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Interview Team : Kaushik L M; Jeevakaran; Avudaiappan

A.M.Rathnam's brand value signifies grandeur and quality entertainment. With numerous big star blockbusters to his credit, Rathnam is a highly respected name in the Indian film business. Ahead of the release of his upcoming Ajith biggie Vedalam, Kaushik catches up with the senior producer at his office in Chennai.



You have great experience in delivering festival entertainers like Arrambam and Sivakasi. How ideal is Vedalam as a Diwali entertainer? 

Seeing films for Diwali has always been a part of the culture in Tamil Nadu. More than Pongal, the Diwali time film craze is prominent. Especially for big star films like Vedalam, which have a massive patronage from the youth. We expect celebration for fans in theaters and a very big opening.

The pre-release buzz for Vedalam? 

Before, films used to have long runs. But nowadays, the main run is for the first 10 days or so, after which collections become negligible. Generally promotions are done to reach the film in all corners, that too now with releases happening simultaneously from A to Z. For Vedalam, media hype is high, though we haven’t done much from our side. (no trailer yet)
It will be a commercial package for Diwali that can be seen by all age groups. Ajith sir has done some hardcore action and has also danced well. Expect some good messages too.

Plans for the Telugu version Aavesham?

The Telugu version may come a week late. The work on the Tamil version was pretty neck to neck and Telugu dubbing work began late. With VV Vinayak’s Akhil and Rajshri Productions’ Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’s dubbed version arriving on 11th and 12th respectively, we will most likely come a week after the Tamil version’s release.

With Vedalam looking like a packed, well-planned affair from the outset, tell us about director Siva and his team’s efficiency


The crew worked day and night, especially Ajith sir. When I conveyed to him that we need to come out on the Diwali festival day, he took it up and worked very hard.

After 3 films in quick succession with Ajith, there must be something that really impresses you about him right? 4th outing likely? 

Before Arrambam, I hadn’t worked with Ajith. I dubbed and released Kadhal Kottai in Telugu, and we had some talks to work together but they didn’t materialize. He called me for Arrambam when there was a small hiatus from my side in production, and since we all worked like family, we decided on repeat collaborations. These 3 films seem to have happened in a really quick stretch. 
After Vedalam’s release, he is going for a long-pending surgery to mend the ligament tear problem in his knee, and after his rehabilitation gap, we will decide whether to collaborate for the 4th time. By God’s grace, he didn’t delay this surgery further and will go for a small procedure after Diwali. Hats off to him, he can tolerate such pain! It is difficult to even walk when such knee twists happen.

After Vedalam’s release, Ajith is going for a long-pending surgery to mend the ligament tear problem in his knee.

Over these 3 films, how did directors - Vishnuvardhan, Gautham Menon and Siva, gel with you and Ajith?

Once Ajith sir commits to a film, he will never have any problems in mingling with the directors. He will be the first to arrive on set, and will be the last to leave. He wouldn’t behave like he is a big hero and would just be like one among the unit. So, with Vishnuvardhan, Gautham and Siva, he was equally comfortable but I find that he is more intimate with Siva. Siva is a nice commercial director and extracts good performances from his actors.

Ajith wouldn’t behave like he is a big hero and would just be like one among the unit.

With Kamal Haasan in 1995 and now with Shruti Haasan in 2015, how does the daughter take after her celebrated dad? 

We have worked with so many leading heroines in our banner like Trisha, Anushka, Nayanthara, Shriya, Ileana, Tamanna, Jyothika and Bhoomika. The thing that really surprised me with Shruti was her complete commitment, co-operation and time sense. Never once did she behave like a big star’s daughter and was a complete professional. She travels a lot, and is busy with many films across the country but would always keep up to time. She is involved, well-behaved, multi-faceted, well-aware and mature beyond her years.

How are you able to sustain in the industry this long, as a leading producer?

I have been in cinema for about 44 years and about 90% of my films have been successes. Even for the remaining 10%, I knew from the beginning about their prospects and they didn’t disappoint me as such. In my experience, I would say that if we observe and learn the different aspects of a trade minutely, we can excel in any field, not just cinema. Faith and patience are musts too.

The key factors in all your productions?

Leaving aside our personal likes and tastes, we have to deliver what the audience wants and what that film and script demands. Selvaraghavan once wondered, during the time of Dhool and 7G, on how I was able to deliver both mass and class films at the same time. It is simple, the audience should like and understand the film, whichever genre and style it falls under.

Selvaraghavan once wondered how I was able to deliver both mass and class films at the same time.


