Interview Team : Jyothsna, Venkat, Arjun

Art Director Muthuraj needs no introduction. Having proved his mettle in a variety of projects under various genres, the talented technician is a part of Vijay’s Theri, Rajinikanth’s 2.0 and Sivakarthikeyan’s Remo. Over a hot, tasty cup of karuppati coffee, he discusses his work in Theri, Vijay, Atlee, his favorite director Mahendran and much more with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar.


Tell us about Theri and your work in the film

You will not be able to perceive my work in Theri

In most of my previous projects, my work will somehow be perceived, but in Theri, it will not be the case. It is a social element theme and there may not be any creative component in it, but there would be lots of originality in the work. Be it the police station or the classroom or the house that you see in the flm, I had to create them. If you are able point these things and say- hey, the art design is super, then it is my failure. We had created a lot of live locations and worked because it is difficult to shoot with an artist like Vijay sir in public places. 

We had created the location for a fight sequence in front of Parry’s Corner High Court and later extended it in CG. Part of it was created using sets and the remaining was done under CGI.


Were there any challenges with respect to the set designs in Theri?

As regards Theri, I won’t get any name

The only challenge was it should NOT appear as sets. This is a normal entertaining film. Songs are also ‘set’ songs and we have created the sets accordingly. We have travelled on a normal film mode, but in it, there will be freshness in terms of color. In Jithu Jilladi, there will be lots of colors like colored glasses, colored doors, windows and so on. Three songs are set songs. As regards Theri, I won’t get any name. To make it clear, in Puli, you would have realized my work, but the same thing cannot be said about Theri. That’s the difference. In the trailer, you would have seen a classroom. In a normal classroom, you cannot keep a top angle camera; hence you need to create a classroom set. Art direction is all about generating the right kind of backdrop, ambience, atmosphere and the facility to shoot. In Theri, not a single frame will be without art direction except for the censor certificate.


About Vijay and the rest of the Theri Team

Vijay is friendly, cool and normal

Vijay sir is the same always. He is friendly, cool and normal. We did this film in a fun mode and did not take much strain. We enjoyed working. Atlee is sure to emerge as a good director. He is talented and it was perceivable in the way he did his dialogues or the scenes. George is the one who showcases my work. He is a fantastic cinematographer. GV Prakash had worked extra hard for this film and I like all the songs. Ruben’s work is awesome. He has created the curiosity through his cuts in the trailer itself. Mahendran sir gave so much of energy to the team. It was so good to see him perform. Theri will be a perfect mix of emotion, action, sentiment, music, comedy and romance. I definitely believe that Theri will be a hit because it has those elements. You will know that some stories will win at the narrating stage itself. Theri was one such film. It is a mass entertaining Vijay sir film.


You have worked with Atlee in Raja Rani.  He is directing Vijay in his 2nd film. How do you see his transformation?

Atlee is very keen to give variety

The efforts and the strain are the same, be it the first film or the next. As far as cinema is concerned, there is no small or big film. If you had 10 junior artists in Raja Rani, you had 500 of them in Theri; if you had 4 ADs there, here they are 10. Execution is what matters. Hard work is there always. If we had shot Raja Rani for limited days, Theri had more days because of the big star cast. You need the right kind of judgment which Atlee has. That’s why he has become a director after working in just 2 films (Nanban and Enthiran) with Shankar sir.

Atlee is very keen to give variety. Each person has his own style. It is like making biriyani, you may have all the ingredients, but you should know to mix them in the right proportions to churn out a tasty meal. When you are seeing a film, your concentration should not go anywhere. Atlee is someone who can make a taut script that you don’t waver anywhere.

These days the audiences are attention challenged and hence to keep them glued to their seats a special kind of talent, which many new directors have and Atlee is also one of them.



For me, to see Mahendran sir in itself was an ecstasy

He is a genius. I am a huge fan of Mahendran sir and have watched his films innumerable times. Mine was a love marriage and after about two months of marriage, when I realized that my wife had not seen Mahendran sir’s films, I told her if I had known this before, I would not have married her (Laughs). Such is my admiration for this man. He studies every character and his character sketching would be brilliant. You will see a lot of Rajini sir in Mahendran sir’s mannerisms.

For me, to see Mahendran sir in itself was an ecstasy. I used to talk to him and he still says that he is in a learning process. It was a good experience watching him perform. There will be a lot of life in his character in the film. His voice is terrific. You should have already heard that in the trailer. That character required a voice like that. You will realize that nobody else would have done justice to this character other than Mahendran sir. After Theri, there will be a lot of offers for him.



Shoot is going on. A couple of schedules are over. We are planning to complete by June. It is also a city based film. Set works are there.



Work is going on. As you all know, it is a science fiction. There is so much of work in it.


Art Direction

You need to make your audience believe in what you have given

The primary objective of an art director is to make the audience believe what he has shown on screen. There could be CG, there could be humongous sets, but you need to make your audience believe in what you have given. That is important.

Some producers feel that their production value will be higher if the audience realizes that there is a set. For a commercial film, if you know that there are sets, it is fine. For an emotional drama, if the sets are perceivable, the emotion will not work out. For instance, in Angadi Theru, if you had realized that the Ranganathan Theru shown in the film is actually a set, you would never invest your emotion in the film. You will not feel for the characters because there is plastic behind it. You need to work as per the subject. We basically opt for the sets instead of live locales to keep the artists comfortable. There could be cases where there might be budget constraint. We need to balance everything.


Digital Enhancement

Whatever is needed for our concept, we need to seize from there

Hereafter it is only digital world. We need to use it properly. Earlier on, if there is a house set, there would not be a ceiling to light. But while shooting, for the ceiling, they will draw in glass and get the effect. Now it is being done digitally. A work that was done manually before is being done digitally now. Be it the wind effect or the rain effect, everything has been done earlier before the arrival of CG but now it is being made simpler. That’s all! If we use the technique in a right manner, we can make wonderful films. Whatever is needed for our concept, we need to seize from there. Not the other way round. That should be our highlight.


You have done almost all genres in your career. Is anything missed?

There does not seem to be anything like that. Whenever we are working with different directors, we are giving life to their visualizations. Suppose if a director tells me that he needs a 500 feet temple, I can design within that specification. But I have not been able to execute my thoughts till now.


What projects would excite you?

2.0 is exciting to me

Something that I had not done before or attempted before. In that sense, 2.0 is exciting to me because I have not done sci-fi before. It is something new and I am quite excited.


Will you direct a film?

Definitely! I am waiting for the right time.


Wishing you the best sir!


Jyothsna Bhavanishankar




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