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Interview with Kanmani
Date: September 10, 2008, Hyderabad

He looks cool with no sign of agitation even as his latest film Call Centre is going to release tomorrow (September 11). Kanmani, who started his career as chorus singer with Maestro Ilayaraja, woke up to the call of direction joining Charan for the film Gemini. From then onwards, there is no looking back, though there are projects or not. His goal is set. True to the saying – The first man in the frontier lands is always a Tamilian – Kanmani reached out to Hyderabad to make a career for himself. At the very outset, he registered a stupendous mark with "highly-complicated and serious-subjected" Naa Oopiri with Naveen Vadde (getting him the Nandi Award) and inviting pleasant media criticism of his direction. A director should be like a chameleon, taken in the positive sense with a spectrum of themes, subjects, not to clash the next time. "A film that can't bring revenues to its producer is better not made at all. The urgent need of the hour in Tollywood is careful budgeting and execution of films with varied subjects, stamping out the monotony ruthlessly," Kanmani tells Idlebrain. In an exclusive interview, he pours out his love for Tollywood.

Tell us about your journey as a filmmaker?
After my degree (Presidency College, Chennai), I took my career with Maestro Ilayaraja as chorus singer. It lasted for 12 years. A friend of mine Dhamu, a comedian, tried his level best to make me an assistant director. I got my first project as assistant director with Charan and the film was Vikram's Gemini. I turned a full-fledged director with a romantic love film titled Aha Ethanai Azhagu (2003), starring Charmme and Mithun. It was a decent hit. Our people there enjoyed it very well. When I came to Hyderabad once casually, the project Naa Oopiri materialized. I shall be ever thankful to Naveen Vadde. The film got overwhelming criticism, which I never expected. I am proud to hear the industry people telling me that film remained the best so far in Naveen's career. This kind of patronage was the main reason for my settling in Hyderabad. People of Andhra Pradesh always throw red carpet welcome to talent. Next came, Chinnodu with Sumanth. It was a commercial success. Its producer Lokesh Dutta believing my capabilities entrusted me the project Call Center.

What are the highlights of Call Center?
My previous films – Naa Oopiri and Chinnodu – were with heavy subjects. My close friends and well-wishers suggested me to do a lighter vein film. While I was in search of such a soft subject, producer Lokesh Dutt told me that he had registered the title Call Center and wanted me to ready a script for the title. Based on that, I wanted to make a film in the backdrop of call centers and the employees working in them. It is altogether an untouched subject in our South.

But, I made him a point. There should not any established actors and that I wanted fresh team. When we met our lead hero Vamsy Krishna, he was that time doing Happy Days. This way, he too was a fresher. In all we selected about 20 new actors and actresses for this film. All are young and energetic.

Saikarthik's music has come out well. Cinematography by Anji is a big asset. Above all, the subject will be gripping and gives a novel experience to the audiences.

Don't you think Call Center gives a negative meaning – seen in the backdrop of recent attacks against the staff in Bangalore and Delhi?
I don't think so. We conceived the title Call Center in a lighter vein. We never thought that people would take it in negative sense. Of course, some people recently told me that it resembled the title of a thriller. In fact, there will be nothing like thriller or crime element. Basically, I touched on two aspects – the mix of western and Indian cultures. Generally, the employees working in call centers will be Indian from morning till evening, but they are forced to adopt the western style of talking and behaving after the dusk till the dawn. Different types of people meet there. They have different types of problems. They are tuned to the American accent. There are instances where some of the guys and girls have lost their jobs or are subjected to humiliation when they failed to follow the accent. All these aspects form the natural setting for our film.

How did your prepare the script? Your imagination or hard facts?
Absolutely, the script is prepared based on "on the spot" record of facts. I visited a number of call centers during the nights and freely interacted with the employees there. I got thorough information about their problems, their joy and turbulent moments.

Call Center is projected as a bilingual in Telugu and Tamil. Why do you prefer bilinguals?
Yes. Call Center is truly a bilingual film. It will not be a dubbed version. The artistes are totally different from Telugu when it comes to Tamil. Why bilinguals? Naturally, I come from Chennai. Bilingual venture is also connected to the business angle. We don't need to exclusively produce each of the versions. Just simple struggle and hard work are enough. I feel that some films have scope for multiple languages. A subject like Call Center is universal. It is not limited to Andhra or Tamil Nadu. Even it can be released in Mumbai also. So, I prefer to make bilinguals when they don't clash with the nativity factor. For me, there is one thing in this world totally free from the pollution of religion, caste or creed. That is entertainment.

What are your strengths as a director?
Yes. I am blessed with two important things. Do or die passion for films. Ardent wish to see my producers get good revenues from the films which I direct. Right from my debut film in Tamil, I meticulously observed the production values. I take immense care in cutting down the waste expenditure. Each and every rupee should be seen on the screen. Before going for the shoot, I prepare a foolproof graph – where to spend and where to cut down the bucks? I also have learnt to study the pulse of the audience. What is commercial and what is not a commercial? Which kind of films would be more successful? All these things have come to inject a new awareness in me. I implement the same in the interest of making a quality film, coupled with strategy to get money for my producers.

Also, I hold a very good taste for music. Basically, I was a singer. I sang chorus for many of Maestro Ilayaraja's songs. You take my previous films. All of them have superb music. I take care that my films should also be musical hits.

Doesn't your involvement in music make interference into the Music director's job?
To that matter, I never poke my nose. I just take stock of the things in the general interest of the film. I suggest the music directors only when I really think they are really necessary for the composition. It is not my regular job. Just I mean to say, I also have a taste for music. I mean practical feel for it.

You made two films with Charmme, one in Tamil and the other in Telugu. How about her as an actress?
She is a wonderful performer and very beautiful actress. She is a mine of talent. When I took her for Tamil film Aha Ethannai Azhagu, she didn't know Tamil. By the time shooting started, I saw her speaking fine Tamil. When I took her for Chinnodu, I saw her speaking excellent Telugu. It shows she holds great power of grasping. She applies the same strength in all of her professional requirements. What all she acted in several films are like trailers. I think she is capable of doing extremely powerful and challenging roles.

Who are your favorite directors? Why?
K. Viswanath is almost like a God in filmmaking. He shows stupefying variety in each of his films. Different characterizations come each time. Take his Swathi Mutyam or Sagara Sangamam. Is it possible for anyone to mold a character played by Kamal Hassan? After all, I felt it a Herculean task to mold the role of Naveen in Naa Oopiri. Director like Viswanath is like one among one crore people. I like Puri Jagannath for his narration. He is master of commercial film. Just he takes a simple line and develops it into an engrossing entertainer.

Have you seen Ontari film.It has a bit of resemblance to Naa Oopiri. What's your comment?
I also heard that Ontari has similar point as was treated in Naa Oopiri. But, I didn't see Ontari. There may be some resemblances. Just for that, we can't completely blame anybody.

What kind of films you want to make?
Surely, I don't want to be branded as a director of one particular genre of films. I like to be a versatile. I like horror films, psychological thrillers, comedies and action films. I wish to try my hand with all genres. Whatever I do, I do it with full commitment.

What are your underproduction and future projects?
Currently, I am doing a film with heroine Sangeetha's brother Parimal. Heroine is Sandhya. The title is Lechipodama. In Tamil it is Vodi Polama. It is a youthful entertainer. I am also planning to remake Chinnodu in Tamil.

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