Interview
Pradeep, who will be making his debut as a feature film director with 'Comali', talks about the controversy, rumours on the film being a remake and his thoughts on what it takes to make good comedy.

Comali, by engineer-turned-director Pradeep Ranganathan is releasing this Thursday. The film’s trailer created quite a flutter upon its release, with Rajinikanth fans taking offence to a particular joke from the film.

The makers then put out a video, explaining that the scene would be replaced so as to not “hurt” anyone’s feelings.

In this quick chat with TNM, Pradeep, who will be making his debut as a feature film director with Comali, talks about the controversy, rumours on the film being a remake and his thoughts on what it takes to make good comedy.

The trailer was well received but you had to alter that particular scene after the outrage. Do you think fans have become intolerant these days? Not being able to enjoy a good joke?

Everyone liked the trailer, the response was more than what we expected. But through Twitter, I got to know that a few of them got hurt. My ultimate aim is to make everyone happy. I didn't think the joke would offend anyone. When they’ve been hurt… and since I was in a position to make those changes, I chose to do them. Things might not have been the same after the release.

There were rumours that Comali is similar to Ravi Teja’s Disco Raja that is being made in Telugu. Is there any truth to this?

Tell me Disco Raja’s story and I will tell you if both are the same. I haven’t heard about it or seen it. I refute these rumours.

But a few have pointed out that it is similar to the Hollywood film Kickin’ It Old School.

Yes, a few shared the trailer with me and I was surprised to see that it is very similar. But this is a common premise. For example, in Honest Raja, Vijayakant wakes up after a 4-month coma. In Kill Bill, she wakes up after a 6-month coma. Captain America, in fact, wakes up after 20 years. This idea isn’t new but our story is. I wasn’t inspired by any of these films. Yes, they are similar but so is the case with many stories.

At 25, this is your first feature film. Did you face any challenges while filming Comali?

Credit goes to Jayam Ravi sir and my cinematographer. They did not have any airs about themselves. I had not worked as an assistant in the industry and so I didn't know how the industry worked. I planned my work ahead. I would shoot the scenes on my mobile the previous day and then recreate the same the next day so as to not waste any time. This felt like a big short-film for me.

Comedy has been called the most challenging genre in cinema. What does it to take to make good, enjoyable comedy? 

I only consider if the comedy that I’m doing is morally right or wrong. In fact, I didn't think the Rajini sir joke was morally wrong. I don't restrict myself otherwise while creating humour. How can you create good comedy if there are so many restrictions?

The film deals with how things have changed over time periods. How have you shown Old vs New Chennai?

Madras has changed into Chennai (laughs) There are a lot of things we’ve referred to. They say Phoenix Mall is the new Spencer Plaza. The normal train is now metro train. Increase in traffic, people easily using swear words while driving, the weather becoming hotter, water problems - these are some of the things we’ve discussed.

There’s also a passing joke about land encroachment in the trailer. What are the social and political issues you’ve discussed in Comali?

The “Olium Oliyum" song is the soul of our second half. We have discussed a lot in it. Nadar Kadai, Nayar Kadai has a lot of Nagaland, Mizoram people working. I think that they are super and we’ve become lazy. Kabilan has written the lines for this song.

Was it challenging to film the portions where Jayam Ravi plays his younger self?

It was not a challenge for me. I was only worried that people should not mock us after watching it. After he decided to do the school portion, I only kept looking at his arms. “Will you be able to reduce your biceps sir,” I kept asking him (laughs). But he was confident of pulling it off and he did. He starved day and night and he lost about 20 kilos in two months. It has come out well and has been received well by everyone too.

The film has two female stars - Samyuktha Hegde and Kajal Aggarwal. Tell us about their characters.

Samyuktha plays the love interest in the school portion. She is the first crush. Kajal comes towards the end of the first half. She has lesser screen time but her character helps move the film forward. The project itself became bigger as soon as she joined. I thank her for agreeing to do it.