took you long to come in front of the camera?
I was not to act in Mandhira Punnagai when we
began the project. When I narrated the script
of Mandhira Punnagai to my friend cum producer
Karthik Nagarajan, the topic of casting came
about. Till date, I have not written a script
with someone in mind. The usual norm is to write
the script, discuss with producer and then look
for a suitable cast. Hence when I was discussing
Mandhira Punnagai and a couple of names were
being considered, Karthik gave it a thought
and suggested me to don hero’s role. He
felt I would be suitable for the role. He was
the one who insisted on my donning the greasepaint.
I have never considered acting and when the
man who is funding is keen about it, I thought
why not. Karthik believed that as the script
is fresh, a new face would be more appealing.
That’s how I came into acting. If not
for Karthik, my entry may have been delayed
I was not to act in Mandhira
Acting is difficult
was it to work in front and behind the camera?
am more comfortable behind the camera rather
than being in front. Appearing in front of the
camera may seem easy as long as you are behind
it. The director in me was not dormant when
I came in front of the camera as I was worried
about the numerous aspects of direction for
the first few days. My camera man and assistants
told me not to worry and assured that everything
would be taken care of. It was indeed difficult
for the first few days. However, when you ask
me which is easier, I would say, it is direction,
may be because I have been working on this craft
for a long time. Acting is difficult.
is Mandhira Punnagai all about?
The specialty of Mandhira Punnagai is that all
the characters from hero to heroine to comedy
artist and supporting cast are all portrayed
with grey shades. Everyone has a cassette but
Nithyananda’s has been trapped. That’s
the difference. There is no good person here.
Mandhira Punnagai says that everybody is with
plus and minus here.
There is no good person here
said to be doing a different role. Can you explain?
We thought comedy was important for the film because
the story is very tight. Hence we did not want a separate
track for comedy. When we called Santhanam, we told
him that he needs to be there for a lengthy period
as we cannot shoot his part alone and send him off
as he would be featuring through out the film. He
also agreed and felt that would be the ideal aspect
for him as well. Thanks to his cooperation, we were
able to have him in the entire film. If the shooting
for the film went on for 90 days, he was there with
us for more than 30 days. Mandhira Punnagai revolves
around me, Meenakshi, Santhanam, director Thambi Ramayya,
and Nagulan Ponnusamy of Varnajalam fame.
worst that people could say is that Meenakshi has not
acted in blockbusters. That’s all. When I have
decided to take the plunge as hero, heroine is no big
deal. Hence we called Meenakshi and sought 60 days of
her call sheet. Initially she was confused as to why
we are seeking 60 days from a heroine. But I explained
that only when we shoot 60 days with her, we can bring
out an equal footage of hers with hero. I don’t
know to shoot with just 20 days for the heroine. When
we completed the film, Meenakshi said that she has indeed
acted for 65 days, 5 days more that what we had told
We wanted a heroine who was
first condition we had while casting the lady
lead was that she should be free because, I
am acting, my friend is producing and so we
can go to the shoot whenever we feel like. Hence
we wanted a heroine who was in line with this
and free. Meenakshi had done a decent job in
Karuppusamy Kuthagaidarar. Later on, of course,
she attempted different aspects including glamour
but apparently they did not work. The
Meenakshi justify your expectations?
I believe Meenakshi is going to hog the limelight
in Mandhira Punnagai. On the first day of shoot,
I sent her back at 3 PM to make her study her
dialogues. She is an artist who is used to prompting.
Her mother tongue is not Tamil and it is difficult
for her to speak. I told her unless she thoroughly
comprehends the dialogues, it is hard to emote.
Of course, there would be some standard expressions
in the bank which can be used and adjusted.
That’s the maximum we can do. Luckily,
we got a lady who was well versed in Bengali
and Tamil and translated every dialogue of Meenakshi’s
and explained to her in detail. Hence Meenakshi
thoroughly read all her lines and it was a new
experience for her. At the end of it, I cannot
say if Meenakshi knows Tamil or not but she
certainly knows the dialogues of Mandhira Punnagai
Meenakshi is going to hog the
limelight in Mandhira Punnagai
In Pirivom Sandippom,
Nagarathar wedding was the highlight. Is there such
a feature in Mandhira Punnagai?
