Director Nesan talks about Vijay's Jilla [Special Interview]
Not many startup directors get the opportunity to direct two superstars at the beginning of their career.
The director of Jilla, Nesan, happens to be one among this elite group and looking at his quiet confidence, you get the feeling that he has pulled off this Himalayan task admirably. In this pleasant conversation with us, Nesan opens up about what we can expect from Jilla and why he thinks Vijay and Mohanlal are what they are.
Are you nervous ahead of the release of Jilla?
I am definitely nervous naturally, but everyone is happy with the product. We have seen the film without RR and felt satisfied. It is a fast film and is fully packed, with little comedy elements.
What do you have to say about the various Jilla plot lines that are going around?
The expectations surrounding the movie are huge and I have already read about 20 different versions of the story, thanks to the buzz and people's curiosity around the film. Don't think and confuse too much. It is a simple enjoyable movie and I'll advise the audience to come to the theater with a blank frame of mind. You will see scope for Vijay to showcase his acting skills too and it is an agreeable mass movie on the whole.
Will Jilla meet the benchmark set by previous Vijay hits ?
People have to like the movie and that's about it. I am not worried about benchmarks set by previous Vijay blockbusters. I've gotten this opportunity after 15 years and so I have definitely tried to make it special.
Where all did you shoot Jilla? And also talk us through the Japan experience when Vijay reportedly arranged the necessary permission
The filming part of Jilla is over and we have totally shot for 150 days in places such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Madurai and Japan.
In Japan I wanted to shoot at the famous Akashi Kaikyō suspension bridge and also at another place where the old world Japanese charm is intact till date, with all the traditional antics and props. Such a spot can't be found anywhere else in Japan.
In Japan, we have to get proper permission from the concerned Japanese authorities 10 days in advance. They are very strict and professional but if proper clearance is obtained, we can shoot for free. But we had only 6 days' time to arrange and they were adamant in not giving us the go-ahead. I was also adamant with my team that I would not shoot the song unless these two locations were part of the plan. I told Vijay Sir about this and all he needed was 30 minutes to arrange all the necessary permissions and we were able to shoot without any glitches.
How has the pre-release theatrical business of Jilla been?
The complete theatrical business of Jilla was done within a day. We didn't release any stills in the beginning and then I thought of releasing a still with Vijay donning a garland with money flying all over. It proved to be very apt and the film's business was wrapped up in double quick time. The speed of the business is probably because of the big combo associated with Jilla. The film is a table profit from top to bottom for the producers and we are hoping that theatres and distributors also make good money.
As a young director, how did you handle such big stars on the set?
I gave the story narration of Jilla way back in 2010. Vijay got convinced and came on board to make my film big. Then R.B.Choudary decided to produce the film and it also happened to be Super Good Films' 85th film. The film got bigger. When we were deliberating about the choice for the father character, Lal Sir came on board and the project became truly huge. I have been admiring him since my film school days.
But I didn't have any issues in handling and managing such big names. The great vibes between Vijay and Lal Sir made sure that I was able to manage everything fine.
Did Vijay and Mohanlal make any script level suggestions or corrections?
I have made Jilla exactly in line with the script which was narrated to Vijay Sir way back in 2010. Scene developments have been done but Vijay never interferes once he is convinced with the script.
In the beginning, Lal Sir asked me casually how he wanted me to act. He even asked me to enact the scenes so that he can observe and do like that. He is such a jovial man and when he performed his scenes, he gave it a totally different dimension. He has such experience!
I have gone for so many retakes with Lal Sir. In Kerala, it's just mostly one take for him but I kept going for 5 takes on a regular basis. Beyond a point, Lal Sir joked in the set and said "see this guy is going to demand more takes now". His contribution and co-operation towards the project is great. Even during dubbing, he was ready to accept my suggestions and corrections and co-operated totally.
Has Mohanlal dubbed in his own voice? And how is Kajal coping up with Tamil?
Lal Sir has dubbed in his own voice as only he can bring about that impact with his voice, pauses and diction.
Meanwhile Kajal doesn't have much problem in picking up the lines. We gave all the lines in Hindi and she delivered pretty fast.