How do factors like tax exemption affect producers in the current scenario? That too the recent judgment about exemption benefiting the ticket buyer?

When I was a youngster, tax exemption used to be given to special films which had must-watch themes. In that case, ticket rates were also reduced to encourage more viewers to see the film. But tax exemption only benefiting the end-consumer (through reduced rates) is a mighty surprising judgement. It should benefit the film industry chain as well.
We shot Vedalam in Kolkata, where ticket rates for the Fri - Sun weekend are 300 and through the weekdays, it is 200. Here in Tamil Nadu, only in some Chennai city multiplexes, tickets are sold at 120. In some theaters like AVM Rajeswari, tickets are still sold for 50 and 40 rupees. Cinema is a field which involves so many other arms like travel, food, raw materials etc. When there is an increase in the cost of living and in the price of tin or wood or say even salt and sugar, it directly has an impact on the cost of film production too. But, there is this continued cap on ticket rates in the state, and when the existing 120 cap is itself detrimental to producers, further reduction in ticket rates with this tax exemption judgement will impact producers even more. It just won’t work out business-wise and we can’t make films actually.
When eatables worth just about 50 rupees are sold for 200+ in multiplexes, tickets for multi crore productions are continued to be sold at meager rates of just 120. Films actually drive the sale of these eatables. Nobody goes to just eat at multiplexes right?
During Indian’s release, we applied for special permission from the collector and hiked ticket rates for the first week alone. Other films’ tickets were continued to be sold at the same rates. This also helped in controlling the black market. This makes sense for big star films. So when there is a legal increase in ticket rates approved by the government, there can be many benefits for the film industry. Transparency is possible and we can see collection details through the net sitting from our office. Such transparency can benefit the industry. All stakeholders should be united and take this issue up.

In some theaters like AVM Rajeswari, tickets are still sold for 50 and 40 rupees.

The impact of censoring in present day Tamil cinema?

My general feeling is, and this is something that I have also taken up with the censors, it is better to give commercial entertainers a ‘U’ certificate in the current scenario, with tax exemption benefits applicable only for ‘U’ rated films. As long as a commercial film doesn’t have an anti-theme and objectionable content, it can be given a ‘U’. There are practical benefits that producers would get, contrary to a U/A film which is ruled out of these tax benefits.

It is better to give commercial entertainers a ‘U’ certificate in the current scenario.

More production plans ahead? And the rumored reunion with llayathalapathy Vijay?

Before, we used to do about 6 to 7 films simultaneously, each in varying stages of production. I have plans to do more such parallel films now too, provided I like the director and his story. We have enough experience and caliber with all the big stars, across languages and we intend to do more films. We always maintain a low profile before confirming and committing projects, and our films will do the talking.

And Indian 2? 

Kamal sir wanted to do Indian 2 during the time of Hey Ram itself. But we couldn’t find a proper story back then. Even recently, me and Shankar sir discussed about Indian 2. He is now doing Enthiran 2, so in future this may happen (smiles)

Kamal sir wanted to do Indian 2 during the time of Hey Ram itself.

Quick takes with AMR

Nayak, Ghilli and Kushi - Maximum TV telecasts in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu respectively. All Rathnam productions.
Favorite of the biggies - Thrice with Vijay, thrice with Ajith, twice with Vikram, once with Kamal and also associated twice with Rajini’s Telugu dubbed films (Arunachalam and Padayappa)
The Mentor - A key VFX technician who worked in Baahubali was groomed and developed by Rathnam who introduced this technician to Shankar.

The finale - Appeal against piracy

From Day 1, Yennai Arindhaal was hit hard by piracy, which originated in some remote theater in Kerala. People just won’t go to theaters once the pirated copy comes out. People in my own circle didn’t go to the theater once this pirated copy came out and 10s of 1000s of people saw this illegal copy.
There is no point seizing a certain number of CDs or DVDs during raids. Once even one DVD is made, it is like a cancer cell and can be replicated to 1000s of copies. Some way needs to be found to stop the piracy of films through the internet. Overnight, films get smashed due to this and I shed tears even thinking about this.
Without the cooperation of theater owners in Tamil Nadu, Kerala or Karnataka, such piracy cannot happen. Earlier, we thought that it was happening abroad, but it originates locally. The wrongdoers exploit human weakness and indulge in this, resulting in crores and crores of money loss for us. There are some usual suspects who ply this trade till date !!!
Kaushik LM

From Day 1, Yennai Arindhaal was hit hard by piracy.



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