adjustments with
the cast, we shot both Tamil and Telugu simultaneously.
expect another Chennai 28 from Saroja.
Tell us about Saroja.
Saroja is completely different from Chennai
28. Our first film was based on a story that
would happen in your neighborhood, this one
is a bit of a thriller. The only similarity
that the two movies have is the word ‘Saroja’
and the fact that part of the cast has been
repeated. Saroja will be a bit more serious
than Chennai 28 but the elements of comedy
will be intact, you are sure to fully enjoy
your time in the theater, it will be worth
your money, but don’t expect another
Chennai 28. Saroja will show our metamorphosis
as film makers after Chennai 28.
How did you convince the producer about Saroja?
I did not convince producer Shiva, it was
Chennai 28 which did it. Immediately after
watching the movie he agreed to produce my
next film and the advance was paid. It was
only later that he heard the story of Saroja
and even then I had to tell him only one line
and he was happy. He trusted us a lot, did
not want to dictate the amount of money being
spent and is now happy with the final product.
The only thing to see is whether the audience
will be happy.
Does Saroja have a similarity to an English movie?
not. I have seen Babel prior to making Saroja and the
concept of stitching different stories geographically
so far apart interested me a lot. I took that concept
and put original stories and made the movie in a flavor
that will connect to the audience here. You will understand
that when you see the movie, it is completely original.
You took a long time to decide Saroja’s female
We first approached Shruthi Kamal Haasan for the role,
but at that time she was more interested in music and
turned down the offer. Then Varalakshmi too declined,
the reason for which I am not too sure of. Maybe it
was because she was not very comfortable with the kind
of film where there is neither a hero nor a heroine
with the whole cast having collective importance. I
think she was expecting a more conventional hero-heroine
subject to start off her career.
Your experience working with Yuvan Shankar Raja.
Yuvan is like a younger brother to me, it’s a
very personal relationship and we are very frank with
each other. Our combination has worked well, Chennai
28 was a hit and even Saroja has come out well. Saroja’s
music is different from Chennai 28. Chennai 28 was music
for the masses and had a lot of local flavor. This time
round it is a bit more thoughtful, and likely to be
appreciated by serious music lovers as well as by the
masses. Chennai 28 was taken at a time when Yuvan was
busy and so he couldn’t be a part of the re-recording
that was done by Premgi. But Yuvan is one of the pillars
of Saroja, he has done an extraordinary job which you
will see soon. I know a bit about music, so things haven’t
been that tough, I have been able to communicate easily.
Even Yuvan has an innate idea about how a movie and
its mood should be, so you need not constantly be behind
him to get what you want. Same with Premgi who did the
recording for Chennai 28. My knowledge of music has
helped me give some inputs at places and it has worked.
Then its up to the audience to decide.
Will you act
in movies that you direct?
Acting has happened, but now my focus is on
direction. Sasi was forced into the role for
Subramaniapuram because of the absence of an
actor. But, as of now I want to make people
act as a director, I am happy being behind the
There was news about an association with Ajith.
Ajith Sir is a good friend and well wisher
of mine. I admire him a lot and even he, too,
likes my work. I have not yet narrated any plot
to him, but I have a few ideas ready. I want
to do a slightly different film with him and
that will happen once the right time comes.
have a few ideas ready for Ajith”
On your association with Ocher Studios.
Ocher Studios has collaborated with Warner Brothers
and are making a movie which I will be directing. Not
much has progressed really, just a one line plot which
they liked a lot. Only after all the work of Saroja
has been completed will I move on to develop the story.
But definitely, an opportunity to work under banners
like Warner is great and this is surely my next movie.
Whose pet are you at home?
Not something that you should ask a 32 year old. It
is just like in any other home. Both father and mother
love you and scold you, off and on. That’s how
Films recently that have impacted you?
In Tamil, it is Paruthiveeran and Subramaniapuram.
These are films that left me thinking whether I will
be able to make movies like these. But I am more into
breezy entertainers, films purely for enjoyment. In
English there are movies like Babel that have left an
impression, but I have also enjoyed superhero films
like Batman, Ironman and Hancock.
Between a star and newcomer – who will you opt
I think I will go for newcomers. If there is a commercial
story that suits stars, then I may go in for the one
whose dates are available or for the one who likes the
story more. If there is absolutely nothing that helps
me make a choice, then I will go for a new face.
Remaking Alaigal Oyvathilai -whom would you cast?
For Alaigal Oyvathillai, my choice would be Siddharth
and Trisha, in my opinion they are best suited to match
the characters, a little bit of adjustment would be
prefer newcomers to
stars. Chennai 28 would
not have worked with big stars ”
And in the remake of Moondru
Moondru Mudichu, I a not sure who to cast,
I don’t know if actors nowadays would
like to do such roles even. I think you should
ask Balachander Sir for an opinion. You could
even ask Bharathiraja Sir’s take on
Will you do rural-themed movies?
My seniors have done films in the rural flavor
because they have come from that background,
they were born and brought up in rural Tamil
Nadu. But me and my other colleagues like
Yuvan were raised in the city. So, it is hard
for me to get that kind of originality that
I got for Chennai 28. But there is that village
within us, given to us by heredity, proved
by Yuvan with his music for Paruthiveeran.
But, if I have to make a film on a rural subject,
it will definitely take some doing to understand
how people there live. I want to make such
a film and it will happen though not immediately.
Your take on the spate of remakes of old
You can’t help it; it’s a trend whose time
has come. In a way, it is good, letting people see films
that they otherwise wouldn’t even know about.
Remakes have been in for a long time, only it has been
from one language to another, now we are doing to it
from our own classics. It is a trend that we can see
even in Hollywood, like the Italian Job. As technology
grows, there will be better ways of showing the same
Your opinion of the perennial duet song?
That is what Indian cinema is famous for, the songs,
the colors and all that. Then, how each song will be
is a director’s prerogative, some like it in very
colorful settings while others prefer to have it in
a more realistic manner. The key here is that the script
must not be hampered, the song must not be a speed breaker.
Otherwise, songs have become so integral to Indian cinema
that I think it is hard to do away with them.