Gautham Menon is ready with Neethaane En Pon Vasantham with Jiiva and Samantha and he took time off from his busy schedule to speak to about the film, Jiiva, Nani, Samantha, Santhanam and the inimitable Ilayaraja.

Romance always stands out in your films. Why is it so?

It is not intended and if you love ‘LOVE’ so much, you are going to fall flat for Neethaane En Pon Vasantham. That is sure!

Is NEP your story?

No! There are certain situations that are mine and there are a few others which are borne out of my imagination, a kind of extrapolation of my thoughts. When I had narrated the story to Jiiva, he felt it was his story. That’s how we arrived at the tagline ‘this could be your love story’. I put myself in hero’s shoes and handled it as realistically as possible. NEP is not entirely from my life, but yes, it has happened in my life.

Jiiva felt NEP was his story

Do you remember your first crush?

I can’t say about it in front of the camera.

Are there things that can be said in front of the camera?

The romance of next door neighbor got translated in Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya and meeting a girl in the train got translated into Vaaranam Aayiram. I had met a girl in the train but she had got down in a station and walked off. That was about it. But a projection of that situation resulted in Sameera Reddy’s character in Vaaranam Aayiram. Stories are the extension of life’s varied situations.

How did NEP happen? Was it there in you for a long time?

No! NEP is not my story. It is my partner Reshma’s story. After numerous discussions, as a team, we had decided to make this into a film. We had sent the story to Ram (Telugu) as an email attachment and he favorably responded. That’s when we thought we can do this in Tamil as well and wrote the dialogues and Jiiva came in. Then Ram could not do and Nani stepped in. That’s how NEP came in. It is Reshma’s story which I turned into my style and wrote the screen play and dialogues.

NEP is not my story

How did Jiiva come on board?

Jiiva called one day and said he wanted to work with me. I said, ‘Why not, let’s do a local film’. He said he wanted to do only an urban film. I told him NEP story, he liked and felt it was his own story. We brought Jiiva inside our story and changed his looks; in fact he has gone through so many changes in his looks for NEP- a school boy, a college boy and a working professional. He looks different in each look.

Gautham Menon is known for urban films. Can we expect a rural based film from you in future?

Very definitely! If such a script attacks me and I am able to plunge myself into it, I will definitely do a rural based subject. Although NEP did not happen in my life, I have gone deep into it and worked. If I get such a script, I will definitely do and I do have interest.

I would definitely do a rural based subject

The very mention of NEP brings to mind Ilayaraja. Were you comfortable working with him?

He made me feel comfortable. After I shot 40% of the movie, I went to him, showed him what I shot, discussed the script, explained the situations and then we took a joint decision to go to London to produce music there, recording just the voice here.  After we finished the movie, we got a lovely background score. NEP is a musical and music drives the film. Raja has beautifully conveyed through music the feelings of two people in love.

Music drives NEP

Which is your favorite song in NEP?

I am still struck on Kaatrai Konjam. But when you see the film, you will like all the songs as every song drives the film forward.

I am still struck on Kaatrai Konjam

Why you chose Samantha?

It was the time when we were returning from Agra to Delhi after shooting the Hindi VTV where Samantha was playing a small role. It was also the time when ‘Ye maya chesave’ and a couple of Samantha’s Telugu films were big hits in Andhra. We thought she would be ideal for Telugu with Ram as co-star and gave the script of NEP to her. As I was talking to her I realized that there was something different about her from the Ye Maya chesave days.  She looked more confident and appeared to know what she was talking. We took a joint decision of casting her in the Tamil version too.

When we were shooting she got the language so right in Tamil and Telugu and got the characterization perfect and at that time, Hindi version was also there and we decided to rope her in Hindi too. It made sense to shoot one girl with three boys as to get three heroines on board would be chaotic logistically. Samantha seamlessly blended into the character and has worked so hard for the film. She has dubbed in Tamil and she is here to stay.  With NEP, you can say that Samantha has put herself in the map.


Samantha is here to stay

There is no special comedy track in your films. How did Santhanam figure in NEP?

After 10-15 minutes into the film, you will forget Jiiva and Santhanam. You will only see Varun and Prakash. You would feel a chemistry between the boys. He is Jiiva’s friend and comes throughout the film. He plays a very sweet role and comedy is also in accordance with the script. There is no separate comedy track. Film starts with a bang and Jiiva and Santhanam are there in it. NEP is a love story and all of them take the scenes forward. Santhanam has got good lines in NEP and I like working with him.

I like working with Santhanam

Is it true that Santhanam mimicked characters from your previous films?

It is not like that. There is something in the script which he did. Usually when the second half begins after the interval, audience comes a bit late to the screen. I have said, ‘please don’t miss the opening of second half’ with a small twist. You will get the answer for your question there.

You have made a cameo appearance in Santhanam’s Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya. What kind of relationship you share with Santhanam?

You can’t call that a cameo, it is a disgrace to the word! It’s just a fleeting appearance. Santhanam asked me if I could come as directing Simbu in KLTA. He has helped us a lot in NEP adjusting dates when Samantha was unwell and I like him a lot. Many have asked me to appear in their films but I have refused. But I did it for Santhanam.

You will see me directing Simbu in KLTA

Have you acted in NEP?

I have acted as a director in NEP.

I have acted as a director in NEP.

What are the differences between Telugu and Tamil NEP?

Whoever likes Nani can see the Telugu version and whoever likes Jiiva can watch the Tamil one.

Would there be a difference of climax between Tamil and Telugu?

It is the same story, screen play and dialogues. The beauty of the story is the performances of Nani and Jiiva. When I write a screen, I would have a vision of how the artist is going to perform. Both of them have brought in their own uniqueness to the character and I have been able to capture that. You might feel Nani has done well in few scenes and Jiiva in some but that is your sensibility. For me, both of them have given what I wanted for the script. In the climax, Nani played in his style and Jiiva his own style and I said yes to both of them.

You introduced Nani in Tamil in your production, Veppam and now you are directing him. How would you rate Nani’s performance?

I will give him 10/10 as an actor. He is brilliant and is a thinking actor. He is very good with the lines. When you explain the scene to him, he does a good job in it.

I would give Nani 10/10

Sometime back you had tweeted that you are going to bring Jiiva and Nani together in a film. Is it going to happen?

It would be very good if it happens. While shooting NEP, Nani used to wait when Jiiva’s shot was going on and vice versa. It is a very rare thing. If they come together for a film, it would be good for the industry.

Now that you have completed the film, how are you looking forward to the release date?

People who know me are aware that I get very nervous when the release date is nearing. I will go into my shell tomorrow.

After NEP?

Suriya! From March, it is shooting with Suriya!




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