Interviewer: Jyothsna & Inian | Camera: Hemananth.B | Text: Jyothsna
Sarvam will hit the screens on May15th and its debonair promos have already raised the expectations with many novelties in the offing. As the film gets ready for its release, our Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar caught up with its director Vishnuvardhan at his aesthetically and tastefully done office in T Nagar where Vishnu lets his hair down and spiritedly talks about the film, Arya, Trisha and many more.

About the title

Vishnuvardhan : Many people have asked me about this. Sarvam, as we all know, means everything. The film revolves around five characters and the events in their life. There is one perspective of the film which talks about our life revolving around our loved ones. The other angle deals with that one event which completely turns our life which may become a volte-face of our life. We may have planned something but a sudden event could change everything. ‘Sarvamum’ changes and a new life would emerge which is closer to the film’s narrative structure. That’s why it is titled Sarvam. It is not supernatural or superficial. It is a very straight, simple and emotional film.

What is Sarvam all about?

It is all about a viewing experience. If I say everything now, I am snatching away that experience. It is a simple story in the life of five characters - Arya, Trisha, JD Chakravarthy, Indrajeeth and Rohan. JD Chakravarthy is a familiar face in tinsel town but a forgotten one. When people like him come into the film, you tend to believe the reel. Their behavior pattern, their acting style, which we have forgotten for some time, will appear fresh on screen now. The same thing can be said about Indrajeeth, Prithiviraj’s brother. He plays Rohan’s dad in the film. Rohan is a new find who is completely naïve about cinema. He is a raw and fresh clay and is fantastic. Sarvam is about these characters and the world within them. Sarvam is a trip and you should take this trip.

"It is all about

a viewing


What is Sarvam’s USP?

I cannot answer this in a simple sentence. To start with, Sarvam is nothing like Billa and that I consider as its USP. It is different from Billa and there is something interesting in it. It is different in the manner it is formatted and modulated. Personally, I find the songs have turned out fantastic. I am sure the audience will have different perspectives once the film is released as there are different angles and dimensions in it. My USP of the film is it is a very emotional trip. This is one field I have not forayed into so far. My earlier films Kurumbu, Arindum Ariyamalum, Pattiyal and Billa are all different and not related to each other. And in the same vein, Sarvam will not have any connection with these films. Sarvam is fresh on its own.

About Arya

I am teaming up once again with my everlasting buddy Jamshed who is none other than Arya. I wanted to do this film even before Billa when it was conceptualized two years ago. Sarvam is an old film but is still fresh. Though people advised to me to go forward and do other films, I wanted to go back and do Sarvam and was keen to get it out of my system. It was to happen earlier but did not and many things have changed over a period of time. Perhaps, it is destined to happen now. We don’t decide when the film should happen, the film decides itself.

That’s how Arya came in after Naan Kadavul. I have always shown him in a very grubby fashion but he is actually very tall and handsome. I myself find him very fresh and good looking now. I wanted to give a new look to him, because I wanted to get excited about this project, and he fitted the bill. The Arya that we have all along seen is completely different from the actual one. He is the naughtiest and the most charming brat. Though he looks macho, he is only a child from inside. When I needed someone energetic and rugged for my character, Arya matched the role perfectly because he is charming, good looking and also rugged. The first and second half of Sarvam will appear like two different films in terms of mood and in making but it is a single story.

Apropos Trisha

Though Trisha has done many films and is not a new entrant to the industry, she looks very fresh in Sarvam. Perhaps, it is because of a co-star like Arya. Both Trisha and Arya are tall and good looking. When Arya looks at a girl, that girl should not have looked at him and vice versa. The pair had to be new and fresh. Their chemistry has worked out very well. Trisha has an interesting quality that comes along as her tagline. She has an innocent smile irrespective of her mischievousness which was very essential for this character.

On JD Chakravarthy and Indrajeet

I did not know how the character of JD Chakravarthy will behave and needed a fresh mood for this role. JD was there a few years back but he is into direction these days. He is an unpredictable actor whom we have forgotten. Same thing is with Indrajeet. He plays a software guy as he has a clean, soft look about him whereas JD looks very raw and rough and he plays a football coach. The entire casting was done based on these factors.

How was Rohan?

Rohan can be called as the new kid on the block. We tested around 100-150 boys for more than eight months and discovered him. He is not handsome but there is something very cute about him. He has a tooth in the front and wears spectacles. I did not tell him to act in a particular format because I did not desire that kind of response. I just needed a kid and let him be himself. I have incorporated his walk, body language and his natural self in the role and it has shaped up very well.


