True 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 in society.

"The Rajinikanth cat and mouse game

has gone on long enough."


BW:
Your opinion on Silambattam…

Vijaya 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

I 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

Mimicry 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?’

"Rajinikanth in

 

politics can’t work

 

miracles for

 

Tamilnadu"


The media always seems to be painting a wrong picture about you. Why?

You 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.

Is 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

 

cannot become

 

any version of

 

MGR, let alone

 

the black"


Vijayakanth and Sarath Kumar have joined politics. But you seem to be against Vijayakanth, why?

Why 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?

(in 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.

I 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. Your opinion.

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.

About Silambarasan’s marriage

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.

About Nayanthara

I don’t want to answer this question, I don’t have time to waste on it.

"Love is not a

 

one-day

 

phenomenon,

 

it is a wonderful

 

process"


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.

"For the 8 songs

 

of the film,

 

80 sings were

 

written"


When is Kuralarasan debuting as hero?

He 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 soon.


Interviewer: Inian, Annadurai

Camera: Hemananth.B

Text: Arun

Ophilia Director Sasi Divya Spandana Sneha Sharanya Mohan
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