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Production Controller Sathy speaks about his experience working in the production field

Production controller Sathy's inside story on the 1.4 crore Marudhanayagam trailer

Dec 10, 2013

He started his career as a production person in the early 1980’s in Bollywood. He worked with big names such as Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Ajith, Vijay and Suriya.

Production Controller Sathy speaks about his journey in films and the experiences he has had over the years.

A production controller’s job

My job is coordination between the producer and the technicians. The director will fix the technicians and the hero. With the coordination of the director and the consent of the producer we will fix the technicians.

Once the technicians are fixed, we start costing and location hunting. We do everything in coordination with the director and with the producer’s approval.

It is our duty to make sure that there is no difference in opinion between the director and the producer.

Bollywood entry in 1985

I did B.Com. My father is a production person. He is in cinema since 1950. He came in along with Kannadasan and Sivaji. He started working with Kamal Haasan as executive producer from 1980 when Rajapaarvai released. He retired in the year 2006.

I came into films in 1985. My father sent me to S Ramanathan, the producer of Gerafthar. The movie featured Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Amitabh Bachchan. I then worked in Nache Mayuri, Aakhree Rasta, Muqaddar Basha and Chaal Baaz.

Then in 1990, my father produced Guna. I took care of the production. That was when I stepped into Tamil industry.

The Guna Cave experience

It was an unforgettable experience. The Guna cave was actually called the Devil’s Kitchen earlier. The name was changed after the movie.

The cave was in Kodaikkanal and was about 500 to 600 feet deep. We shot for about 45 days there. We took the effort to make stair cases all the way to the bottom of the cave.

We tied ropes with pulleys and transferred all the production equipments in and out of the 500 feet cave. We faced many problems during the shoot. The steady camera used to catch fungus and did not work when it was taken to the bottom of the cave. We had difficulties making it work. We had to pay thrice the regular salary for the technicians as they had to start at 3:30 am from the hotel in order to reach the location by 6:30 am. We also had to pay them extra money for going 500 feet deep.

On May 21st 1991, we had taken about 40 to 50 press reporters to the location for a press meet. But unfortunately there was news that Rajiv Gandhi passed away. There was no transportation for two to three days. We provided the reporters accommodation during the period and sent them back to Chennai safely.

Hard to work with Kamal

I worked for Kamal Sir from 1991 to 1998. I worked in Thevar Magan, Sathi Leelavathi, Magaleer Mattum and Kuruthi Poonal.

Kamal sir gave me lot of power. There was no problem for money in his production company. He used to give me work and say “I had to finish this yesterday. I gave it to you late. Please finish it today.” It was hard to work with him. But if you finish the work and turn back and look at it, you will realize that it is massive.

The expensive trailer of Marudhanayagam

I also worked in the trailer of Marudhanayagam. The shoot expense for each day would be about 10 lakhs even in those days.

Even though the budget was high, Kamal sir was strong that he wanted to shoot the movie. We spent about 1.4 crores for the trailer itself. The shoot was for 5 days in Rajasthan with 5000 junior artists, 300 technicians which included 20 makeup artists, 25 costumers, 50 people from the stunts department, 15 to 20 busses, 20 cars and trucks.

I worked with Kamal until the queen visit happened and then left due to some personal issues.

Vijay – man of perfection

I worked with Vijay in Sachin and Thirumalai. He is a man of perfection. He does not give producers any problem. He is bang on time always. If you call him at 7’O clock in the morning, his car would come latest by 6:59 am. He doesn’t interfere much in the production or direction department. I have not had any date or timing problems with Vijay, Ajith or Suriya.

Ajith took care of himself

I worked with Ajith in Billa and Thirupathi. He is an extremely down to earth person. We had to stay in Malaysia for three months during the shoot of Billa. Ajith used to come to Chennai every once in ten days, during the schedule. But, he took care of himself, he never bothered the producer. There were no caravans in Malaysia. You don’t get too many facilities when you shoot outside India. But he was very cooperative. He rested in the car in between shots.

Suriya is a very dedicated actor

With Suriya I worked in Perazhagan.  We shot in a place near Thodupuzha in Kerala and used to start our shoot by 7.30. Suriya used to come to the set at 5 in the morning for the makeup. It used to take 2 to 3 hours for Rashid, the makeup artist to fix the hunch.

Suriya is a very dedicated actor. He hurt his leg in a fight sequence. Doctors said it was a hairline fracture and advised him to take rest. But he was keen about finishing the schedule in spite of the injury.

Shankar and the story behind the Sivaji climax

I love working with Shankar. He is a man of principle and is very keen and uncompromising about what he wants, especially his locations. I remember one instance where he said he wanted to shoot the Sivaji climax in the M.S Ramaiah College, Bangalore.

But the director of the institute just would not give us permission to shoot there. However Shankar was keen about it. “We shoot it there or we are not going to shoot at all”, he said

Finally Rajini sir helped us out. He readily accepted our request to meet the director of the college along with Shankar. The director gave us permission to shoot there as soon as he spoke to him – all thanks to Rajini sir.

That is how we shot the climax of Sivaji.

The currency notes that fly around in the climax sequence

We initially tried to get the notes printed in Chennai, but could not get it done due to a few unavoidable issues. We finally got a lorry full of notes printed in Bangalore after spending a whopping 10 lakhs for it. After the shoot we burnt the notes and destroyed them completely.

Challenges and steps taken to overcome challenges – The railway guard who stabbed a police inspector

We shot the Balelaka song in a small town called Paanchgani. We were initially informed that there would be about 200 people coming, but it later ended up being 500. There were artists, dancers, carpenters and technicians. However, we had accommodation only for 200 people.

I knew well that Paanchgani is famous for boarding schools and there were dormitories in the schools. We got hold of the dormitories and arranged accommodation.

There was another instance in Chennai when we were shooting a fight sequence in ICF. A railway guard stabbed a police inspector because he was not let in to meet Rajini sir. The incident challenged our security measures. We then created a special security team exclusively for Sivaji with proper uniforms for the security agents after which things went on smoothly.

We shot for a total of 218 days for Sivaji and used up 315 rolls. The shoot was not cancelled even for a single day.

The best production unit and Amitabh’s affinity to jasmines

Director/Producer Tinnu Anand was making a movie called Shahenshah and there was a schedule in Ooty. I was approached to take care of the production for the schedule they had here.

Whenever Amitabh came to the Chennai, it was producer Poorna Chandra’s vehicle that went to pick him up as he was extremely close to him. Amitabh ji is very fond of jasmine flowers. Poorna Chandra’s driver used to decorate his ambassador car (with registration number 3040) with jasmines before he went to pick him up.

So for the shoot, Poorna Chandra sent two vehicles. The usual 3040 ambassador that he used and another matador van which was full of his favorite things such as a television, a video player, the perfume he used and badams that he was fond of.

Amitabh came from Bombay to Coimbatore by flight and from Coimbatore to Ooty by helicopter. Every evening he used to fly from Ooty to Mysore in the helicopter and return back the next day.

When the team left back to Mumbai after the schedule, Tinnu Anand gave me a certificate mentioning that we were the best production unit he had ever worked with.

What do you do currently?

I presently work for Reliance. I took up this job in the year 2007. After I joined here I worked for Singam, Osthe and David. We only supervise production. We don’t directly involve ourselves in it as the Tamil Producer’s Council does not permit a corporate to directly involve in production.

But I am still keeping my body fit just in case I have to step into the field again and if I do, I’ll have to be on my toes again.


Production Controller Sathy speaks about his experience working in the production field

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