CHENNAI: Sibiraj hasn’t done too many remakes. The last time he did one was incidentally for his debut film, Student Number 1, back in 2003. “Things were a lot different back then. I got into the industry blindly. Now I am able to judge what the audience might prefer. Student Number 1 was a blockbuster in Telugu but it didn’t work with our audience. But Sathya (the remake of Telugu film, Kshanam), is a film beyond boundaries which will do well in any language. So I am a lot more confident about this film,” says Sibi.
The film is produced by his home banner, Nathambal Film Factory. Sibi expands on the subject: “It’s a thriller based on a kidnapping. Oru vishayam irruka illeya? It’s also got a high dose of emotions.”
The actor has undergone a transformation of sorts for the film. “Director Pradeep (of Saithan fame) gave a lot of inputs on how I should look for this story.
He told me to grow a beard to be in tune with present trends; I also had to hit the gym. The costumes — including the jackets, were his idea. I play the role of an NRI; so, performance-wise, I needed to learn the swag of an NRI. Neraya class eduthaaru (smiles).”
Sathyaraj had recently revealed that he bought the remake rights without seeing the film. “He usually doesn’t get involved in buying films. My sister Divya saw Kshanam at the cinemas and was bowled over. It was she who told me to get it,” he says. “Only after we wrapped up the first schedule did appa finally get to see Kshanam. He said he hadn’t expected the film to be this good. In his usual style, he said, ‘Tamil le edukarenu maathi geethi keduthu vechida poringe (laughs).’”
Sibi says that 95 per cent of the film is almost the same as the original. “We have changed it a bit to suit me as an actor but the essence is untouched. I can say that the film has come out much better than the Telugu version.”
Sibi says that things aren’t easy when working for the home banner. “There’s more pressure, to be honest. Doubling up as the producer and the actor isn’t an easy thing. I had to keep shuffling. But luckily, my mom and my uncle shared part of the burden.”
But it wasn’t all stressful. Recalling one exciting incident that happened while shooting for the film in Australia, Sibi says, “There was a scene in which Yogi Babu was supposed to drive a car while I sat next to him. Though we planned everything else perfectly, we figured out only at the last minute that Yogi Babu doesn’t know how to drive. We gave him a bit of training in our hotel corridor but it didn’t work. So we had to change the scene and shoot it as if I was driving the car. I drove without carrying my international driving license. Luckily, they accepted my Indian license. Oru mathiri police pathange, aana maatle. Probably if caught, I could’ve escaped saying I’m Kattappa’s son (laughs).”
The film’s album by Simon K King, a relatively new face in the industry, has received good reviews, especially the melodious Yavvana and the fast-paced Sangu. “It was Pradeep’s idea to use him. Simon had assisted Vijay Antony in making Saithan’s music. I was sceptical in the beginning but after listening to Yavvana, I was convinced that we had made the right choice. What people don’t know yet is the great job he has done with the background score,” adds Sibi.
The actor’s last few films have ranged from genres like horror and comedy to now, a thriller. Ask him if it is a conscious plan and he says, “No, it isn’t planned. I just keep my mind open and listen to good scripts. I went with Sathya because I haven’t done an emotional film like this. Moreover, the script has a lot of twists and turns that’ll have one sitting on the edge of their seats. As for working across genres, Vijay Sethupathi is a role model for me. There’s no genre he hasn’t tried.”
Ask him the reason for naming the film Sathya, which, of course, is also the name of Kamal Haasan’s 1988 cult classic, and he says, “When the director wrote the script, he named the hero, Sathya. Everyone kept calling the film Sathya and we ended up liking it. If I had reached appa for help Kamal sir would’ve done it as an obligation. So instead, I asked Kamal sir for the title with a formal letter without making appa speak with him about it. He immediately agreed. The title has given us a big push.”
Incidentally, Sibi’s next film title, Ranga, is the title of Rajini’s 1982 blockbuster. “Ranga is an action thriller and set mainly in Kashmir. The producer and director decided to go with the title. Also, appa’s original name is Rangaraj. So if we remove ‘Raj’ from his original and screen name respectively, we get the title for my next two films (smiles).”
As appa has a good market in Telugu cinema too, I’m planning to enter the Telugu industry with a film featuring him. It’s all in the talks though.