Tamil Guardian

Wednesday April 03, 2002

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“For a film to succeed, its music must become a massive hit”

As the director of successful comedy movies, Shakthi Chidhambaram is a busy man, but cinesouth.com managed to corner him for an interview.

Making a hit Tamil movie is not a pretty easy task. But, Shakthi Chidhambaram, following his hit two years ago with 'Ennamma Kannu', repeated his success with 'Char-lie Chaplin'. And even before the celebration parties could end, the man is busy in discussing his next film. 
How did 'Charlie Chaplin' begin? 

The story is based on a real life incident that had happened to one of my friends. He had succumbed to temptations once and when his wife came to know about it, he passed the other woman off as his friend's wife, like it happens in the film. The issue became serious and had almost gone to a divorce. 

Initially I wanted to present it in a serious tone but then I realized that the subject is ideally suited for a comedy treatment. That's how 'Charlie Chaplin' happened. 

By the third day I knew that the film was going to be a massive hit, because reports from all over the state said that the viewers were enjoying each & every scene with laughter & claps. Magazine reviews had to say the same thing too. 

Yeah well… but tell us about making a full length comedy film with no comedy actors at all. 
If a film is made with comedy actors & actresses, then it will turn out to be a 4 or 5 week movie. In order to make it look different, I started the film with a flashback. The situations depicted in the screenplay themselves turned out to be very funny. So, I didn't have to look for comedy actors. At the shooting there were no ego clashes between Prabhu & Prabhudeva . 

They were quiet cool with each other. Very friendly too. And, they didn't interfere with the story either. 

But we understand that there was a problem when it came to selecting heroines. Weren't Gayathri Jayaram & Sangavi the initial choices? 

This happens in every other movie. When the salaries & date don't suit the requirements, you got no choice, but to change the stars. And, there's nothing like 'Only this person can do this role well'! 

From the beginning till the very end, everybody seemed to stake a claim on Monal. Was it not confusing while writing the screenplay? 

Yes, it was a very confusing screenplay, but I shouldn't get confused, right? It was very difficult. People laugh only when you clearly portray the confusion. 

How do you feel about shooting the song sequences abroad? 

We felt that for a film to succeed, its music must become a massive hit. Only then will the film reach the masses. So from the music director Bharani, everybody slogged real hard. I feel there's nothing wrong with shooting the song sequences abroad. If you are going to shoot a song sequence here, you'd require at least 50-60 people. But, to shoot a song abroad, you need only 10 people. The story happens in Ooty. If the songs were to be shot in Ooty too, what'll happen to the film? Lot of people had teased me about my practice of shooting song sequences in foreign locales. 

Okay, I do that. And what did you do? Putting up elaborate sets, shooting at Ooty with group dancers - they all look the same. Is there anybody doing anything differently? Can anybody say, "Look, I've done something that nobody's ever done before"? No. Audience loves watching foreign locations. We go abroad to shoot song sequences for good locations. 
Gayathri Raghuram? 

She's dance master Raghuram's daughter and since she's acting with Prabhudeva, she'd undergone rigorous training. Only after training for a month did she start shooting. 
What's different about shooting a comedy scene. 

There is no laughter at the sets when one shoots a comedy scenes. Actually, most of the scenes that you laugh at had been shot under utmost pressure. But people roll on the floor laughing, at those scenes. 

Why such a sentimental climax for 'Charlie Chaplin'? 

The intention behind 'killing' Monal was to cover woman audience too. If we make them laugh throughout the film, it would end up becoming a masala film. The script itself was made keeping the ladies in mind. 

Both 'Ennamma Kannu' & 'Charlie Chaplin' were predominantly comedy films So, are you going to make only comedy films? 

'Ennama Kannu' explained the bond between 2 friends. Vadivelu's presence in that film had made it exceed its comedy limits. The story of 'Charlie Chaplin' demanded comedy. So, it turned out to be a comedy. But my next movie is a serious one. 

Do you show lot of involvement in dialogues? 

My interest in dialogues goes back a long way. Just for its dialogues, I'd watched 'Rattha Kanneer' again & again. I loved the dialogues of Kalaignar, Bhagyaraj & Balachander. The main idea behind entering the cine industry was to write dialogues. 

I'd written dialogues for some movies too. Those films didn't perform well. 
That's when it struck one that, I need to direct the films in order to bring out the dialogues the way I wanted them to. So, I became a director. 

God had given me the gift of being able to split a good story plot into scenes and weave a screenplay around it. 

Where does one proceed to after two hit films?

Just the same. I might buy a costly flat and a car. That's all. 

The sequences where Gayathri Jayaram dances with her foot on Prabhudeva's shoulders, was missing in the theatres! 

The stills had attracted too much of pre-release publicity in magazines & posters. So, the censors chopped them away. We tried our best to convince them otherwise. They didn't listen. They said they'd allow it but then they'd give the film an 'A' Certificate. We dropped them! 
What happened to your 'Mr.Naradhar'? 

Most of the shooting is complete. Due to financial constraints, the film got stuck. It should be out by April.

Cine Scope

Here comes Shakeela

Rumour has it that Mumtaj's name & fame has left Shakeela thoroughly irked - 'She comes from nowhere & now she's soaring so high. I live at the gate of Kodambakkam, Vadapalani and I'm nowhere as far as Tamil Cinema is concerned. How could I let this be?' she might have felt. Last year alone she had acted in about 44 Malayalam movies. Now she's decided that she's going to take Kodambakkam by storm, and in a first step, she'd been signed up for Pandiyarajan's 'Anbu Thollai'. 

