Interviewer : Divya Murali | Camera : Balaji | Text : Divya Murali
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Debutant director Gaurav is one of those talented directors who has won commercial acclaim with his very first movie. A former journalist with Anandha Vikatan, Gaurav has always been passionate about cinema and his entry was a very calculated move. Basking in the glory of the movie's success, Gaurav talks to Divya Murali about his producer Dhayanidhi Azhagiri, his shooting experiences, future plans and much more.

Hi. Best wishes to all the readers from Thoonganagaram’s director Gaurav.

My one and half years worth

hard work has culminated

into a good movie

How is the response for Thoonganagaram?

The response is very good from all the centers, the distributors are happy and the producers are even happier with the response garnered. The first news about the success came from Malaysia and UK where the film was released two days before it released in India. Audience from there praised me for showing Madurai in a different light and kept away from intense violence despite the movie being a thriller. They told me that the film was a joy ride and that after the movie was over, they were very happy with what they saw. After that, I went on a tour to Madurai, Tirunelveli, Trichy
and Coimbatore and watched the film with the audience there and was very happy to see them enjoying the comedy and the songs and thrillers and there was a lot of applause. To see my one and half years worth hard work to have culminated into such a good movie, appreciated by all types of audience, I was overjoyed. My due thanks and gratitude to all the media people who have given good reviews for my film and that has surely increased the audience for my movie. Overall, there has been great response and I cannot express my happiness.

You have played one of the lead roles and directed the movie too. Why did you make this decision?

I have done everything, why not this? (Laughs) It is my desire to be an actor like many others. But for this film, the decision to act came only after my producer Durai sir suggested it. When we were discussing the characters, he told me that he liked the way I involved myself with the character of Rajamani and asked me not to go through the ordeal of auditions and all and play the character myself. In my heart I was feeling very happy but I did not show it out; instead I asked him if he was sure about what he is saying and he said definitely and insisted that I act in that role. It was too tempting for me to refuse and also, my camera men, co-directors and the rest of the crew was very supportive of me donning two hats.

Was it difficult to do both?

It was definitely not. There is one thing that I believe in, if you really wish to do something and that work is something that you are passionate about then you will never feel the difficulty of it. My work as a director was what I took due to intense passion and acting was another desire and it was by God’s grace that I could do both in my very first film. So, I did not find any difficulty in doing both and enjoyed it very bit.

Tell about your memorable shooting experiences

Talking about memorable, I must mention about the very beginning itself. When I was discussing the movie casually with the producer and told him that the movie is a very jovial film and will be like a “thiruvizha”, I just spontaneously told him an idea, “Sir, why don’t we do the pooja and launch the shoot itself with a thiruvizha?” He was not sure about what I meant and I told him that we could combine the movie’s Pooja with Azhagiri sir’s birthday on 30th January and have a gala celebration for both. The idea worked and about 30,000 people thronged for the movie’s pooja; I felt like the entire Madurai population was there to wish me luck and I was very happy to be blessed and wished by big wigs and I don’t think any other movie had such a grand pooja and the moment I said start, camera that was something I would cherish for times to come.

Coming to the shooting experience, I am always an anxious person and I get tensed very easily. But my cast and crew especially Vimal, Nishanth and Anjali are very jovial and always naughty. Whenever I am tensed, the very moment they start cracking jokes and make me feel better and my tension just reduces immediately. My entire team was a support system to me and without them this film and the shooting would not have been so grand and successful.

Another memorable thing that I would like to share is when I approached Kamala theatre owner Chidambaram sir for his role. I told him the story and I told him his character would be that of a father whose son will be beaten up and so he will catch the guilty ones for revenge but until the very end I did not tell him that he was the villain. During the last scene when the hero has to kill the villain, it was during that shot he realized he was the villain. He turned away from the camera towards me and asked jovially, “I am the villain eh? The hero is killing me, so I am the villain right?” There was such mock innocence in his voice that we were all filled with laughter. Like this, throughout the shoot he lived in the skin of his character without even knowing that he is the villain and thus his character was underplayed and won praise. He was a jovial person and his talks are enjoyable and happy.

Working with producer Dhayanidhi Azhagiri

Dhayanidhi Azhagiri sir is the friendliest guy in the whole world. He does not have the airs of a producer; he will just talk like one of our friends. He came to the shooting spots just twice- once during the climax shoot which we were taking in the fields; it was raining and I had tied the camera to my hip and we were testing the shoots. There were thorns on my legs but we had no time to care for all that and went with the shoot. Producer sir was feeling very bad to see us doing this with great difficulty and told us that he would

Dhayanidhi Azhagiri sir is the

friendliest guy in the whole world

leave now, for he cannot see us struggling so much to get things perfect. The second time that he came- the cameraman was hanging on a parapet with camera on his hip to capture a lift shot. The camera was about 30 kgs and the cameraman was groaning with pain while taking the shot. Dhayanidhi sir was like, “Every time I come I see my team doing such difficult things. It is hard for me to see you people in pain”. He was such a kind hearted human being and a great producer. When he asked me in the beginning how long will it take for me to shoot the film, I told him it will take 70 days because there were several new artists and local people also but then my shoot took 90 days. He made no fuss and was very supportive. He told me that I can take another ten days if I want but make sure that the movie came out well and was very supportive. If the distributors and audience are heaping laurels for this film, the credit will first go to the producer and then only to the rest of our team, for without his support this feat would have been impossible.

