Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Director Shankar Interview English Transcript

Host:  Happy New Year greetings to all of our Sun TV viewers across the globe and with regards to those viewers spanning the globe, there seems to be only one thing they are endlessly chatting about nowadays and the reason behind that is Director Shankar and now we are going to meet him, come on….!  (Shooting Clips Shown)
Host:  How have you made the whole of Tamil Nadu to talk ceaselessly Sir?
Shankar:  (Laughs) We are just doing our job and that job has transcended beyond even ourselves. (Laughs)
 
Host:  And now after the release of the Sivaji songs, the anticipation has grown even more?
Shankar:  Yes.
Host:  Now even when you were taking the Mudhalvan movie, it seemed that the both of you (Shankar & Rajni) were going to come together for a film, and then why the gap in between and now why has it finally materialized in Sivaji?
Shankar:  We have met and spoken on numerous occasions, but I think this is the right time; everything has come together correctly, the script…umm…just everything, all things have fallen into place and because of that we started the movie.  (Shooting Clips Shown)
 
Host:  Sir, do you typically get the story ready and then chose the appropriate lead star for it – what is your system for this?
Shankar:  Generally, we get the story ready and choose a star who is more apt and suiting for that role.  In all of my stories, such as Kadhalan, Jeans and other such lighter love movies, you can see a certain super heroism, larger than life…you can see those types of characters; those have become super hero driven stories.  If you take any of those, whether Rajni Sir had starred or whether Kamal Sir had starred, they would have been excellent.  So that is the question of whether we begin with an artist or whether we begin with a story…but in terms of this movie (Sivaji), I was thinking about Rajni Sir when I came up with this story. (Shooting Clips Shown)
 
Host:  So from the beginning you had this story in mind for him?
Shankar:  Yea, this story came about with him in mind.
 
Host:  Then, when you make a movie with Rajni and because he is a Superstar, did you feel a lot of pressure?  Such as: should there be a certain kind of buildup?  Did you have any pressure since you knew you were creating a story for a Superstar?
Shankar:  There was both pressure and jolliness.  Because there are certain expectations of him in movies, you have to satisfy those requirements.  And another thing, because he is there, there are certain advantages, for instance you cannot take on certain issues with some other heroes...so because of that, there are no limits to my creative imagination, but if I placed those same issues on all artists it just would not work out, so when I approach these issues with him there it is be quite interesting…for example, in the "Athiradee" song, you can witness what I'm saying, you cannot do all of those things we have done in the song with any other hero…so there are many plus points like that, but of course there are pressures as well, for instance you cannot change him too much, but then again, people also expect to see some change in my movies…so essentially, you have to give and not give…have to reach a certain balance, so it was both enjoyable and demanding, but finally, I think have solved those issues. (Shooting Clips Shown)        
 
Host:  You are known as being a super director and if we take all of your past movies, you can clearly see a sort of Shankar stamp on all of them and in the same way, we can clearly distinguish a Rajni movie from other films, so if we look at it that way and now that the both of you are collaborating together – this Sivaji movie is whose movie?
Shankar:  They say this is a "Ra-Shankar-jni" formula.  (Laughs) No, but seriously, for those viewers who are coming expecting a Rajni movie, they will see Rajni Sir's formula and for those coming to see a Shankar movie, they will see Shankar's formula and on top of that, for those fans who are coming to see what a combination of the two would be, even they will be fulfilled, so I have maintained that balance appropriately.  (Shooting Clips Shown)
Host:  Sir, now in this movie from all the things we have seen, Rajni Sir looks very youthful, how did you accomplish this?
Shankar:  For his character in this movie, we thought a lot about his get-ups and what would look good and like I said before, we cannot change Rajni Sir too much since when people think of Rajni Sir, a certain image registers in their minds, so we cannot change him too much, but we have to bring a tiny bit of change and so we thought about ways to make him look pleasing and we went about gathering stills from his previous movies which we thought would be apt for the character he plays in Sivaji and then we short listed and short listed until we came up with get-ups which perfectly fit his role in the movie.  And then we went about procuring the wigs and make-up necessary to reproducing the selected get-ups and we did numerous fittings and only at the last minute did we get the type of wigs and looks we were aiming for…for the village look we used the Muratui Kaalai get-up and for the city look we used the Billa get-up.
 
