to his style, Vijaya T.Rajendar spoke with
great flourish and in rhyming couplets.
(To get a real taste of the quintessential
T.R. check out the video). He spoke candidly
to Behindwoods on many of his favorite topics:
Silambarasan, Tamil cinema, politics, culture,
love and the importance of breaking conventions
Rajinikanth cat and mouse game
gone on long enough."
BW:Your opinion on Silambattam…
T. Rajendar: Silambattam is a Silambarasan
special. No one else can do it this way. He has
taken lot of efforts to bring out the two characters;
the village Tamil youth has come out really well.
He worked out to get his body in shape for the
role and the difference between the two characters
is evident. Silambarasan has now become a mass
hero for Tamil Nadu. Apart from the efforts he
took to get into the character, the hard work
he put into his dance moves has received great
appreciation. As distributor for the Chennai region,
I released the movie in 10 centers within the
city limits alone including Sathyam and Inox.
Apart from that almost all major theaters (he
reels off many names in a flash) in and around
the city are screening the movie. The first week
alone has yielded a distributor’s share
of 50 lakhs for Chennai city alone (voice rises
to a fever pitch). This means that the people
have certified Silambattam as a superhit. The
people’s verdict is what matter. Critics
might say this and that, even during my days I
had to face such rubbish criticism. There are
people who try to stunt the growth of an upcoming
artiste, they keep rubbing you the wrong way time
after time until they realize that you are tough
material, and then they begin praising you. ‘One
stage they try to suppress, oppress and depress’,
just like trying to drown a ball in water, it
keeps coming back. There was a time when even
Superstar Rajnikanth told that T.R is the collection
king of Tamil cinema, even then there were people
who said that my films were failures. The same
thing is happening with Silambarsan now, history
repeats. Silambarasan is talking giant strides
now. At his age, what he has achieved is nothing
short of great. All Tamil people around the world
have welcomed Silambattam. It is not just about
Chennai, even in areas like Chengalpattu, the
collections are rocking. Almost every distributor
area in Tamil Nadu has grossed more than a crore.
In the first week, Silambattam has made 10 crores
across Tamil Nadu. I am a businessman, I can speak
to you with the facts, I can show you the DCR
(daily collection reports), I can talk about the
distributor’s share, the theater’s
share. Vijaya T. Rajendar’s son (you have
to listen to the original Tamil version of this)
Silambarasan has conquered hearts and his Silambattam
is dancing its way to victory. ‘Cut it’
(he finishes with a flourish).
Compare the present
Silambarasan with the one you directed
have directed Silambarasan since he was a toddler,
Mythili Ennai Kathali, En Thangai Kalyani and
many other films to Kadhal Azhivadhillai (he names
14 films). After that he went on to Dhum, Alai,
Kovil, Kuthu, Manmadhan (Silmabarsan’s filmography)
up to Kaalai and Silambattam. After my 14 films,
he has done around 10 films, a total of around
24 films. He is close to his silver jubilee. He
is a born artiste. But no one would have had the
courage to launch him the way I did. When I released
Kadhal Azhivadillai, there was competition, Vijay’s
Bhagavathi, Ajith’s Villain and Vijaykanth’s
Ramana. There were people who were sneering at
me for making such a move. But, in the midst of
all this competition, the collections that I managed
to draw from the box office is nothing short of
a record. But there is no appreciation for such
things in Tamil Nadu. Only the audiences give
true appreciation for one’s efforts. Silambarasan’s
growth from the Kadhal Azhivathillai days is truly
amazing, he has made a place for himself in Tamil
Nadu and it has come after a mighty struggle.
I always tell people that life is about fighting
your way to the top (You simply have to hear the
Tamil original here too, ‘Kaalaila ezhundhirichcha
neeradanum, vazhkkainnu vandhutta poraadanum’).
Don’t care about what people have to say
about you, they may say lots of things, but you
have to listen to only what your heart tells you.
Winning is always about confidence in self. But
there is a very thin line between confidence and
arrogance. That is the mantra of my success and
that is what I taught my son and to see the heights
he has scaled today is really heartening and this
is not the end, he will go higher.