Seeking glamour

Shamitha, who did a wonderful job in 'Pandavar Bhoomi', is yet to hear any producer utter the golden words, "Madam, I want you to be the heroine of my next film." Her total lack of glamour is allegedly the reason. When she heard this, she went ahead and made a glamorous portfolio and sent some feelers out to various cinema companies. Good luck to her in finding a 'shoulder to lean on'.


Music director Bharadwaj, whose 'Oh Podu' in 'Gemini' is taking Chennai by storm, is in trouble with the fans. After claiming that his songs were all originals, he has been caught out copying some of his hits. 'Apple pennae' from the movie 'Pardes' and a song from 'Gemini' were allegedly rip offs of Kishore Kumar songs. Moreover, sales of the cassettes of 'I love you Da' have not been that fast either. Perhaps the criticism will be a wake up call, leading to another 'Amarkalam'?


After 'Red', Ajith had been booked for a number of movies, including 'Itihaasam', a film for Ezhil and 'Mahaa'. 'Itihaasam' is to be by Saravana Subbaiah, who worked with Ajith on 'Citizen'. Rumour has it that after this movie, no-one will ever speak of caste again, so fans wait and watch. The film has two heroines, Simran and an unknown Mumbai import. Since Balakumaran's dialogues had helped 'Citizen' a lot, this time Sujatha has been drafted in to pen the dialogue.

Leading the way

While the celebrations for 'Baba' continue throughout Tamil Nadu, the superstar, who has also taken on the responsibility for financing, is allegedly showing other movie makers how to get money a film. A few weeks after announcing the movie, he has apparently collected huge amounts in financing, especially from theatre owners and a soft drink trans-national giant. The amount left after deducting his salary, is sufficient enough to see the shooting through, feels the producer. Perhaps another superstar example for others to follow?


The news sensation in Tamil cinema is expected to be current Ms Chennai, Trisha. Claims that she 'has been sculpted out of vanilla ice' and 'dazzles like a thousand lights' are but examples of the accolades the beauty is collecting from adoring fans. Some in Kodambakkam have claimed that she is the next Nadiya. The lady, who currently has three films in hand, has alleged lt been raring to go ever since she heard A R Rehman's music for 'Yenakku 20, Unakku 18'. "Wait till the movie gets released & watch as Simran, Jyothika, Laila & their like all disappear," say Trisha disciples. 

Word of mouth

While Shyam's performance in '12B' had mesmerized many people, currently, the mere mention of his name makes industry people flee according to the word on the street. The reason? 'He lies through his teeth', they say. Apparently the actor had told producers that A.M.Rathnam had signed him up for a huge amount, and he proceeded to demand the same kind of salaries from the other producers too. When A.M.Rathnam came to know about this, he had promptly sent a fax to all the producers not to trust Shyam. 

Film, no stills

Due to lack of chances in Tamil film industry, actress Kasturi has turned to Malayalam films. In "Machchakkanni", she was very liberal in the role and costumes, according to press reports. Prior to agreeing to the movie, she had demanded that stills from the film should not be given to magazines or papers , but defying her request, the movie makers released selected shots to the print media. Having lost her cool over the incident, Kasturi is now said to be sporting a low profile. 

In the family

Devayani's brother Mayoor, who is said to be beautiful with hero-like features, is allegedly being hunted by many producers, for hero roles in their respective, would-be films. He is to be introduced to the public through a film to be directed by M. Kalanjiam. Following in his siblings' footsteps is said to be Devayani's other brother, Nakgul, who, if rumour is to be believed, may act in director Shankar's "Boys".

A new experience

Vikram turns playback singer for a film where he is not the hero. One had heard the actor sing at film functions and even for a private music album with Meena sharing the mike. But this time Vikram is singing for the film 'Shri', the Surya - Shrutika - Gayatri Jairam starrer. The song shot on Surya and his friends in the film, is composed by Muralidharan. Incidentally, it was Muralidharan who had set the tune for Vikram - Meena for the private pop album too. Vikram is thrilled by the encouraging reports he got, and one suspects this wouldn't be his last attempt at play-back singing.

Stunts please

Surya was entertaining a long-cherished desire - to act in a highly risky scene without a substitute. This aspiration has been realized recently, while he was acting in director Vikraman's film, "Unnai Ninaiththu". The movie required a scene, in which Surya had to jump into a 100- feet deep well. The director had suggested that a stand-in should play it for Surya, but the actor had not only turned down the suggestion, but also had instantly jumped into the well. The crew peered over the edge of the well, where a few moments later, Surya broke the surface of the water, to the relief of cast, crew and director.

In front of the camera!

K.Subhash has directed many successful films like 'Shabash', 'Ninaivirukkum Varai' and 'Love Marriage'. Like Subhash Ghai, director of Hindi films, Subhash too used to appear in a shot in all his films. Now the director would be doing much more than that. Subhash is to play the villain in 'Colombus' where Raju Sundaram plays the hero. Wonder how the director who guided the artistes from behind the scene, copes when he has to appear in front of it! Hope he doesn't go the Bharatiraja way. Director Bharatiraja who had got this urge to act, played one of the central roles in 'Kallukkul Eeram'. But it was a disaster, and the director has never faced the camera since. Unless one takes into account the director's appearing on camera, before the start of his film to talk on a one-to-one basis with his fans and audience.


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