Karthik Subbaraj speaks to TNM about Rajini's character Kaali, why he cast Simran, and what fans can expect from the film.

Flix Interview Tuesday, January 08, 2019 - 15:38

Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta is up for release this Thursday and Rajini fans can barely contain their excitement. Petta is hitting the screens even while Rajinikanth’s 2.0 is still playing in theatres, and this is the first time in years that the star will be having two of his films running in theatres at the same time. 

The film’s trailer, teasers, and first-look posters have all suggested that Petta would be a Rajini fans' celebration. Director Karthik Subbaraj, too, has admitted this on more than one occasion. During the film’s audio launch, he had said, “Petta is a film inspired by, performed by and dedicated to Rajinikanth.”  The story was written specifically for Rajinikanth, and Karthik had said that his dream of making a film with the ‘Thalaivar’, who had inspired him to make films in the first place, looked bleak especially after the star announced his political ambitions exactly a year ago.

Produced by Sun Pictures and starring a bevy of actors like Simran, Trisha, Vijay Sethupathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bobby Simha, Sasikumar and more, Petta will release in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi. TNM caught up with the director, who was in the middle of film promotions, to discuss what fans can expect from Petta.   

Tell us about Kaali, the character played by Rajinikanth. What kind of a person is he?

We can’t reveal much about his character right now. He plays a hostel warden in a college and the story starts from his relationship with the students and then takes off from there to what happens in different situations.

You’ve said in your interviews that Petta will be a tribute to Rajinikanth and the trailer has references to his old films. Were you conscious about Petta being received as a mix of old Rajini films?

It won't be like old Rajini films. It is a very stand-alone story and I wrote it specifically for Rajini. We have plenty of Rajini moments, the one that fans love to see. The story will be a fresh, stand-alone story. We’ve used a few shots of his mannerisms that might be like a tribute to his previous films. The name Kaali itself is a tribute to his previous Mullum Malarum film.

Your previous films are not without your own unique stamp. How much of Karthik Subbaraj will we see in Petta?

I don’t agree that there’s something called Karthik Subbaraj stamp. But I do scripts that excite me. There’s the same level of excitement in this film, too. You won’t miss that excitement in this film as well.

Tell us about the women characters in Petta. How did you decide on Simran and Trisha?

We have more strong women characters in Petta and all of them have their own importance. The women are independent and we wanted performance-oriented actors. When it came to pairing Rajini with someone, we thought of Simran. Ever since Chandramukhi, Rajini and Simran were supposed to do a film together. This was an on-screen pair that people missed seeing. We wanted to make it happen. She is a great performer and has done a very good job.

We heard Trisha's character has a comparatively shorter screen time?

Trisha’s character has a comparatively brief time on screen. But all the women characters are important to moving the story forward. The women are all independent but the story is not just about them like how you saw in Iraivi.

Now, especially since his recent films like Kabali and Kaala have broken Rajini's strictly for “mass appeal” tags, will Petta take us back to “star power over content” days?

I would say that Petta will definitely bring back his mass appeal. Kaala and Kabali are both good films but the fans probably missed his “larger than life mass appeal”. Petta film will bring that back. I’m also sure it comes with good, strong content. The mass appeal won’t overshadow the content.

In a Rajini film, everything usually revolves around his character. But you have many stars in the film, including Vijay Sethupathi. How did you strike a balance?

The script has a strong story. And it is a story that happens between very strong characters. Since Rajini sir was doing a strong hero character, I also wanted the other strong characters to be big stars as well. The drama sort of elevates the characters. That’s why I approached actors like Nawazzudin and Vijay Sethupathi. The first reason why they agreed was because of Rajini sir and second, they also liked the story.