With Thiruttu Payale 2, director Susi Ganeshan returns to Tamil cinema after a hiatus of eight years. “The break was because I wanted to be a producer in Bollywood,” he says. But even before he made Shortcut Romeo in Hindi, he was known for taking about three years between each of his films. “Maybe because I’m slower than my contemporaries,” he says. “Those who entered the industry with me have made more than a dozen films, but I’ve only done five. But all of them have been appreciated for their content and quality. Perhaps, I should consider speeding up my productivity (Smiles).”
Eleven years after the release of Thiruttu Payale, he’s now coming out with a sequel. “I got the advance for this film even before Kanthaswamy happened. But on account of Kanthaswamy and Shortcut Romeo (the Hindi remake of Thiruttu Payale), I had to move out of AGS with Kalpathy Agoram sir’s blessings.” He doesn’t think of this film as a comeback. “I never disappeared. I think of this project more as a reunion,” he says.
There have been a few theories put forth on social media about the story of this sequel. “Some of them were really interesting, like the one which said that Sonia Aggarwal, who waits in an airport at the end of Thiruttu Payale, was actually pregnant and that it’s her child who’s the hero of this sequel,” he laughs. “But no, the sequel is a different story, and I think a better version of Thiruttu Payale. I’ve raised the problems of technology intruding into people’s lives,” says Susi.
The teaser of the film was an audio clip of two people having an extra-marital affair. “It created more impact than a video would have.” The idea was born out of a YouTube video Susi Ganeshan saw. “It was a clip of a lawyer’s wife plotting to kill her husband. The conversation shook me.”
The film also has the director working again with Prasanna, whom he launched in his debut film, Five Star (2002). TP2 also doubles up as Prasanna’s 25th film. “It’s a pleasant surprise. When I introduced him, he was puny and had a nerdy look that I needed. For this film, I needed someone fit and attractive. Today, Prasanna is that.” The original featured two strong female characters. Does Amala Paul’s character compare with them? “Over the last few years, many films have touched on the issue of affairs. Even kissing scenes have become passé. So, I had to give the audience a different shock (Smiles). I needed a performer like Amala Paul, and what she’s done in TP2 is something I haven’t seen her do in any of her other films.”
Tamil cinema seems to be in an age of sequels. “That’s because the films cater to an audience that’s already been created for it. But that alone doesn’t guarantee success. Sequels are harder, to be honest. Let’s see if this film paves the way for TP3.” Susi Ganeshan isn’t joking about making another sequel. “With the way our society is going, I could make ten more Thiruttu Payale films,” he laughs. “The core line of these films is this: If I know your secret, I can control you.”
While on sequels, I ask if he ever made plans to do a sequel to Kanthaswamy. “That film spoke about demonetisation and was ahead of its time. A director who has worked with Salman Khan even told me that Mallanna (the Telugu dubbed version) was what inspired him to use a mask for Salman in his film,” he says. “The two main subjects of the film — money and god — will always be relevant. Perhaps if there’s a good star cast and a production company, why not?”
Thiruttu Payale was remade in Hindi but Susi doesn’t plan to do the same with TP2. “I’m bored of remaking my own film. I’ll let someone else worry about that,” he says. But he definitely sees himself returning to Bollywood. “I want to balance my work in both industries. I’ve established my production company there and I’m also a part of The Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association.”
Susi Ganeshan’s films have won quite a few State awards. “They have all been commercially successful too. Commercial films are harder to make than award-winning films. If you know what the government likes appreciating, you can get awards. But you can never truly get what the public wants,” he says.