On your colorful dialogues of the 1980s
still being fodder for mimicry artistes
is just tip of the iceberg, you have forgotten
to mention all the other things that happen
in TR style. Many people try to speak Tamil
the way I do and I cannot stop them because
Tamil is not mother tongue to me alone.
I am doing Arattai Arangam now, can anyone
have the same kind of reach that I am having?
I do not have any typecast style of my own.
Mimicry artistes use just one of the thousands
of dialogues that I have spoken. But I challenge
them to speak the kind of Tamil that I can,
can they recite prose like I do? (lets out
a line in express speed)- that will be real
mimicry. ‘Love is not a one phenomenon,
it is a wonderful process’, a dialogue
from Mythili Ennai Kathali. Can anyone do
it the way I do? Whatever you do, there
will be people to mock at you. But there
is victory even in that mockery. It is my
style of Tamil that has reached out to a
global audience, I am the only one of my
generation who survived and that is why
you have come to me today with this camera.
You open YOUTUBE and you will find T. Rajendar
videos by the dozen. Whenever TR speaks
on TV, expectations are generated, TRP ratings
go up and if you have noticed you can see
that there is a TR even within TRP (on a
lighter note). 20 years back I made Oru
Thalai Raagam, today I am making Oru Thalai
Kadhal and I am the hero. I made Veerasaami
also where I was the hero. I am still in
business, I have not gone on to do father
characters like many others of my generation,
I have not even played father to my own
son, I am still a hero. The important thing
is that I still believe in myself, I still
take the effort and I don’t give up.
Adds as an afterthought, ‘is there
not profound meaning in what I am saying?’
politics can’t work
The media always seems to be painting a wrong
picture about you. Why?
are media yourself and yet you ask me this question.
You see, people throw stones only at a tree that
bears fruit. A barren tree will never be stoned
because there is nothing to aim at. If there are
such things being said about Silambarasan it only
means that he is growing. Even Superstar Rajnikanth
had to face many such problems during his early
years. The kind of news that was circulated about
him was enough to make anyone go mad, but he stood
firm. Kamal Haasan too had to go through the same
kind of things. There will be such problems whenever
a person grows. If media thinks it fit to publish
news about a person, it means that his news sells.
There was an actor called Mohan around 20 years
back, will you care to give any news about him,
no. Why? Because it won’t sell. I have been
part of the media, in fact I am still part of
media. I am starting a firm called Kural Infomedia
and I know such business secrets of the media.
So, any growing artiste will have to put up with
such problems and survive.
Tamil cinema still under star domination?
There will always be star domination. The moon
rises in the sky every night, but does that make
the small stars fall? I have made so many movies,
but never used a single top level star. Subramaniapuram
is a shining example this year. I have given so
many hits like them, Oru Thalai Raagam for instance.
I have introduced so many heroines to cinema.
I introduced Jyothi and she went on to be Rajni’s
pair in Pudhu Kavithai. Similarly Nalini, or Amala,
Jeevitha who went on to become a top actress in
Andhra Pradesh, then I introduced Mumtaz who created
the Kattipudida frenzy in Tamil Nadu. Renu, Meghna
Naidu, Sheela and many others, heroines and actors
like Rajeevan and Anandh Babu. You have to believe
that you can make stories and scripts that can
outgrow stars and stardom. Big fish will always
be there at sea, but can the smaller ones drop
to death just because of that? Stars will always
be there, but you have got to be able to stand
up for yourself as a maker.
Vijayakanth and Sarath Kumar have joined
politics. But you seem to be against Vijayakanth,
don’t you ask Vijayakanth the same
question? Sarath Kumar has a proper and
modest way of going about things. He even
sent me a letter when he launched his party.