I never thought it to be the highlight of Pirivom
Sandippom. We wanted to showcase the wedding in detail
and we did it. That’s all. In Mandhira Punnagai,
we believe the highlight to be its characters. The
heroine meets the male lead, their interactions and
such events will be the highlight. People who have
seen the film till now, like the short, crisp dialogues.
I like writer Jayakanthan’s works very much
whose forte is to convey in a terse and pithy fashion
while not resorting to pages and pages of dialogues.
I am inspired by him and the character will be on
the lines of Jayakanthan.
It is necessary to see 15 DVDs
to shoot an action sequence
in your films, relationships play a pivotal role.
Will Mandhira Punnagai also be on those lines?
is the craft, I know best. For other things,
I have to rack my brains. I don’t know
to shoot a grand song. It is necessary to see
15 DVDs to shoot an action sequence and do a
mix and match work. Of course I don’t
do these things. Hence I feel when I film things
that I have come across or read, it would be
more impacting because this is what I know and
am more comfortable with.
Camera in Mandhira Punnagai is by Ramnath Shetty
who has worked in Pazhassi Raja. I did not know him
earlier and have not worked with him. Having worked
in a big film like Pazhassi Raja, I thought, it would
be easy for Ramnath to work in my film. He has done
a good job in this film.
Art director Rajeevan who is one of the constants
in all my films has worked in MP too. He is my good
friend and we share a good rapport. He has done an
apartment interior in this film which will be talked
Vidya Sagar is again one of my regulars. He
has scored six songs for MP and all of them
melodies. I have brought in Arivumadi for lyrics.
Due to his anger with someone, he was refusing
to write lyrics and every time I used to approach
him to write for me. He was always in the refusal
mode. However, I called him this time also.
Finally he relented and attributed it to my
perseverance. He has penned 4 songs and the
other two are by Viveka and Yugabharathi.
He relented and attributed it to
Where did you
Mandhira Punnagai, but for a song of 3 minute duration,
was shot in Chennai, from the first to the last scene.
Of course, there are many restrictions to shoot in
Chennai but it was possible because I am a new face
and Meenakshi is also not very popular.
When our films run, we say it is a
trend in current Tamil cinema
our films run, we say it is a good trend, otherwise
we criticize it. That aside, industry is always
there; industry does not expand or shrink due
in the current generation?
I like Rajesh. I liked his Boss Engira Bhaskaran
better than Siva Mansula Sakthi. I also liked Sargunam’s
Kalavani which was a neat work. His diligence and
eye for details were impressive. If there was Ayuda
Puja celebration in one scene, you will find hero’s
bike sporting a small garland in the subsequent one.
that clarity has come in now to the industry. When you
say that we are all bonding well today, I feel the same
type of friendship would have been there even in past
among directors. During those times, there was not much
of media light. Now everybody can watch me and Cheran
talking or me and Ameer discussing. It may have been
possible that Balachander and Mahendran would have met
and discussed but media may not have been there. Now
we see Balachander and Bharathi Raja embracing each
other. I am sure they would have done the same thing
earlier too but these many flashes did not sparkle then.
your special camaraderie with Cheran?
If you take around 15 present day directors
like Cheran or Lingusamy or Ameer or Suseendiran,
you will find at least 12 of them discussing
various things. The remaining three may be busy
in their work. What I strongly believe is nobody
can film my story. Suppose if I write 70 scenes
and hand them over to a director, the final
product will turn out to be totally different,
Nobody can film my story
you continue acting after this?
I am not sure. When I saw Mandhira Punnagai, I felt
I was ok. See, I am not a big actor who is out to
take the industry by storm. Close circles who saw
Mandhira Punnagai felt that I have justified my role.
As regards MP, I am fine. But after this, I feel I
should adhere to direction because this is where my
mind is. I am always checking on others. I think shepherding
comes easy to me. So let me concentrate on what comes
naturally to me. I am not sure if some white men would
call me; if called, I would decide based on who called
The film that runs well is big and
that which bombs is small
small budget and big budget films?
is no such thing as big or small films. The
film that runs well is big and that which bombs
is small. That’s all. For me, my film
is big and for some one else his film is big.