Host:  Now when you were doing all of this research were you and your team the only ones doing it or was he (Rajni) also involved?
Shankar:  No he turned over the responsibility to me after hearing what I had to say about what would look good for the movie…after seeing the stills and wigs we came up with and seeing that it was all correct, he was quite happy.
Host:  As you were working on this film, did you ever feel at any moment any regrets about not having worked with him before in the past?
Shankar:  No, nothing like that…I mean everyone who has worked with him always feel like working with him again and also they regret not working with him in the past, those thoughts are always there…because Rajni Sir is even more cooperative than a new face in the industry for comparison, he is so flexible, he is so disciplined, he is so sincere…I'm not just saying that because everyone always says that, but as I have been working with him in the past year, I have seen it personally.  There are many things to be learnt from him by all the new up and coming artists…I have not seen any person who has dedicated everything to cinema with total sincerity, dedication, flexibility and humility like him.  So he really really is a great artist.  (Shooting Clips Shown)
Host:  Now as you have stated how Rajni has dedicated himself to cinema, in the same vein you can say Kamal has also done the same and you have worked with him before (in Indian)…so after working with two artists considered to be two living legends of Tamil cinema,  what are your experiences?
Shankar:  There are many similarities between the two…like I said sincerity…they both sincerely have dedicated themselves to cinema, the discipline…the notion that cinema is important and it should turn out well.  So in these issues, they both have many parallels.  For instance, if you take Kamal Sir, when I'm reading the script to him, he would be casually glancing at me, observing how I read, watching how I modulate the dialogues and he would be reading as I went along as well; after reading it through he would say 'ok' and leave.  Then he would discuss the script, make any amendments and then when the time for the shooting arrives, he would deliver whatever I expected of him and more often than not, he would exceed my own expectations.  So in the same way when you look at Rajni Sir, when I'm reading a scene he would be watching intently as how I'm reading it and then he would leave when I'm  finished.  And when the time for shooting arrives he would fulfill and exceed my own expectations tremendously by adding his own uniqueness, likewise Kamal Sir. 
 
Host:  So Sir, you were discussing Kamal and Rajni and how they always got the performance right after reading through the scenes with them, but would it not be better if you acted it out for them?
Shankar:  No, I mean as I'm reading the scene they understand what I'm asking for in terms of modulation and since I read the complete script to them thoroughly beforehand, they have already absorbed the character they are playing.  So as we go through the scenes, they fully comprehend what my expectations are…95% of the time they get it right and in the remaining 5%, if their performance does not fit with my own vision for the particular scene, then I will explain it to them and they will do it the way I told them to, so there is not an issue there.
 
Host:  But there is also the supporting cast and how will you demonstrate to them what your expectations are in terms of acting?
Shankar:  First I will read the scene to them and will ask them to perform it for me…and as they are acting it out, if they extemporaneously come up with something new and if it is good, I will keep it and if I'm not satisfied with what they do, then I will perform it for them and they will do it.
 
Host:  I ask all of this because didn't you originally come into the industry wishing to act and do you still have any desires like that?
Shankar:  Hey I have acted in Sivaji itself (Laughs), I only said that for comedy's sake, but I'm there only for one shot in the "Balleilakka" song, so don't get too scared about my acting in the movie. (Laughs)  So it was just simply a casual appearance I did for the fun of it.
 
Host:  So no real plans to act?
Shankar:  No no, because the director Shankar is more attuned and principled to the integrity of the script than the actor Shankar, so during casting time for example, director Shankar is quite strict in choosing the best and most appropriate people to play the roles and so when you look at it that way, director Shankar does not easily allow actor Shankar to perform (Laughs)…he would say to actor Shankar that he is a miscast and to go away.  (Laughs) (Shooting Clips Shown)
 
Host:  When you are looking at it, between the release of Boys and Anniyan there was a gap and after it there was another gap and now you have once again reunited with A.R. Rahman for Sivaji, so how did this combination work out?
Shankar:  This is not new to us; we have a very good relationship as we have been working together for a long time since 1993…our relationship is not purely an occupational relationship as we work together as good friends.
 
Host:  Did he not ask you why you did not choose him for Anniyan?
Shankar:  No, he would not ask something like that at all…he is really a sweet person…since we have collaborated together on many projects in the past, he knows what kind of tastes I have and look for, so for example, when he is composing songs for other movies besides mine, if he comes across a tune which he knows I would like, he would put that aside for me…if I hear a song on an audio cd he has composed for a movie and when I convey to him my fondness for it, he would teasingly tell me he knew in the back of his mind that I would…so in that way, we have a certain understanding.  Even if you take this movie Sivaji for example, the "Style" song was something he spontaneously came up with and he immediately saved it for me and once he showed it to me, I approved of it instantly.  (Shooting Clips Shown)
 
