Remember the famous music video, Kodaikanal Won’t, that went viral last year? Rathindran R Prasad was the man behind it. He has since quit his high-paying corporate job to become an organic farmer in Auroville! And now, he’s gearing up for the release of his debut directorial venture, Idhu Vedhalam Sollum Kadhai that stars Abhay Deol, Ashwin Kakumanu, Aishwarya Rajesh, Guru Somasundaram (of Joker fame), and UK-based wrestler-actor-stunt choreographer Greg Burridge.
Rathindran, Greg, and Abhay were supposed to do a British film, which got shelved. Says the filmmaker, “Abhay had read somewhere that I was doing a Tamil film with Greg Burridge. He got curious and wanted to know if we had resumed that project. He sent me a message that read: ‘Where am I in it?’ I told him we were working on a different project. Eventually, I met him in Bombay and showed him the teaser and narrated the story. He liked it so much that he pitched in as one of the co-producers and decided to promote the film on a larger scale.”
How did he convince Abhay to play one of the key roles in the film? “As we began the shooting, I was looking for a Tamil actor to play the role of king Vikramaditya. It’s not a full-fledged character, but an extended cameo. Abhay expressed his interest. But I told him that I needed somebody who could speak chaste Tamil. He was quite confident that he could pull it off,” says the director. “His portions are set in the 4th century. He lost about 10 kg to attain a toned look. Lyricist Veronica, the co-writer of the film, who’s terrific with ancient Tamil, has trained him. In fact, he’s dubbed his own lines.”
Rathindran wanted the film’s sound to be as close to real life as possible. “Though films are primarily a visual medium, sound plays a key role. So, we have recorded the sound live. It’s one of the challenging areas in the production process, and requires a number of sound mixers on the sets. I don’t believe in dubbing as it’s not professional. It kills authenticity,” he says. “When you’re not able to capture the sound live, it’s fine. But dubbing an entire film is a sin! I wanted to make a film that looks real.” He also reveals that the film includes portions that feature Manga (a Japanese style of animation).
The director ensured he got Tamil-speaking artistes on board to prevent dubbing. “That’s why I roped in Aishwarya Rajesh. Her Tamil diction is fantastic,” he adds.
Rathindran conducted workshops for the other artistes ahead of the shoot, which prepared them to deliver their best on the spot. “We planned things very precisely, like in theatre rehearsals. When I signed the contract with my actors, I requested them not to sign any other project,” he says.
He’s quite delighted with the results. “Ashwin and Guru Somasundaram were very supportive. I don’t think too many actors would have been ready to spend put in six months into a film,” he says. Ashwin, he says, plays a videogame designer, who works on a project that’s based on Indian mythological characters, while Guru Somasundaram will be seen in two roles—a night watchman and a secret character. The film has been shot in Telangana, Rajasthan, Chennai and Madhya Pradesh.
The director surprises me by saying that the film is not an adaptation of the Vikram-Vedhalam story. “But it has characters from Indian folklore, such as Ichchadhari Naag and Mohini. Don’t expect age-old, terrible CG scenes like women changing into snakes!” he laughs. “I guess you could say it’s loosely based on soul-shifters. I’ve also tried to explore the metaphors behind Indian mythology and also some socio-political angles. I have tried to delve into the geopolitical dynamics.” So, would it be fair to say he’s approached this project rather scientifically? He laughs, “It’s become quite an abused term in recent years!”