Interview With

Balaji Tharaneetharan

Vijay Sethupathi's 25th film Seethakaathi is all set to hit the screens this week. Balaji Tharaneetharan who had earlier directed the actor in the much loved film Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, returns to helm the state of affairs in Seethakaathi too. The press show conducted earlier had fetched glowing reviews for the film. In a crisp chat with Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Balaji talks about Seethakaathi and Vijay Sethupathi in detail.

How is it to have directed Vijay Sethupathi in his milestone 25th film, Seethakaathi?

I am very delighted about this, but none of it was planned. The shoot of 96 and Seethakaathi was to begin parallely. Just a day before the shoot of the film, Vijay Sethupathi told me that he wanted to announce Seethakaathi as his 25th. Although his screen presence in Seethakaathi is only 40 minutes, he felt that it would be apt as his silver jubilee film, as he has donned the role of a stage actor in the film. He checked with Premkumar, director of 96, who had also agreed to this. That's how it all happened.

What was the inspiration to conceive Seethakaathi?

I saw a normal contemporary Tamil play which was very nostalgic to me. When I was young, I had seen those actors from the play in Doordarshan. I spoke to them backstage. I was moved by the way they acted and their involvement in the play. But there was hardly any crowd. That mood had stayed with me for a long time. When I was thinking about it, an interesting screenplay emerged. That is Seethakaathi.

You had mentioned that Seethakaathi is not about the philanthropist Seethakaathi. Can you explain the connect?

There is a connect between the proverb Sethum Kuduthaan Seethakaathi (Seethakaathi gave even when he was dead) and the film. You will realize why I have named the film when you see it. When the title Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom was announced, people were wondering about it. But once the film was released, the link was established. It is the same in this case too.

The trailer of Seethakaathi suggests that it is a serious subject. Is it so?

The film begins on a serious note. But slowly during its course, it will travel in different genres like mystery and humor. There would be lot of humor in the film.

If Seethakaathi is a Meta film, how different would it be from other such films?

It cannot be called a Meta film per se, but if I explain about it here, it will be like revealing the story. Seethakaathi will be a new experience for you. It will not be anything like you have experienced before.

What is the difference that you see in Vijay Sethupathi of NKPK and Vijay Sethupathi of Seethakaathi in terms of an actor and also as a person?

As a person, he is just the same. Since he is very busy now, his schedule is pretty tight. We cannot call him as and when we like, like how we used to do during NKPK times. If we are going to shoot with him, we need to plan well in advance. As an actor, I feel he has matured a lot.

As a director, how was it to direct Vijay Sethupathi after a while?

Although, we were in constant touch through telephone or personal meetings, on the first day of shoot of Seethakathi, there was a small reservation from my side. But once, we started discussing and working, all that vanished and I was back to my normal self with him.

What about senior veterans in Seethakaathi?

Archana ma'am, Mouli sir and Mahendran sir play important roles in the film. I approached them, narrated the story and they liked it. They also came forward with a lot of interest and have delivered great performances. Bharathi Raja sir and Bhagyaraj sir play themselves in the film in guest roles. It was good to have worked with such legends.

Prosthetic make-up of Vijay Sethupathi?

When we decided to cast Vijay Sethupathi in an aged role, we were keen that his make-up should be credible. We went to Academy award-winning make-up artist Kevin Haney, to design Vijay's look. After his team took the mould and sculpted it, Vishwanath Sundaram readied the look. When we returned here, Alex Noble from their team came to the shooting spot and he did the make-up. He has done a wonderful job. On the first day, when it took five hours, it was tiring for Vijay Sethupathi, subsequently, he got used to it.

Govind Vasantha's music

Govind Vasantha is a very good musician. He has worked with me as a keyboard programmer in the background score of Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom. He only scored music in Oru Pakka Kadhai. I kind of knew that his work will be much spoken about.

What about the release of Oru Pakka Kadhai?

It has been given to Zee 5, a video on demand website run by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited. There will not be any theatrical release of this film.

All the best Balaji Tharaneetharan !

Related Links