"I had to shoot

whatever he does

as he is very

difficult to handle

Special character Bruce

There is someone called Bruce who is also just himself like the other roles. I had to shoot whatever he does as he is very difficult to handle. HE IS A DOG. This particular breed of dog is banned in many countries because it is very dangerous and ferocious. I approached the trainer who worked with elephants in Jodha Akbar and asked for the most ferocious Rottweiler breed. The trainer was shocked and apprehensive as not many films have been shot with Rottweilers. ‘Oman’ and ‘Breed’ had this breed. Generally, they are uncontrollable and are ‘one master’ types though sometimes they attack their masters too. He was the toughest to handle. He had to be with JD and was with him for four months. He used to come to office, hang around to get used to us. Despite this, he had many mood swings and would not shoot if he does not like the location. Finally, we managed to shoot whatever he did. If I had given him instructions, he would have ripped me apart.

Specialty of Sarvam

It is very fresh and the base is very strong which is sure to work out. The narrative pattern is the singular special feature of Sarvam, the way it is shot and the way it is narrated. It does not resemble any of my previous films one bit. It is a much better film than Billa because Billa was just a making and Sarvam is beyond making. You would have noticed that from the trailer. I have introduced another boy called Wasim. They all are so natural that you tend to forget that it is cinema.

How was Arya’s transition from Naan Kadavul to Sarvam?

Oh, yeah. Naan Kadavul was a lengthy process where Arya had forgotten the real him. He came to Sarvam shoot the very next day after wrapping up Naan Kadavul and there was not even a discussion. We were all waiting for him with scissors. Initially, when I described about the scene and dialogues, he was very quiet and did not respond. It is difficult for an immediate and total transformation. I realized his problem and called him aside, told him he is an actor and cannot be like this. But he was fantastic in the next half an hour. The reason for this is I know him very well and know how to use him. He is a director’s man. Arya is the only actor who does not carry an image on his back. When there is no image, it is easy to handle and mould him. I wrote his dialogues based on his behavior and told him it is he who is playing the role and not anybody. That did the trick and he started opening up. My unit is a young one and the shoot is always like picnic spot. As he had already worked with me in two films, he slowly got back to his home turf and things became normal. It is quite a transformation for Arya and a swift one at that. According to me, an actor should switch moods at the snap of a finger. I don’t believe in method acting. Mohanlal is the best example and his transformation when the camera starts rolling is amazing.

Arya continues to feature in your films. Any special reasons?

Very simple! He is my best friend and we gel well. More than anything, he trusts me immensely. When someone has so much of faith, our responsibility increases. As I had said earlier, he does not have an image and can be styled in any way. He is like strong clay and will be sturdy in any form we give him. I am very comfortable working with him. As it is, I have worked with a few artistes like Ajith sir, Arya and Bharath. The main reason is – I am very much at ease working with Arya.

Sarvam initially had Suriya in the lead. Now it has Arya. Did the script change accordingly as well?

No, the script did not change. There are a few similarities between Arya and Suriya. Both of them are handsome, they can be very charming and rough at the same time. Personally, I know Arya has a remarkable energy and can carry off the post interval in Sarvam as he has to look rough in that session. This suited me as a director. Initially, there were many reasons why the film never took off. Again, it was fated not to happen then but now.

Yuvan’s music

Yuvan’s music is the pillar to Sarvam. There is always a healthy competition between us, whether his music is better or my direction is better. Yuvan and I are schoolmates. He used to take me home and play his tunes. And I used to promise him that if I become a director, he will be my music director. He has always been giving good audio to me. The advantage of Sarvam’s audio postponement has resulted in better reach. The best part is when the film was conceptualized with just my technical crew in place, even before Suriya and Arya; Yuvan had given me two tracks. And I have used them now in Sarvam and still they are fresh. They are Needane and Suttal Suriyane. Yuvan’s melodies have better recall value and I don’t control him and let him score music the way he wants. I want him to feel happy about his music first. In fact Yuvan himself has dismissed a couple of his tunes and came out with much better stuff. He need not have done this and could have simply given any tunes. But he is not like that.

"Yuvan’s music

is the pillar to


Nirav Shah’s cinematography

My team of Nirav, Sreekar Prasad (editor), my wife Anu (costume designer) and my stunt master has been working together for ages and we all have a good understanding. Even when the film does not do well, we carry on with our friendship and remain happy. We are like a group of friends playing gully cricket. We will remain friends unmindful of the game’s results. When it comes to Nirav’s work, people say Billa was good but I feel Pattiyal was his best and now it is Sarvam which is a completely a different trip. It was easy for me to tell Nirav that I wanted two different moods and looks in Sarvam. The planning with him was fantastic in terms of toning and the hunt for locations. The second half will have concrete jungle, cool mist, greenery, and fog. Billa had one tone but Sarvam has many shades. Nirav has done a great job especially in songs. Till date I have never seen the songs of any films so many times. But Sarvam is my favorite album. I have seen the songs innumerable times for the way it is shot.