Most difficult part to shoot

The most difficult part to shoot was to shoot with Bharani. (Laughs) I am just joking, but why I said that was because he is very playful and is always up to pranks. He is very versatile but sometimes disrupts the shoot saying his expression changed from what it was supposed to be. When I remind him that the camera is behind him and at that point his expression does not matter, he will start cracking jokes. Also, it was difficult to get the two grandmas of the comedy track to act and also several local people. They have never seen the camera and they do not understand that they are not supposed to talk anything apart from the dialogue until I say cut but they continued to ask me if it was ok as soon as they finished the dialogues. So there were several retakes and that was difficult. With seeing audience enjoy the local people’s acting and the comedy tracks, I forgot all my difficulties and left with only good things.

Chidambaram sir might be old

but he is young at heart

About your co-stars (the leads)

All my main actors are like God’s gift to me. Vimal was one very close friend whom I gained during the period of the shooting. He is a director’s artist and never considered himself hero. If he does not do well in a shot and I still ok the shot, he will understand by himself that I am not exactly satisfied and he will insist on a retake. He was such a person who understood perfectly what exactly I need from him. Nishanth had to play the character of speech impaired and so it was all
the more difficult for him as people who have dialogues express easily with voice modulation and all. But Nishanth showed every expression in those small eyes of his and especially the “laddu” making scene and the scene where he gets out of the tea stall stealthily, he expressed malice and fear just with his eyes and audience in the theatre were clapping hard for those scenes. Anjali, obviously, is a great performer and she is also a director’s artist but she has already acted a few films and won acclaim too. But when me being a debutant director told her that she needs to do a makeup test and an audition to get selected she did not show any ego but agreed to do it right away. I was very happy to have chosen her for the role and every time I saw her act I knew she was the one I wanted for this role. Chidambaram sir might be old but he is very young at heart. He jelled with our young gang so easily and was as energetic as all of us and even came to shoot at midnights. Every other actor in my film is worth mentioning and they have all made my dream of making an excellent film come true.

About Music Director Sundar.C.Babu

Sundar sir is someone who always keeps smiling. There is a proverb- keep smiling always and all your sorrows will fly away; Sundar sir would be the best example for that statement. I was pretty tensed because I had a big responsibility of being a first time director and actor whose movie is being produced by a big banner and I wanted to fulfill all the expectations of people. But Sundar sir was very casual and ever smiling and gave me best he could. After the movie released he called me and told that in recent times, this is the only album in which all songs have become a hit. The Kalyanam song was playing in every marriage; friendship songs were in the youngsters’ lips and duet song was one of the best melodies. His background music was equally good and it was his BGM that helps in bringing the mood of the situation in the movie. When you watch the film you will feel it. So a major chunk of my success I owe to Sundar sir and I won’t be exaggerating if I say he was like a backbone of the film.

Sundar Sir was the backbone of

the film

About the romantic song shot in foreign locale

The foreign locale is Malaysia. When I told my producer that I am going to shoot the song in Malaysia, he asked why and that it has been shown many times. But I explained to him that there are several unexplored places in Malaysia and I want to show those and not the usual twin towers and the city side. The mountains and those streams where the song was shot garnered a lot of praise and several cameramen and producers enquired me about the location. I made a tour to the location hunt and it was totally worth it. The location, the camera work and Sundar sir’s music were all vital for the excellent outcome of the song.

Next film will be with Cloud

Nine Movies

Your next film

The success of my first film is just sinking in and I am enjoying every bit of that. Just like how chewing gum loses its taste after chewing for long, my success will also settle down and that will help me think better about my next film. But there have already been ideas in my mind and an official announcement will come by next month. Just like how AVM is a pet producer for SP Muthuraman, I would consider Cloud Nine Movies as my pet producer and I have already been approached by them to do my next film also under their banner and I am honored to do that. I am going to give my best yet again.

Plans of acting as solo hero

Who wouldn’t love to act in a solo hero subject? I am no different. I would love to act with Sushmitha Sen but she has grown old now. The happening heroines now are Trisha, Tapasee and it would be great if I get to act opposite them. A few directors have approached me with scripts. Cheran’s assistant director came to be with an emotional story and told me that I would suit the role. I am thinking about it and if good stories and great opportunities come by I will surely not think twice about taking it up. I definitely have plans of acting.

I definitely have plans to act

KSR sir is the best commercial

cinema director

About directors for whom who were the assistant

IThere is saying that if you have a great teacher you would be very successful. And I am very happy that has happened to me. Both my Gurus Vallarasu Maharajan and K.S.R sir are well known, Vallarasu Maharajan is known for as the best screenplay writer. K.S.Ravikumar sir is the best commercial cinema director. No director has been able to direct stalwarts like Kamal Hassan and Rajini from those days till today except for KSR. He is one director who will make sure that there is not even one rupee loss for the producer. Coming from such a school, I have been groomed well enough to confidently promise to give the audience good movies and also set my producers cash registers jingling.

My first two interviews before the film’s release was taken by Behindwoods and now my first interview after the movie’s release is also being taken by Behindwoods. I am very happy to have had your support throughout the making of the film and its release. It is because of good publicity through media people like you, that debutants like me taste success. I thank Behindwoods team for their support and I promise to give more films and great entertainers to the audience for years to come. Thank You.

Tags : Gaurav, Thoonganagaram, Dhayanidhi Azhagiri, KSR, Anjali
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