Director Siva talks about Veeram... and Jilla [Special Interview]
Siva learnt cinematography at the Film Institute and passed out with a gold medal. He always aspired to become a director but started his career as a video editor and between 1994 and 99, he worked in numerous Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam serials as that was the time of the big satellite television boom in India.
He considers cinematographer Jayanan Vincent as his mentor and joined him in 1999. After assisting him for 2 years, Siva did his first film as a cameraman in Malayalam in 2001. After doing 14 films as a cameraman, Siva directed his first Telugu film, Souryam in 2008. Veeram is his 5th film as a director.
With Ajith playing a full-blown rural role, the expectations from Veeram are that of a clean mass entertainer. With the film just a few weeks away from release, we met the director at the Vijaya Productions office for a freewheeling interview on what to expect from Veeram.
Do you feel the pressure of living up to the humongous expectations, that too after Arrambam's handsome success?
There is no pressure at all. We started Veeram before Arrambam's release and we were clear about the final product and of course the expectations surrounding it. We filmed based on the script and Ajith Sir totally believed in the script. He makes sure that there is no pressure and just advises us to film the movie based on the script.
How well has Ajith fitted into the simple shirt-dhoti rural look after donning suits and stylish clothes in most of his recent movies?
Ajith Sir wanted to break the serious urban pattern. I suggested comedy and a simple shirt-dhoti look to him. Ajith's humorous side hasn't been projected much till now and I wanted to show that side of Ajith Sir. Vinayagam is a jolly, no-holds-barred character. He approved my suggestion straightaway.
There was no interference whatsoever and even his suggestions would be very polite. He firmly believes that the director is the captain of the ship. According to me, he is a fantastic and versatile actor. He can do just about anything. As a director, I say that he is a great performer. He had no difficulties in changing-over and was very apt for the rural role.
In the very first schedule we filmed him doing a 'kuthu dance' and he came across as the darling of the masses ('erangi adichaaru'). From ducati to a bullock cart, he can carry just about anything on screen.
About the much-loved but regularly seen 'salt and pepper' look of Thala
Ajith Sir is playing his age and the salt and pepper look was very apt for the script of Veeram. Vinayagam is basically someone who doesn't care about his looks and is unkempt. There was a mutual consent for the 'salt and pepper' look from everyone. But there is another mustached look that Ajith would carry, as his role has two dimensions.
We will be seeing Ajith romancing on screen after a long time. How has the Ajith Tamanna chemistry panned out?
The chemistry would be something new. Audience would root for them to join. Anyone would fall in love with Vinayagam, as he is such a character. The romance would be convincing and there would be no 'running around trees'. It would be apt for his age.
A 'pakka' package for Ajith fans and a Pongal treat for families
Ajith has done stunts, dances and has indulged in romance too. It would be a wholesome package for his fans. The surprise element is that he would be donning a coat-suit in one particular scene.
Veeram would have all the elements that go into a perfect Pongal treat for the family audiences.
Will Santhanam repeat the Siruthai magic in Veeram?
Santhanam was very involved and happy working in Veeram. He generally refers to Ajith Sir as 'annan' and does the same in the movie too. His character would be a major highlight for sure.
Were you inspired by any other film while scripting Veeram?
This is an original script and though there have been other stories based on brothers, this will be new. I spent about 8 months on the script of Veeram and the movie would be a peek into the life of Vinayagam. I have made sure that such a treatment hasn't been seen before.
"Fights to thrill and not to terrorize"
There would be no blood in the action scenes and I believe the film would be suitable for all. I respect the censor board a lot and they have been doing a sensible job.
There are a lot of fights in the movie but they have been designed to thrill and not to terrorize. There would be grandeur and lot of emotions in the fights.
There is nothing gory about the movie and the USP of the movie would be its comedy. The first half would be a total laugh riot.
The much-hyped train fight sequence
We shot the train stunt sequence for a period of 9 days and there were sleepless nights for me during this period. I was scared to even say 'Action'. Ajith Sir has already undergone a lot of operations but he didn't accept my suggestion for a body double. It takes a lot of guts to hang out of a train speeding at 90 kmph atop a 300 feet bridge.
"My Veeram team"
In DSP's music, there are 5 songs in the album including an extra-ordinary theme music. The opening song would be westernized and there would be dialogs interspersed with the lines. There is a lilting melody too. Ajith Sir is very happy after listening to all the songs. DSP himself is very satisfied and he has given all 'straight tunes' for Veeram.
This is my 4th film with DOP, Vetrivel. Editor Kasi Viswanathan has already claimed that the movie would be a superhit after seeing the rushes. He has made sure that Veeram would be a pacy ride with a run time of around 2 hours and 25 minutes.
Three stunt masters have worked in the movie – Silva, who has done the interval stunt, Ganesh, who has done the climax stunt and Pammal Ravi.
I always believe that cinema is all about teamwork, involving around 250 to 300 members. That's why I always wish to have it as 'Siva and Team' in the credits of all my movies.
A big honour to work for Vijaya Productions
Vijaya Productions have already done more than 100 films and they are a traditional firm with strong values. It is a big honor to work for such producers. They wanted a commercial entertainer and I devised such a script. Now the movie has come out perfectly according to the script.
They are sensible and at the same time spend lavishly if it is required. Their planning is immaculate.
I have directed 5 films till date, and there has been no interference from any producer or hero. My script narration is clear and there is no scope for any ambiguity from my side. In addition to a vocal narration, I also record the narration for the reference of my complete team.
"Ready for more with Ajith"
Ajith Sir likes me, guides me and is like an 'Anna' to me. He has such a positive influence on people around him and sends across positive vibes to the entire unit. Thanks to his guidance, I lost around 50 kgs with diet control.
I learnt to stand up and greet anyone that I meet, from Ajith Sir as he does this to even a light boy, leave alone a big producer. He respects ladies a lot and you can see that in his simple gestures like opening the door for them while they get into a car. He loves to cook and personally serves everyone.
All the nice words that the world has to say about him are totally true and this 1.5 year journey has been great. Ajith Sir is a fantastic human being. And of course, I am definitely ready for more films with him
Are you excited about the prospect of Jilla and Veeram getting ready to release on the same day? This Ajith vs Vijay contest is happening after 7 long years rite?
Both the films should succeed. This is not a cricket match and here both teams can win. I am very close to Vijay Sir and we were living in the same area. Nesan was my senior in film school and I wish that Jilla becomes a big success too. With respect to Veeram, we were clear from the beginning about a Pongal release and with Jilla also releasing on the same day, I am very happy. I, as an audience, will happily see both films on Pongal day.
I generally don't plan my next outing. In the 15 years that I have been in the industry, I have never planned.
But I always make sure that I complete my films within budget and schedule. Veeram was shot within 110 days according to schedule.
Everyone should be making profits out of my movie and I always keep the market value in mind. My grand dad always used to say that films should be made to entertain the whole family and keep people happy. Till now I have done that with a 100% strike rate. Veeram would mark my 5th success, hopefully.