Editor Sreekar Prasad

Sarvam’s key part is its narrative structure and Sreekar Prasad has played major role in it. I can say Sarvam is Nirav’s and Sreekar’s film.

"Manu Jagadh’s

work was


Art director Manu Jagadh

I am bringing in a new art director Manu from Malayalam who has done many films with Sabu Cyril. This is his first Tamil film. He has done a remarkable job in the art department. My whole film is designed. Throughout the film, we have used wall papers in hospitals, in houses and for an entire song for the style in art direction. He has erected a huge 80-feet church, 200 year old in the middle of a jungle where we have shot in rain and mist. And it was a full night shoot for seven days. That church was fabulous and it was my last reel. We had made its interiors in Chennai. Manu Jagadh’s work was mind-blowing.

In Billa, the predominant color concept was black and white. What is the scheme in Sarvam?

Billa was designed in a different way and Sarvam in another fashion. We had a splash of colors in the first half and the second half had a specific tone. You will have a chilled out feel in the second half. The audience may feel it is a different film due to the tone, locations, costumes and the way it is shot. There is no monotone in costumes and there will be splash of colors in Sarvam.

Has Billa’s success put some kind of pressure on you?

I don’t take any pressures. If I start considering all the feedbacks that I received post-Billa seriously, I would have been caught in a trap. Personally, I should get excited about a particular project and I try my best not to get repetitive. There should be some difference in shade in my films. So I concentrate on my work rather than the pressures to perform.

What did the original Billa – Rajnikanth say after seeing the film?

We met many times after its trailer and after the film’s release. The superstar was kicked about it. There was a general curiosity about Billa to know how it was made. After he saw the trailer, I was called in Saravanan sir’s office by Rajnikanth. He immediately started off in his typical racy way of speech. Though I did not understand every bit, I could make out he was appreciating the film. He was too excited. After he saw the film, he called me to his room and had an animated conversation for 45 minutes. He was on a nostalgic trip recalling special incidents during the original Billa shoot. He just talked and I just listened.

"Super star

was kicked

about the film"

All your movies have been a quick start to finish projects. Do you think Sarvam was one movie which took a long time to get released?

Yes. It was delayed for quite a while. More than making a film, doing business afterwards is a mammoth task today. The timing now is not too good. There is a financial crisis everywhere. And there is IPL, elections and so on. The situation is so chaotic. We have made the film and the producers, distributors and everyone are happy and excited and now something else crops up. It is a win-win situation for all. I cannot relax saying I have made the film and have succeeded. Everyone should feel happy. Hence the timing is important. I am not competing with anyone here. There were some problems with regard to dates as some theatres were said to screen the IPL matches. When I have made a good film, I did not want to release it hastily at a wrong time.

Will you be directing your brother?

My brother is already launched and I have told him I will be doing a project with him soon. I don’t know when and what type of project it will be. I could not launch him because I was doing Billa then.

Any particular artiste that you would like to direct?

There is no one specific like that. I have always wanted to do a Telugu film and I am doing one now. If it turns out interesting, it could even be a bilingual.

Will you be working with Ajith again?

We have plans. We basically should have fun together. That’s important. Our dates should work out. If everything falls in place, we will be teaming up again.

Your favorite directors?

I like many from the old bunch to the new crop. There are many. My favorite directors are Mahendran, Sathyajith Ray, Akira Kurasowa. Today, the style is different and trendy. I like Gautham’s work.

Recent films you liked…

I liked Paruthi Veeran and Anjaathe. They were fresh and they attempted some thing new. The efforts were new. I like to watch Ameer’s films. I generally watch all films

In your opinion, how is Tamil cinema today?

On one side, it is healthy. There are a lot of new people and more such new entrants should come. The fixed pattern of functioning should be broken and I think it is happening with the entry of many new directors. It is a new phase now. Situations here and there are a bit sad and I am sure it will stabilize and go on track soon mainly on the financial side.

As director Vishnuvardhan, how do you want to be known as after a few years?

I don’t go with a plan like that. I just go with a flow. I may grow with my films and vice versa. I have a level of mental maturity today. Tomorrow, it may grow or abscond totally. I don’t know. As I grow, perhaps the maturity in the content of my film may grow. That’s how I see it. From my first film to Sarvam, I feel there is little growth if not enormous in my work. Perhaps, if I stay focused, it may slowly blossom.

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