But Vijayakanth’s behavior is slightly
arrogant. Even Tamil Nadu CM Kalaignar openly
states that he values my support. He has
been CM of the state for 5 terms, headed
the DMK 10 times and yet it has not gone
to his head. Even two time CM Jayalalitha
has admitted that my voice is heard above
even that of Advani and Vajpayye in areas
like Kancheepuram. I have that ability and
experience in politics having worked for
the DMK for nearly 25 years and having been
a former MLA. But Vijayakanth seems to think
that he can grab power in the state overnight.
He seems to think that he is like MGR. But
MGR did not come to power overnight, he
worked for the DMK for more than 20 years.
He was an MLA, he never went after a minister
post and was happy to take up party posts.
I have held the same posts that MGR had
in the past. But that did not make me think
that I can be the next MGR. The level of
struggle and work that he had undergone
is huge. He worked and matured under Anna
and it was then that he left the DMK formed
his own party and won the elections. He
has worked in around 100 films, how many
would I have worked in? MGR had that kind
of a place in the peoples’ hearts,
that’s why he came to power. Can Vijaykanth
be another MGR. Can anyone become MGR by
proclaiming himself as the black version?
There was only one MGR and he will be the
only one (Sivappu MGR, Sirappu MGR). This
man cannot become any version of MGR, let
alone the black. A crow does not become
a swan by taking a bath, even if it is in
the holy waters of Ganga. Whatever Vijayakanth
does, he cannot become MGR, this world will
see only one MGR.
Enquires: ‘How many more questions
have you got’? The interviewer doubtfully
says ‘3-4’. Immediately comes
the reply ‘No problem’, followed
by another query, ‘do you mind me
drinking some water?’ It is hard to
believe that this is the same man who was
speaking like a charged up revolutionary
a few moments ago.
Should Rajini come to politics?
a tone of dislike) Why should I care? This cat
and mouse has been going on for a long time and
I am not interested in it. There might be sources
who keep creating such useless talks, let them
answer this. I don’t think his entry or
otherwise will make a big difference, he cannot
work miracles for Tamil Nadu. I really don’t
want to answer to such questions.
There was a TR and Bhagyaraj period when films
were made with stories. It has now changed. Reasons.
won’t blame film makers. I will blame the
audiences. Nowadays, people coming to theaters
do not appreciate a good message when they see
one. Theaters have increased ticket rates and
as a result ladies have stopped coming to theaters.
I will give you an analogy; will people who eat
only non-vegetarian food enter Saravana Bhavan
to have a meal? If all people become non-vegetarians,
will only vegetarian hotels survive and if there
are only non-vegetarian hotels, will vegetarians
come out to eat- that’s what is happening
in Tamil cinema. There were days when all kinds
of people came to theaters and you had the freedom
to make all kinds of movies. But, nowadays ladies
don’t come to theaters. They have so many
options at home, so many TV channels, the internet;
then why will they go for the more expensive alternative?
They will choose only what they want to see, film
makers cannot give the audience what they think
is right. I learnt it when I made Veerasami. I
had included many elements for ladies in the movie
like sister sentiment. But the only people who
came to the theaters where the youth and the only
thing they enjoyed where the ‘kuthu’
songs and the sarcastic dialogues. I made a few
crores because of those elements but that did
not meet what I spent. I learnt a lesson that
I have to keep my budget low and at the same time
give only what the audience expects. And, it is
the transformed T. Rajendar who is making Oru
Thalai Kadhal. I have not included any special
elements for ladies in the movie. It has got only
those elements that the youth want. That is the
present situation, there is no one to blame. Technology
has grown so much that cinema is struggling to
keep up. Why only cinema? Even newspapers have
suffered because of technology growth. Newspapers
have had to forcefully resort to glamour to keep
themselves afloat. Can you point out any newspaper
or magazine that relies only on good literary
content for circulation?
This is the year of remixes and remakes.
It depends on how well the remix or remake
is done. I am not totally against it. Some
people adapt old songs to current trends
and it looks good. There are others who
do it in a way that hurts people who have
loved the song for a long time. Silambarasan
has done a good job a few times with my
old hits. ‘En aasai Mythiliae’
was a hit in my days as well as when it
came in Manmadhan, same with the ‘Dandanakka’(breaks
into a song) phrase which I coined when
he was a boy, it is now a hit through Kaalai.
