Interviewer and Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar | Coordination : Annadurai | Camera : Balaji | Video Editor : Hepzi
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After having done five films in Tamil, director Vishnuvardhan went to Andhra to work with Pawan Kalyan in Panjaa. He has come back to Tamil again and is excited to team up with Ajith for his 52nd film under AM Rathnam’s production venture. In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Vishnuvardhan talks about the film, its genre, look, rapport with Ajith and why his technical team remains the same.

Pawan Kalyan was never spotted with a beard

Panjaa experience and feedback

Although I am born and raised in Chennai, my mother tongue is Telugu and I can manage colloquial Telugu. But I speak better Tamil then Telugu. I released the first look of Panjaa and Pawan Kalyan has never looked like that in 15 years of his career. The first look gave a big hype. Pawan Kalyan was never spotted with a beard and hence when the first look was released, the curiosity factor went up. Of course if it had misfired, we could not have done anything as we had already shot the film (laughs). That character required that look and hence we changed his looks.

Panjaa had a huge opening. I went to the theatre and shot the response. For the Telugu audience, the entire experience was new from the tone to the making of the film. First time when they see the film, there would be a ‘jerk’ factor. Although most of the reviews felt that the film was good and different, they were not sure how it is going to do at the Box Office. Fortunately, Panjaa did well at the box office and I think it is the highest grosser after Bodyguard in the country.

Working in Telugu industry

I have done five films in Tamil before Panjaa. I always wanted to make films in other languages as well. But one needs to get the right moment for it. It is not that I wanted to leave everything in Tamil and go to Telugu. When I met Pawan, it was not with an objective to do a film with him. After a couple of informal ‘arattai’ sessions, we felt very comfortable with each other and we decided that we can team up and that’s how Panjaa was born. It was not a planned film. I was fortunate to do my first film in Telugu with Pawan.  Although we all belong to one nation, there are so many differences in various states pertaining to ideologies, nativity and sensibilities. Generally I would say that cinema has no language but there are differences especially with regard to the feedback of the audience. The Panjaa they (Telugu audience) saw was the ‘fusion’.

I was fortunate to do my first
film in Telugu with Pawan

What made you do a Telugu film?

As I had said earlier, in whichever language I do a film, I will always come back to do a Tamil film. That’s why I have come to work again with Ajith sir now. Already I missed the opportunity due to date issues. I myself did not expect the jolt. Now we are back and starting the film in March and I have started scripting. When you ask me why I went to Telugu, it is because there was a sync of tastes between me and Pawan. For me film has no language. In fact my mom was very happy that I at least got to do a film in my mother tongue.

I am at a stage where I will
not be able to discuss about the story

Status of your film with Ajith

I am at a stage where I will not be able to discuss about the story. Under Ratnam sir’s production with writers Suba on board for the first time with me, we have plunged into scripting totally. Casting is going on in parallel lines as the script is evolving.


Has the casting been finalized?

No. not yet, talks are on. Till a time that there is clarity on the characters I don’t want to cast anyone. We were basically checking who would be suitable according to the character references. We will very soon finalize.

Can you tell us the probables?

Basically, I want a fresh pairing for Ajith sir. When we roped in Nayanthara for Billa, the Ajith-Nayan pair was fresh. Trisha has done a couple of films with Ajith sir. As regards Anushka, it would be a new pair. I need to see whether she would fit in my requirements. If I am looking at Amala Paul, then her scale and Anushka’s scale are totally different. To be very frank, there are not many heroines in Tamil; why Tamil, it is the same scene all over and everyone is in a process of importing. We are looking at girls who can speak Tamil properly.

There are not many heroines in Tamil

Technical team for Ajith’s film

We are waiting for Nirav Shah to confirm; Yuvan and Sreekar Prasad are there. In fact we are talking to P S Vinod too.  DoP is yet to be finalized but by and large, my crew will almost be the same.

Ajith sir is going to look
stunning in my film

What genre would this film be?

I am planning to work on a drama, more on family action drama. It will not be very urban this time. I want to have an all-together new look for Ajith sir this time. I want to switch to hard core reality. I am giving too much of an information (guffaws!). Once I develop the script and the premise ready, the exact look will automatically fall in place. I am also collecting lots of visual references. Ajith sir is going to look stunning in my film and I am sure about it.

Sarvam set a benchmark for aesthetic visuals. Would this film also follow the same route?

My frames will be beautiful (in whichever film) despite being dirty. Pattiyal which was raw and gritty also had that look. There will be something beautiful in its visuals. Definitely I will work on the look which would be new.

Is your wife Anu Vardhan also on board?

Of course yes, by default, she would be there in my project. In addition to being my best half, she completely understands my tastes and wants. There is no need for me to explain to her in detail. She will take part in my story discussions. In my team, from my ADs to editor to cinematographer to costumer to music director, they all know the story more than me. Only when there is such a clarity and transparency, everyone will work like it is their film. That’s when they would give useful inputs. So Anu will definitely be there. I have said ‘default’; hope she does not get angry with me and say she is busy and can’t work with me! (laughs)

You were supposed to do Su Venkatesan’s Kaaval Kottam. What happened?

I was meeting a lot of people as I wanted to do a period drama. When I met Venkatesan sir, we were casually discussing the book. I have not read the book fully but have heard what Venkatesan sir had told about it. But I did not have an idea to do Kaaval Kottam. The maximum that one can do is to perhaps do a section from the film. It has got an entire culture in it. I had an idea and it was the result of that search. One day I would sure do such a subject. It needs a huge preparation.

I did not have an idea to do
Kaaval Kottam

Would you do a film for your brother Krishna?

I would work with Krishna, mostly, after this film. It should not appear as a scheduled one for my brother. The right kind of script for him should happen. When it happens I would definitely direct Krishna.

Will Krishna be there in Ajith’s film?

The characters have not been locked as of now. If some suitable character is there, I would definitely take him on board.

Would you remake Panjaa in Tamil?

No, I don’t have an idea as of now. Even Billa when it was sold to Telugu, I was to have done that film in Telugu but I did not do it. It is very difficult to replicate. I feel, the excitement that you have in the first instance will not be there again.  If you are not excited about something, whatever you do, you will not be happy. Even if I were to do the same film, it will not be the same and will be different.

Whenever Ajith sir and I work together, we make sure it is special

How do you feel not doing Billa 2?

I know I missed it and never expected that the dates would clash like this. But again that’s not the end.  That’s the reason, Ajith sir and I are teaming up again. Whenever we work together, we make sure it is special.

When it is difficult to team up with a star for the 2nd time, how is it that you are doing a film once again with Ajith?

It is the basic collaboration. There are no rules for this. When I am able to work continuously for 5 films with the same technicians, it is all about sharing. When we work with an artist and understand their potential completely, it becomes easy. Cinema is not a one man show. It is all about collaboration. If I am not able to collaborate with my DoP or my editor or my music director, it is going to be difficult. You cannot force people. I will never create a working mood; you won’t find a stressed out mood in my sets.  All my stress gets over in the pre-production stage and I relieve all the pressures at the discussion table. When we have complete clarity, any actor will like it and you can handle anybody. If you are rigid, it’s difficult.

Cinema is not a one man show

Tags : Vishnuvardhan, Ajith, Billa 2, Krishna
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