‘I stick to commercial masala flicks’

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Having directed some of the biggest grossers in Kollywood, such as Chinna Thambi, Chandramukhi, Mannan, Nadigan and Walter Vetrivel, director P. Vasu returns to Kollywood after a five-year break with Shivalinga. The film is a remake of his super hit Kannada directorial.

Excerpts from an interview:

Why did you decide to make a comeback with a remake?

After Puli Vesham (2011), I took up projects in Telugu and Kannada — Nagavalli (Telugu), Arakshaka, Drishya, and Shivalinga (Kannada). I would not say this is a comeback. Shivalinga was a hit in the Kannada industry, and the film’s success has lent itself to a bigger budget and a wider audience with this remake.

Do you think the film will appeal to Tamil audiences?

Shivalinga is a horror-thriller with elements of suspense and comedy. Kollywood is now familiar with the horror genre, and this film is a combination of Chandramukhi and Kanchana. It is a typical P. Vasu film, and I am confident it will go down well with the audience.

What inspired you to write Shivalinga?

It is a rich story based on a true incident that happened during my school days. The police were unable to track a murderer, and finally, closed the file as a suicide. I wrote the story on the assumption that there was a witness to the murder — a bird. I brought in some supernatural elements and that worked.

Are you fascinated by the supernatural?

Yes. The success of Chandramukhi was encouraging. Such a genre lends itself well to a combination of crime, suspense, thriller, horror, comedy, and romance. In recent times, I have made films only in this genre and they were all hits. Shivalinga too is high on suspense and investigation.

Have you tweaked the plot for Tamil audiences?

I have reworked certain aspects. The comedy track written for Vadivelu and the song sequences have been changed. The climax has been extended as well. In the original, my son Shakthi Vasu had a smaller role, but after watching his performance, Raghava suggested I provide him a bigger role in the Tamil version.

How did you finalise the cast in Shivalinga?

Raghava, being a choreographer and dancer, got all the expressions of a stylish officer. For the female lead, I was looking for a tough-looking girl brimming with energy (rowdythanamaana ponnu), and after seeing Ritika’s performance in Irudhi Suttru, I decided to cast her for the role of Sathya Banu. Ritika is a sportsperson and high on energy. Even on the sets, she wouldn’t walk quietly; she would always be jumping and sprinting from one spot to another. And that is exactly what I wanted for her role.

Raghava’s films have a good scope for the mom-son duo, and in Shivalinga, we have Urvashi and Raghava outdoing one another with their comic timing. This is the real comeback film for Vadivelu, who is sure to bring the house down with his role as a petty thief. Shakthi Vasu plays a crucial and key character in the film, and this film could provide the break that he badly needs.

Are you keen on making only formula masala films that are high on melodrama?

I was 24 when I directed (co-directed with Santhana Bharathi) my debut film, Panneer Pushpangal (1981). It dealt with adolescent love, a theme rarely explored in Tamil cinema, and had superb songs composed by Ilaiyaraaja. The film was not a hit. After a couple of films, I changed my style as I wanted to ensure that the producers of the films made a profit. Meeting Sivaji Ganesan’s brother Shanmugam changed my approach. He was educated in the U.K. and had a good knowledge of English films. He used to listen to scripts from directors and only if he was convinced that the story would suit his brother, would it reach Sivaji.

During a story discussion, it was he who initiated me into the commercial cinema format. He reasoned that successful films would reach wider audiences, with the possibility of remakes in other languages as well. And quite naturally, my films with commercial elements went on to become hits. After a few hits, I made an unusual story, Kakkai Siraginile, in 2000. But the response was rather lukewarm. So I decided to stick to commercial masala flicks.

When do you plan to begin working on the Mannan remake with Raghava?

It is rather too early to talk about it. In the original, Vijayashanti gave a power-packed performance and dominated the screen even though Superstar Rajinikanth was her co-star. I am looking for a heroine who can give a strong performance and take the remake to another level.

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