Selva Raghavan made his directorial debut at the age of 23. He is the man behind the phenomenal success of his brother Dhanush as hero. He has the courage to marry his sweetheart Sonia Agarwal. Selva Raghavan who made films with dark shades like Kadhal Kodein and 7G Brindavan Colony changed his filmmaking pattern to suit Telugu sensibilities and delivered a hilarious film AMAV with Venkatesh as hero. Here are the excerpts of this quality filmmaker from an exclusive interview -
Can you tell us your background?
I am son of a filmmaker called Kasturi Raja. He directed 18 films so far. During my engineering days I realized that the only thing I am interested is writing. I got into serious writing. I wrote stories and screenplay. I still feel that I am better writer than a director. After completion of my graduation, I unofficially directed a film titled Thulluvadho Illamai which launched my teen brother Dhanush as hero. I was 23 at that time. Officially my father is the director, but I did the work.
How did AMAV project materialize?
The producers approached me when I was directing Kadal Kondein. I could not do a film immediately with them because of the prior commitment I had given to AM Ratnam to direct 7/G Brindavan Colony.
How did you prepare the story?
I wanted to show the journey of a loser, who has been trying for a job for the past 10 years. I had friends in Chennai who are into 30’s, but did not get any jobs. The only thing they are good at is cricket. I took inspiration from them to design the character of hero in the film. Then he meets a beautiful girl and everything changes. we have shown the entire film from the eyes of Venky character. Initially we thought of having city backdrop for the second half. But we hardly find joint family of 30-40 people in cities. Hence we shifted to village set-up. The film has city backdrop for 1st half and village backdrop for the second half.
Your characterization of heroes in earlier film is radically different from that of AMAV?
Yes. I made audiences cry with my earlier films. I want them all to laugh while watching AMAV, though there is a bit of crying scenes in the film.
The characterization and plot seem to have some resemblance to DDLJ?
If I wanted to remake DDLJ, I would have done it officially. When we select a story of certain pattern, it is inevitable to have some resemblances to certain films. I do agree that the characterization of Colors Swathi’s character is very similar to Mandira Bedi in DDLJ. Other than that I do not see any similarities. If you observe closely there are certain scenes and patterns that resemble ‘when harry met sally’ and ‘walk in the clouds’ too. During the process of filmmaking, one would somewhere fall into that trap I guess.
The entire family members deserting K Viswanath during marriage seem to be done in a hurry without proper explanation?
We had canned a scene in which grandmother rationalizes with K Viswanath before leaving. But we felt that it becomes more melodramatic with lectures. Hence we edited the dialogue version during the final cut.
The ending of film has shown K Viswanath as disapprover of Venky. Why is it like that?
I think most of the people did not watch it closely. I froze the frame of K Viswanath who is smiling. It means that he approved Venky. I think lot of people did not notice it.
You are an expert at getting the best of emotions in death scenes?
I think it is due to the fact that death comes unexpected in my films.
What are your favorite scenes in this film?
I was brought up in Chennai. I visited my grandparents village when I was a kid. I used all my experiences at that time to conceive hilarious episodes in the second half. Those village scenes are my favorite scenes.
What is the contribution of hero and heroine for AMAV?
I was amazed by the performances of Venkatesh and Trisha. I learned so many things while making this film. Venky contributed a lot to the script. Deep inside him, there is a filmmaker in Venkatesh. I hope he directs films one day.
Are there any scenes which you think could have been done better in AMAV?
Yes. But I don’t want to divulge the information. I had to do it due to external pressure. We should have stuck to the presentation. I am grateful to Venkatesh and the producers for giving me a free hand in direction.
Did you use any real life experiences in 7G Brindavan colony?
The final part of the film is fictional. But the remaining part is the one I can relate to.
When did you propose Sonia Agarwal?
Since I am married to her now I can tell you the real story. I liked her when I started directing Kadhal Kondein. I proposed her after completing the first schedule. She out rightly rejected me at first. It took around a week to convince her.
So she accepted your proposal even before you became famous?
Yes. She accepting me has nothing to do with money or fame. In fact she used to buy cloths and other stuff for me when I did not have enough money in the beginning of my career. If It were for money, success or fame, our relationship would not have lasted for so many years and culminated into a marriage.
How does it feels to be related to Rajnikant?
My brother got married daughter of Rajnikant. He is a great man with lot of simplicity. He is like a lesson for everybody.
What is your opinion on future career of Dhanush?
He is just 23 now. He is very hardworking and that ability will take him to a long way.
Did you face any criticism that youth are being spoiled because of the negative attitude you have shown though hero characters in your films?
I think one should watch movie as a movie. They should not take it to the heart. They should leave the memories at theater and should not take them to their home.
Who are your favorite directors?
Francis Ford Coppola is my all time favorite director. I like his insight and deep knowledge of filmmaking. He is the best example for how a filmmaker should know everything. I also like the Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore a lot. I loved his Cinema Paradiso. After watching his 1998 film Leggenda del pianista sull'oceano, La (The Legend of 1900), I felt so inferior about my work. May be one day I will make a perfect film like that.
What are your suggestions for our film industry?
It is time for adapting literary works. We should improve our screenplay sense. The existing commercial filmmaking format should change. We do not have the habit of doing rehearsals before the shoot. We should practice and rehearsal with the actors before going to shoot.
Which one is your favorite film among the films you directed?
Pudhu Pettai (Dhool Pet in Telugu). It worked in Tamilnadu. I wanted the producer to sell it for reasonable prices. But he sold it at a price that equivalent Vijay’s films. It made money in places like Chennai. On the script side, I think I made a mistake in second half. I think that chapter wise narration in the second half did not go well with the crowds.
Except for 7GBC, all the films made by you earlier were dubbed or remade in Telugu. And they failed here. What do you think is the reason?
Sensibilities. 7GBC was a success, because it is a true bilingual. For each and every scene I shot it twice - one for Tamil and another one for Telugu. If I had dubbed it in Telugu without shooting again, it would have been a flop. I am sure that if I directed all those films in Telugu separately, they would have become hits because I would have changed the plot and narration to suit Telugu sensibilities.
You always take good care of the background music in your films?
The western classical music has lot of depth. I am trying to indianize it. I have been working with Yuan Shankar Raja for the past 7 years. We stay at the same place. I want to have better music in my future films.
What is your next project?
I will be directing the Hindi version of 7GBC. This will go to floors in May 2007. I will let you know the rest of the details later. After that I will direct a Tamil film with Karthik (brother of Surya) as hero after completing Hindi project.
What your final goal as a director?
I want to make a perfect film. Something like K Viswanath’s Sagara Sangamam. I watched it for 60 times. I want to make a film which I will watch for 61 times.
Do you have any suggestions for the director wannabes?
You can’t balance everything. If you want to be a filmmaker, leave everything and join films.
Vijaya Bhaskar (Director)
R Ravinder (Art director)
Chandra Sekhar Yeleti (Director)
Mohana Krishna Indraganti (Director)
Dega Deva Kumar Reddy (Producer)
Nidhi Prasad (Director)
Hema Chandra (Singer)
Vijay C Chakravarthy (Cinematographer)
VN Aditya (Director)
Sharrath Marar (Producer)
Ram Gopal Varma (Director)
K Satish (Director)
Siva Nageswara Rao (Director)
Ajay Varma (Hero)
Kamalinee Kukherjee (Heroine)
Sriya Reddy (Heroine)
Muruga Doss (Director)
Uday Kiran (Hero)
T Gopichand (Hero)
Kalyan Ram Nandamuri (Hero)
Siva Kumar (Director)
Rasool Ellore (Cinematographer & Director)