Why do you think Vijay and Mohanlal are such big stars, now that you have observed them from close quarters for long?
Vijay is so dedicated. 45 minutes before the shoot begins, you can see his car on the sets. The same with Lal Sir. The two of them are such experts at punctuality and dedication. Another thing with both of them is that they'll not move an inch after the shot is done. Generally actors rush towards the monitor after a shot is done to observe their performance. But the two of them will just stand at the same spot while I would keep looking at the monitor so that if a retake is needed, they'll immediately be ready. They are truly unique and no wonder they are huge.
"Imman – the mix of Rahman Sir and Raja Sir"
Imman took special care for Jilla. I made my expectations clear to him that after Kumki, I need another full album hit from him. He is a workaholic and his numbers for Jilla are like slow poison and will grow on you. There are good melodies and fast peppy numbers. He is in full form and his work has exceeded my expectations. He is very easy to work with and I took full liberty to even call him at odd hours and make my suggestions to add to his confusion (laughs). He is a mix of Rahman Sir and Raja Sir and there was a very good wavelength match between me and Imman.
"Vijay the professional singer"
Vijay has sung a lot of peppy numbers in the past and when we dragged him and told him that he would be singing a melody this time he wondered what ??? But he sang so casually and beautifully. The recording took place at A.R.Rahman's studio and Vijay did full justice to the number like a professional singer.
The other pillars of Jilla
98% of the work on Jilla was done by DOP Ganesh with just clash work done by Priyan Sir. During clash work, we just do some additional shots and all the main portions were supervised by me as I felt that the proper 'feel' should be there. I used to juggle my time and schedules during such clash work and would travel at short notice.
Stunt master Silva master was of great help in setting up my Telugu film before I began work on Jilla. He is a good friend and I can extract work easily from him. He did his best and the Phantom Flex camera that we used, added something extra to the stunts, compared to the stunts in other Vijay films. There are 5 fights totally in Jilla, including some small stunts.
Super Good Films must have made it truly grand right?
When Super Good Films decided to produce Jilla, Choudary Sir told me that we have to better Thirupachi's level, as that was the previous Vijay film that he produced. He was ready to spend anything and arrange all types of cameras such as Phantom Flex and helicam just for the sake of grandeur and technical finesse. Jilla will be the next level for Super Good Films too.
What have you learnt from the directors that you have assisted?
Jayam Raja was one year junior to me at the Film Institute. I worked with him as a second unit director in Velayudham. I worked on some portions and also the song which was shot in Kashmir.
Editor Mohan Sir is so dedicated and he has complete love for cinema. His script discussion sessions used to happen at odd hours but he never lost his enthusiasm. Raja and Mohan Sir are so passionate about cinema. I also wokred with Bhagyaraj Sir on screenplay. He doesn't speak anything other than cinema and I used to return home at 4 am in the morning when my dad used to go out for walking.
All that passion and love for cinema that I have observed have helped me a lot in Jilla.
The Veeram team is also getting ready to race alongside you. How does it feel?
Director Siva was a major factor in me getting my first Telugu film offer before I got the offer to do Jilla. But Vijay sir asked me to do Jilla fIrst and then do the Telugu film. Siva was 2 years my junior at film school and I'll be very happy if Veeram succeeds.
Once, both our teams happened to travel by the same flight and Ajith Sir met me in the flight and was so friendly and cordial. Even at the airport after the flight landed, he put his arms around my shoulder and chatted away merrily.
All these fan wars are only in Twitter and the internet space. In real life we are all very warm and gentle towards each other.
Speaking of which, I am not into social media and just my close friends are in my Facebook space. I can't keep updating to followers about what I eat and what I drink daily (laughs). And if a film turns out to be boring, just 10 mins is enough for the audience to decide. Thanks to Twitter and FB, they spread the word as fast as they can. Nothing can save the film then.
I have no plans yet about my next film and am just eagerly waiting for the audience's verdict on Jilla. Once the film's censoring is done, we will announce the final date. The film will most probably hit the screens on 10th and we have already booked a lot of theaters.