Director Gautham Ramachandran and Nivin Pauly, whose Richie is releasing this Friday, open up about the film in this frank, fun-filled conversation.
I understand that this collaboration has been long due.
Gautham: Yes. I met Nivin during the days after Neram’s release. I got his number from a friend who’d narrated a story to him unsuccessfully. Nivin and I hit off immediately; he really liked my script. But the timing was all wrong. Pizza had just released, and producers seemed to want to invest only on low-budget films. We didn’t want to compromise on our vision and decided to wait.
Nivin: I liked Gautham because he seemed like a sensible talker and was serious about his scripts.
Gautham: Yes, that’s how I conned him.
Nivin: (laughs) I liked that his stories weren’t run of the mill. He was excited by variety, and so was I. I always am. In one of our meetings, he gave me a DVD of the Kannada film, Ulidavaru Kandanthe. The director and actor of that film, Rakshit, is a mutual friend, and so, I watched the film. I really liked what I saw.
In a previous interview, you’ve said that ‘Richie’ isn’t a straightforward remake.
Gautham: It isn’t. Nivin and I weren’t kicked about doing a scene-by-scene remake. There are other
directors and actors who take pride in their use of Control C and Control V. We aren’t.
Nivin: Remaking a film is easy. Gautham wanted to tell his own story while retaining the soul of the Kannada film. I wanted that too.
But it mustn’t be easy to decide to alter successful material.
Gautham: It’s like walking on thin ice, yes. But we made peace with it because we both wanted that. In fact, when we showed Rakshit the final film, he exclaimed surprise at how different our film was. The climax, interval… it’s all new.
Nivin, you’ve always spoken about your desire to be part of Tamil cinema.
Nivin: I’ve always wanted to do Tamil films. I don’t know why. I guess it’s because I grew up watching them. The audience base and the scale of the industry are reasons too. After Neram, I got a few scripts, but they were all for horror films, and I didn’t want that. Two of them have since gone on to become superhits, but I have no regrets. I wasn’t sitting idle in Malayalam cinema, after all. (laughs) And then Premam happened, and its record-breaking success tells me that you can’t plan anything. I guess he (points above) makes the plans, and we simply accept it.
Was it hard for you to dub for this film?
Nivin: Very. While I can speak and understand Tamil, talking dialogues for a film is a different ball game altogether. I spent weeks dubbing for this film.
Gautham: Originally, we worked with a few top dubbing artistes. We held auditions for them, and are probably the first to do that for dubbing artistes. (laughs) But ultimately, Nivin and I
decided that we should take a chance with his dubbing. Tamil cinema has always known to be welcoming, and hey, if someone does get trolled, it won’t be me. It will be Nivin. (laughs)
It must have been a temptation to make Richie in Malayalam too, given his star status there.
Gautham: More than temptation, you could say there was pressure. But Nivin warned me against it, as he had had a tough time making Neram, a bilingual.
Nivin: To be clear, I told him he’d find suicide preferable to making a bilingual.
Gautham: (laughs) At one point, we almost decided to go ahead with the bilingual, but then, Nivin was clear in his advice that we shouldn’t. I see his point.
You are playing a negative character in this film?
Nivin: Yes. I’ve always been attracted to negative roles, and have forever wanted to play one.
Gautham: We all like Dexter, don’t we? But what also worked in Richie is that Nivin’s character, apart from being evil, is also free-spirited. He’s a person with no plans. There’s a lot of flamboyance about him.
Would you compare this emphasis on Nivin’s style to the college portions in Premam?
Gautham: I guess there was a bit of that in Premam, but then again, he falls in love quickly. Here too, he has a girl who shows romantic interest in him. But he doesn’t care. This carelessness, he carries throughout the film.
Some have called ‘Richie’ a neo-noir film.
Gautham: And I disagree with that label. There’s some emphasis on style, as you put it, but that’s just new-age cinematography, editing and writing. Each primary character has a different look and feel, but no, Richie is nowhere near noir.
Much of Nivin’s popularity in Malayalam cinema has come from him playing the boy next door. But lately though, it seems that he’s attracted a lot of fans who crave slo-mo heroism from him.
Gautham: Be a Roman when in Rome, I guess? If you’re talking about the teaser, those slo-mo portions were used to mainly garner attention. You’ll see that the actual film isn’t exactly the same.
Such collaborations between artists from different states seem to be becoming the norm.
Gautham: Absolutely. Richie is a Tamil remake of a Kannada film with a Malayalam star.
No Telugu connections?
Gautham: (pauses) GK Reddy plays a cameo. Does that count? (laughs)
Nivin, any expectations over ‘Richie’s’ reception?
Nivin: I just want it to be a decent entertainer. I never do a film with plans on what to do next. I take it one script at a time.
Would you say you’ve adapted ‘Richie’ to suit, as the phrase goes, ‘Tamil sensibilities’?
Gautham: I really want to meet the people who coined this dastardly phrase. (laughs) No, we haven’t adapted it for ‘Tamil sensibilities’. We have, however, adapted it for cinematic sensibilities. We’ll know if we are right on December 8.