Filmmaker Prabhu Solomon, whose last outing was Kayal (2014), is excited about the Dhanush-Keerthy Suresh starrer Thodari, which will hit the screens this week.
Prabhu tells CE, “All my stories have one common connection — an ordinary story/man and an extraordinary situation. Thodari is based on a train journey that I went on in the 90s. After my graduation in 1992, I travelled from Neyveli to Ghaziabad for my first job, which was for two days and a night. Everything that I experienced during the course of the journey inspired me to write the script.”
The director’s previous films like Mynaa (2010) and Kumki (2012) resounded with success at the box-office. Does he feel the pressure to deliver something great every time? “Absolutely, yes. But making good films without any compromise isn’t easy today. I want to show the audience an honest movie, for `120 that they pay to watch,” he says.
Speaking more about Thodari, he explains, “It’s the first Indian film to be shot entirely on a train. The script demanded a simple young man and eventually I thought of Dhanush; who fit the bill easily. He agreed to be a part of this film even when I hadn’t told him the whole story. This is a big project, both in terms of canvas and budget, when compared to my previous ventures.”
Though he went on the journey 20 years ago, he could recall every bit of his journey. “To transform those little things from memory into a film was a huge challenge. But I loved capturing the rural milieu,” he smiles.
As a storyteller, he feels it is essential to travel. “Many unplanned travels lead to meaningful destinations. I prefer travel to reading,” he laughs.
Usually he prefers working with newbies rather than stars. What made him sign an established hero like Dhanush? “He’s a great performer and an amazing actor. He plays a pantry worker in this film. He’s one of those artistes who gives his all. He believed in the script so much. In fact, Thodari needed Dhanush. Hopes are riding high on this project and I am sure the audience is going to love it. He managed to run on top of the train to sing, dance and perform fight sequences. I never had to go with many re-takes. He did them all with ease,” he gushes.
Shah Rukh Khan danced atop a compartment with Malaika Arora on Chaiya Chaiya (Dil Se, 1998) and Prabhu managed to shoot a whole film on a moving train. About his experience, he says “Indian cinema has an age-old love for trains. You cannot imagine a movie without visualising train journeys. From those cliched high-speed chases to romantic meetings, trains have been a filmgoer’s best friend. But shooting an entire film (from the first reel to the climax) was quite tough. Dhanush had to balance tea cups on a moving train. Also as a crew, we had to endure extreme climatic conditions while shooting the film. Walking up and down wasn’t easy again. Since we planned a lot of things during pre-production, we could manage. We even made a few videos on what we expect of him and sent them to Dhanush in the beginning. But every day was a different experience,” he elaborates.
The shooting took place predominantly on the Duronto Express and later the crew constructed a grand train set at Binny Mills. “There were many restrictions and we could shoot only for five hours a day and we couldn’t shoot whenever the train halted at signals. We shot for 110 days and I know it must have been tough for Dhanush to allot bulk dates for Thodari. But we travelled with the story like a family,” he says.
Speaking about Keerthy Suresh, he says her role was challenging too. “I think she’ll go places in future because of her dedication. She had to run near the engine and the heat obviously would be unbearable. She was never reluctant,” he grins.
Ask him about the climax if it would be a happy ending or a sober one, Prabhu says, “Nature has played an important role in most of my films and Thodari is going to be a wholesome entertainer and will be a talked about film like Thillana Mohanambal (1968) or Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964). It will be nothing short of fun.”