Filmmaker Radha Mohan says he’s a realist. That’s why in every film of his, he tries to keep emotions as real as possible. “Even in small things like the inclusion of background sounds. It’s all part of the challenge,” he smiles. Be it Abhiyum Naanum or Mozhi, Radha Mohan has given Tamil cinema material that’s stood out in stark contrast to what is generally offered. He’s convinced he’s doing it again with his upcoming film Brindavanam, due for release next week. The Arulnithi-starrer revolves around the relationship between a star (Vivekh, who plays himself), and a fan, who can neither speak nor hear.
Is it a conscious choice to choose to direct such different subjects? “There are directors who do only commercial films. Nobody asks them why they have been doing the same thing. As long as the treatment is fresh and the presentation is original, the rest is immaterial really.”
Does he think he’s most comfortable making such different, even if not offbeat, cinema? “My commitment is the same in all my films. I make a film because I want to tell that story; it’s not based on the genre or on audience expectations. People are always ready to typecast you; at least I shouldn’t do that to myself.”
Was Brindavanam’s script written for Vivekh in particular? “Not really,” he says, “I wanted to rope in Vivekh, as he is a great performer.”
When prodded about the similarity between the protagonist of this film and Jyothika in Mozhi, the director quickly clarifies that Brindavanam has nothing to do with Mozhi.
“It’s a completely different story. Yes, the protagonists of both films cannot hear or speak, but while Jyothika’s character was self-made and bold, Arulnithi’s barber is quite in contrast. We’ve put in a lot of effort to make both the film and characters believable,” he says.
The director didn’t want to title the film, Mozhi-2. “I was clear that I shouldn’t confuse the audience. Instead, I named it Brindavanam, which roughly translates into garden of happiness. Mozhi was released in 2007 and I’m happy that the audience relate to it even today. The story is about a celebrity helping out a fan with his romance,” he tells us.
When he started his career, releasing a film wasn’t too hard.
“But today, it is tough. Making films which have recall value isn’t a laughing matter. I only make films that I believe in. Such small films can compete only if they are technically sound and tell a story well. My last film was Uppu Karuvadu, in 2015. It takes two to three years to convince producers to invest in a film,” he says.
On Uppu Karuvadu’s average reception, he says, “Though the film got positive reviews from critics, it didn’t fare well at the box-office. The Chennai floods made the situation worse. The release date plays a vital role in determining the fate of a film today.”
The filmmaker thinks it’s important to retain the interest of the audience, and to keep them guessing. “It’s hard to hold their attention in this age of mobile phones. So the trick is to keep incorporating fresh elements to sustain their interest,” he says.
He says Arulnithi is a director’s actor. “I have only seen him in serious films before. But, I always knew he could pull off something as innocent and nice as his character in Brindavanam. His performance will make people emotional,” he adds.
Post Brindavanam, the duo will team up again for another project. On working with the same artistes again, he says there’s shared growth in the process. “I don’t know if this is good or bad, but artistically, you grow together and there is a sense of loyalty.”
Even though he has been in the industry for more than 10 years now, he hasn’t worked with top stars in the industry. “I’d love to work with Dhanush and Vijay Sethupathi. I’ve been trying to approach Dhanush for years, but haven’t heard anything from him yet.” How about another film with Jyotika? “Many ask me why I wasn’t doing a sequel to Mozhi with her. But the story ended right there. I didn’t have scope to develop a sequel to Mozhi. Of course, I’d love to work with her again.”