CHENNAI: It’s been two decades since Baashha first released. And yet, when you quiz Suresh Krissna about the autumn on ‘94 when they shot the film, he doesn’t hesitate for a second. “There was something very visual about every frame in that movie, that’s why I remember it so well. People sometimes wonder if I actually remember or if I’m making it up,” he says with a laugh. In fact, such is the power of Baashha, that every time it is played on TV (and it does enjoy frequent airplay) he still gets “at least 15-20 texts from people, saying they saw it again and enjoyed it.”
After the KB and SP Muthuraman era, very few people have done four films with Rajinikanth. Krissna holds that distinction. “It all started with Annamalai and then Veera,” he recalls. “The way those movies ran gave Rajini confidence that doing this movie with me would work. And so we started shooting Baashha in August,” he says. Shot in less than five months, the movie went on to complete a whopping 175-day run in theatres besides influencing pop culture for years to come. “Whenever people talk to me, they don’t remember the other films. It’s always Baashha,” he says with a mocking grimace.
Did he ever imagine that it would have such a cult following? “Not at all,” he says with a laugh. “In fact, if you had read some of the things that the reviews said..” he trails off. So what worked? “One factor is that Rajini has always been a villain. What people liked was his villainy, but for quite a few films before that he was doing comedy, love, commercial stuff. That Rajini was missing, and the second half of Baashha had that Rajini. It was a throwback to those days,” he explains.
Though they initially talked about him playing a bus conductor, the character of a don in hiding wouldn’t have worked, he says, “The auto driver was the commonest man around. And Rajini liked the idea. How well it has worked,” he marvels. Even today, auto drivers who recognise Krissna have only one thing to ask of him. “They ask me to make another film with Rajini just like Baashha. But sadly, that’s not possible,” he says.
Which brings us to long-pending chatter about a sequel. “Why not? It’s definitely possible, but Rajini needs to get over his mental block against sequels. He still feels that sequels won’t work in Tamil films, but anytime he changes his mind, I am ready!” he says with confidence.
The scene in which Manickam convinces a college owner to give his sister a college seat, all seen from behind a screen with no sound, was inspired by Big B. When Hum was being shot, Rajini had a casual conversation with Amitabh Bachchan and Govinda about how two brothers were talking behind a screen and one convinced the other with just the force of their emotions - no dialogues. I remembered this scene well and suggested we use it in Baashha, as they never had it in Hum.
The sheer power generated by Rajini brought a feel and emotion that only Rajini could do. He knows that he is not a great dancer, but the way he carried himself in the Naan Autokaaran.. song was stunning.
Rajini and I share this chemistry. There was no ego between us. He never interfered as it’s a small line between him interfering and constructive criticism. He knew his own audience pulse better than me. If he wanted something for his image, I let him have it. If I wanted something for the script, he let me have it.