The ‘ammadi aathadi’ song was
also a superhit. A maker must have a certain
level of knowledge to be able to remix a
song well. My son was born to a music director,
so he has music in his blood and when he
joined with Ilaiyaraja’s son, the
combination worked out well. The same way,
when it comes to remaking movies the first
thing to strike your mind is whether there
is a drought of stories. A movie that was
made many years back would have been seen
by many people, some may have not. So, it
has to be made for the current generation.
If a movie has to be liked by everyone,
then a fresh story is the best option. But,
in principle, I am not against remakes.
If there are good opportunities, then remakes
can certainly be attempted.
Whenever he wishes to marry, as a good parent
I will fulfill his wish. I will never stand
against his wish. Marriage is between two
people, so as soon as he tells me his wish,
there will be no delay in the marriage.
I am not the kind of person who supports
love on screen and opposes love off it.
You can expect it to happen soon.
I don’t want to answer this question,
I don’t have time to waste on it.
is not a
is a wonderful
About your Arattai Arangam experiences
It has been one of the best experiences of my
life. People have realized that I am talking about
many things that need immediate attention, I am
trying to create awareness. My presentations have
had a positive effect. Many people have approached
me from different walks of life, offering unconditional
help to all those grief stricken people who are
shown through the program. Arattai Arangam has
its own reach and value, but I am happy to know
that my presence has added to that value. People
are growing aware of issues. I concentrate especially
on woman empowerment, about the problems of widows,
about problems that women face because their husbands
are alcoholics. I have always wanted alcohol to
be totally wiped out from the society. Alcohol
is the root cause for many of our youngsters losing
their way in life. I want to give them a positive
direction in life. I fight for the rights of homosexuals
in society, it had a positive effect. I raise
awareness against AIDS. [he gives a Tamil quote
about safe sex and AIDS] When I deliver such messages
it has an effect. I advise men to not be wayward
in life and put their family in deep grief. I
encourage children to speak up. There are very
few people in this world who give genuine encouragement,
the world is full of people who want to suppress
talents. Diamonds shine only when brought out
of the mud, I want to bring out such diamonds
in our society, I want to help women live life
on their terms., I want to help ill people who
have nobody to turn and SUN TV gave me the opportunity
through Arattai Arangam. I do the program as a
service, not as profession. What you see for 25
minutes every week, is shot in a single schedule
for an entire month and I have to sometimes stand
continuously for 6-7 hours. There is pain but
the thought of the service that I am doing makes
me forget that pain. I will continue doing the
same good. I think about the next generation.
Tamils need to be given confidence and belief.
If not, what is happening in Sri Lanka now may
happen here tomorrow. I will continue spreading
awareness about this wherever I go. I don’t
live for the next elections, I live for the tests
of time that Tamils will have to face in future.
the 8 songs
When is Kuralarasan debuting as hero?
has finished his +2 and is getting ready
to debut as hero. But don’t get excited
and flash any such news in the media, the
story is just about taking shape. There
was a story titled Karuppanin Kadhali that
I had written for myself and news was all
over town that Kuralarasan was debuting
in the movie, false news, wrong information.
He is now in the process of trimming his
body, learning the nuances of dance etc.
Just like educating a person in any subject,
he is now being trained to be an actor.
Oru Thalai Kadhal is strictly written for
me. I have put in a lot of effort to make
the movie. For the 8 songs of the film,
80 sings were written and composed before
I finally selected the 8. I have also undergone
a lot of physical training and diet regulations
to get my body ready. And, now I am ready
to be the hero. But, it is not the regular
screen hero. I will be the hero only for
the script, not the dancing and prancing
type. I don’t believe in acting with
my face, I act with my being. After finishing
the movie I will directly move on to Kuralarasan’s
project. I have decided that I am going
to deliver a number of medium budget movies
within a year. The story is getting ready
and you will see Kuralarasan in action very
Interviewer: Inian, Annadurai