Ever since Radha Mohan was a child, cinema has been a source of fascination. “I have always been on stage. I used to sing, dance...” reminisces the Mozhi director, who reveals that he was a huge fan of MGR. When he was in college, he was sure that this was what he wanted to do. “Books laam paatha odane therinjuruchu,” laughs Radha Mohan, as he settles to talk about his latest release, Kaatrin Mozhi, that has him collaborating with Jyotika again, a decade after their 2007 hit film, Mozhi.
Excerpts from a freewheeling chat:
‘I was more worried about comparisons to Mozhi than Tumhari Sulu’
“I was shooting for 60 Vayathu Maaniram (also a remake) when Kaatrin Mozhi happened. It isn’t necessary for a director to write his story. For instance, screenplays can be adapted from a novel. I approached this film the same way. We can’t remake a film frame-by-frame; one has to make changes to suit the sensibilities of the audience.
Comparisons are natural when it comes to remakes. But with Kaatrin Mozhi, I was more worried about people comparing the film, not with Tumhari Sulu, but with Mozhi. It has been ten years since Jo and I worked on Mozhi and I was more pressurised by that aspect.”
‘Sulochana’s character drew me to the story’
“Ever since Jo made her comeback, people have been asking me when we would make a film, and if Mozhi 2 was on the cards. I wanted to wait for a good story and a strong character. Then, Jo asked me to watch Tumhari Sulu.
I loved the character of Sulu. She is a mixture of all emotions while Archana (from Mozhi) was an angry person. It was that character which made me do Kaatrin Mozhi. Also, I loved the romance between the husband and wife. Romance for younger people is easy; but writing a romance track for the parents of a ten-year-old, without too much physical intimacy, was challenging.”
‘Even my supporting characters should have a purpose’
“I take efforts to ensure all my supporting characters are strong. When I watch film and find there are unnecessary characters, I always wonder why. So my characters need to have a purpose, and if possible, a story or romance for them. I hold auditions and train actors for even the smaller roles.
In Ben Hur, there’s an actor who comes in just one scene. A Roman raises his hand to strike Jesus, but on seeing his face, he won’t be able to do it. His reaction on seeing Jesus’ face, is still the most memorable moment for me from that film. It was an important lesson. “
‘I had more guts as an AD’
“When I started out, I was clear about how my stories had to be told. I didn’t compromise. Azhagiya Theeye first went to other people and I refused to do the project when they asked me to change it. After that, Prakash (Raj) came on board. In retrospect, I had more guts when I was an AD and had nothing to lose. Now, there is so much at stake that sometimes you are forced to compromise.”
‘I suggested that Jyotika and I should make a comedy film’
“Jyotika has the same energy and fire I saw in Mozhi, several years ago. She still gets her lines in advance and comes well-prepared to the sets. But what surprised me was Jo’s sense of humour on screen. Her sense of comedy is great, and in fact, I suggested that we should work on a comedy film.”
‘We were lucky to have Vidaarth on board’
“For the husband character, we wanted someone who is a familiar face since he will be Jyotika’s pair. Not many would be okay with playing the father of a ten-year-old in a heroine-centric film. But Vidaarth is someone who has been picking interesting roles. When we approached him, he said he knew the character and immediately came on board. I am very happy with my choice.”
‘There’s always room to correct yourself’
“After Mozhi was released, someone pointed out that the comedy track based on homosexuality was problematic. But back then, we didn’t know much. If you look at films before Mozhi, disability was made a joke of. But Mozhi was a film that celebrated disability. It was the same earlier with trans persons. We evolve with society. It is a beautiful lesson and now, I would never do it again. There’s always room to correct yourself.”