Host:  Sir, when the name Rajni is merely mentioned, even little children know that style is synonymous with it, so now you have even included a song titled "Style", so what are the new styles you have introduced there?
Shankar:  In this movie, many people will be expecting a lot from Rajni Sir, his styles, etc.  So we have come up with many new styles and he has done it and they all have come out very well…it will be quite a treat for the fans of Rajni Sir…we have also used his usual styles in various different ways, so there will be no dearth of style in this movie. (Laughs)  You see, you have gotten the basic concept itself, where there is Rajni, there is style…so when we say it, you know, the dressing styles, the hair styles, the sunglass styles…even backdrop styles and taking styles, just in all the different areas when we approach this movie within the confines of style itself as a premise, you will clearly see a difference in a positive way.  For instance, the backgrounds and locations are stylish, so if you look at the shootings from Spain, you will see different things…
 
Host:  Which places have you traveled for this movie?
Shankar:  We went to Spain, Pune, Hyderabad
 
Host:  So now that director Shankar, Superstar Rajnikanth and music director A.R. Rahman have combined together for a movie, many people are saying one thing or another about the movie's story, etc., so now we ask you directly what the real secret behind Sivaji is?
Shankar:  Actually this is a story about someone who aspires to do something good and the difficulties encountered when trying to do so…you see, whenever someone tries to do something good, no one will come to help that person, but there will always be many people trying to block it, ruin it or to give trouble.  Some people even drop the idea of doing something good and go back to their own lives because of the obstacles and barriers they have to face by saying something along the lines of 'do I really need to go through all of these unnecessary problems?'.  But the essence of this story is about someone who above all odds, perseveres against all of these adversities and is victorious in his endeavors.  If you take a look at the first half of the movie, it will flow with much comedy and lighter situations and the story will also flow along the same track and if you look at the second half, it is just pure unexpected surprises…so the first half will have a different taste and the second will have another.  What else can I tell you besides this? (Laughs)
Host:  Sir you can even tell us what the first scene is and we will gladly listen.
Shankar:  Oh sure I will definitely tell you the story, starting from scene number one…that is, the day after the release of the movie.  (Laughs)
 
Host:  Sir, in all of your movies there is always some message within the story; do you think those messages are reaching the people?
Shankar:  Definitely…before when I was starting out in the beginning I did not have much faith whether the message I was trying to articulate through my movies reached the audience....you know, they would watch the movie and then forget about it…but after Indian for example, I felt a certain awareness about accepting bribes in the society, after Mudhalvan, just like how the typewriter was utilized in the movie, certain people, such as collectors and government officials for example, do the same thing by giving suspensions and taking immediate action on the spot by bringing a typewriter with them…so after reading these things in newspapers and periodicals, a belief that you can make a difference through the medium of cinema was instilled in me.  After Anniyan, I have also seen more people adhering to the traffic rules- such as stopping at the line at a yellow signal, staying behind the yellow line at a stop, not spitting in public, etc., many people have called me and told me so…even when I look at my own road, I can witness better traffic discipline…so whether substantial change occurs or not, I can still feel a certain consciousness about those messages.
 
Host:  Is there a message within Sivaji also?
Shankar:  Certainly, we have incorporated a good message in this movie as well…you see, our country's economy is currently flourishing and growing…if you take a look at the currency market, the Indian rupee was valued at 47 rupees to 1 American dollar, but now the rate is 43 to 1...so in this movie, what we are trying to say is that if the wealth our economic engine creates goes to the right places, then we can make many beneficial changes to our country…so it is a very good message we convey in the movie and I'm confident it will work out.  (Shooting Clips Shown)
 
Host:  Sir, when you say the name Rajni, there will be some sort of punch dialogue that can go along with it;  he has always used them in his movies…are there any punch dialogues in Sivaji?
Shankar:  For example, 'Sachin adicha sixer thaanda, Sivaji adicha puncture thaanda, Singam kooda jujubi thaanda, Sivaji vaayil jilebi thaanda', so there will be punch dialogues, but they will be in the songs…it will be a theme type, so there will be punch dialogues in the movie; we just have changed it a bit, it will be different, but when you watch the movie you will see how it fits.
 
Host:  You just were talking about "Sivaji vaayil jilebi thaana' and so it leads to this question, normally Rajni is known for his cigarette smoking and gimmickry on screen, but now because he does not do that, what has he done in this movie?
Shankar:  Watch the movie and you will see (Laughs)…if I tell you now the thrill will be gone.  (Shooting Clips Shown)
Host:  Now finally to all of those viewers across the globe, what do you wish to say?
Shankar:  Happy Tamil New Years.  One request I have for all of you is that you watch Sivaji and other movies in the theaters and not on pirated discs…many people have put their best efforts and talents as well as invest much money in creating these movies and so it would be wrong to waste that…that is the only thing I ask of you.  Thank you.   


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