'The character Love is just crazy, and he’s someone who can’t do anything predictable.'

Directing Irumugan Anand Shankar speaks out on action Love and Chiyaan Vikram
news Cinema Monday, September 05, 2016 - 12:02

Anand Shankar, director of ‘Irumugan’, opens up on the experience of helming the big-budget action flick which hits the screens on Thursday. He talks about his fascination for the action genre, the process of writing the character ‘Love’, and working with Vikram and Nayanthara.

Excerpts from the interview.

Going by the promos, it’s easy to assume that Irumugan, much like your first film Arima Nambi, is an action-packed thriller…

I’d consider Arima Nambi more of a thriller. Irumugan, on the other hand, is an out-and-out action flick laced with some elements of science-fiction, and it has been made in such a way that it can be easily sold to the audience. People have started asking me if I love making action films. But, I also like other genres, but I don’t want to explore now.

Has working with A.R Murugadoss (as an assistant in ‘Thuppakki’ and ‘7am Arivu’), in a way, influenced your fascination for the action genre?

I don’t think so. Even before I decided to become an assistant director, there were these directors, like Shankar sir, I looked up to and wanted to work with. I joined Murugadoss sir as an AD because I love his work, and the scale on which he makes his films. Hence, it made sense for me to work with him and the experience helped me learn a lot.

Vikram is known for his versatility but not so much as an action hero. What convinced you that he would be the best choice?

I had two-three story ideas, and I thought this particular idea will work with Vikram. When I pitched the idea, he liked it, and I developed the script for him. I have been watching his films for so long, and I’m aware of his positives and the potential that I can actually tap. I realized if audiences appreciate his work in the film, it’ll work to my advantage in a big way.

Do you feel this idea may not have worked with any other actor?

Vikram got in touch with me after watching Arima Nambi and asked if I had any story idea. He clearly expressed interest to collaborate, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. At that point of time, I had this script that demanded getting into a very different look, performing and having this unique body language. I knew for a fact that these are things that’ll get him excited and I realized only he could do justice to such a role. I was happy I pitched the idea to him in the first place. When he liked it, developing it was fun because I had him in mind already and I could go overboard. Otherwise, if you decide to go overboard, who are you going to cast?

Vikram’s experiments in terms of roles have not always worked in the film’s favour at the box-office…

Each actor is appreciated and known for something. Vikram has told me that experimenting has won him appreciation because even when an actor gives five back-to-back commercial films, people complain. While some of his films may have not done well commercially, he strongly feels he’s been getting appreciation for whatever he’s been doing and that’s what gives him the kick. ‘Irumugan’ too gave him the kick, but importantly it also gave him the confidence that the film has the potential to work commercially.

Among the two roles Vikram essays, the Love character (rumoured to be a transgender) from the promos raised quite a few eyebrows and also earned mixed reactions…

What people deciphered out of the character was wrong. Vikram, contrary to some reports, is not playing a transgender person. When you watch the film, you’ll get a clear picture of the character. The way I see it, there was never any mixed reactions. It was propagated by some media reports. I believe I’ve made a character audiences will like and I haven’t portrayed it in a way it will insult anyone. Love is just crazy, and he’s someone who can’t do anything predictable. These reports, in my opinion, have raised anticipation and most people will look forward to watch Love onscreen.

Vikram also plays a secret agent called Akilan. Which among the two characters (other one being Love) you enjoyed writing?

Akilan is the protagonist, and it’s more run-of-the-mill but there’s something exciting about the character. You can repeat Akilan in many films. Replace Vikram with some other actor, change the backdrop, and you can use the character the way you want it. Love will always remain unique and whether it will work or not, we’ll only know post release. But, it’s the kind of role no one else could have played. To answer your question, I thoroughly enjoyed writing Love more than Akilan.

Irumugan looks like a giant leap from Arima Nambi, both in terms of budget and scale. How did you handle the pressure of working on such a big production?  

I didn’t feel the pressure that way. When you try and push the limits, you have to keep in mind the market value of the actors involved. Producers are always concerned about business and this project was going beyond what was possible at that time. As long as something is made on minimum guarantee returns, it’s accepted. However, when you’re pushing the limits, and if it works it’s a different story but if it doesn’t, and then it’s a problem. It was hard for me to find a producer and that’s why the film got delayed. If I had made the film on a smaller canvas, I would’ve finished it a year ago. But I wanted to do this story and it was required to be told on a much bigger scale, but it wasn’t easy to convince someone to invest in it. Luckily, my producer (Shibu Thameens) liked the script and believed if the film is marketed differently then it will work.

Action in ‘Arima Nambi’ is spoken about even today. How have you treated it in Irumugan?

Two action directors – Ravi Varma and Anbu-Arivu - worked on the film. This film doesn’t have fights, and by that I mean we haven’t stuck to the template. You won’t find two action blocks in the first half and three more post interval. This film has action sequences that are part of the story which will take the script to the next level.  We didn’t let the action directors compose their own fights, which is usually about beating up ten people. While composing the action, we even created storyboard to take the body physics into consideration. Even a car fall, for instance, was shot with some sense of logic. We shot car crashes on major over bridges in Malaysia, in busy shopping streets, and we were able to do it because we had planned it well.

There were rumours that Nayanthara and Nithya Menen also feature in some action scenes…

The action sequences are very much part of the story. We wouldn’t cast Nayanthara and Nithya if their sole purpose was to just to look good and feature in the songs, would we? They have interesting roles to play and also feature in the action scenes.  

Working on such a big project with a star, especially so early on in your career must’ve been a great learning experience…

When you have great actors, there’s so much you can achieve. When I look back at the experience of working on this project, I realized I cracked a way to direct stars like Vikram. As a filmmaker, I don’t perform the scenes and show it to my actors and with Vikram, it wasn’t any different. All I had to do was inspire him, to make him internalize the character. This way he could improvise and he brought life to the character in his own way. I let Vikram take full control of a character and show me how he’d make it special with this style. I followed the same approach with Nayanthara and Nithya too. I realized that when I inspire and give them the freedom to experiment, the output is beyond satisfactory. If people appreciate their performances, I’ve succeeded in my method of finding a way to tap potential from stars and even technicians. Even with Harris Jayaraj (composer), I never told him to give me a certain kind of tune or song.

Vikram and Nayanthara…Tell us about the experience of working with them

Vikram is someone who gets excited when there’s something complicated and hard to pull off. When you’re working with him, you don’t have to hesitate to tell him about working hard because he’d love to do it. He has amazing focus and he likes to get involved in the script from the discussion phase. If a director spends a year on a script, he would have spent the same time thinking about it. Both of us discussed a lot through the course of the film and we were so much in sync. He never wanted me to include something in the script just to please his fans. All that he cared for was to provide something that’s different for the audience. Nayanthara too was amazing to work with. She’s the only actress I’ve seen who cares about the frame so much. She’s very particular about her presence onscreen and she’d do anything to make it stand out. Even for a small scene, she ensures that her costumes and make-up are perfect. She’s so particular about the way she looks onscreen because she respects the frame so much. After a point, I didn’t even have to worry about shooting a scene with her because I know she’d make sure everything to the last detail is perfect. 


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