Among the film industry’s newest craze for superheroes who are darker, less comical and fashioned for a mature audience, Tamil director Shanmugha Raja, more popularly known as Mysskin, will soon be releasing his take on the genre. Titled Mugamoodi in Tamil, the film will be dubbed in Telugu and is called 'Mask'.
Telling the story of a street chap on a platform who becomes a vigilante in his quest to impress the girl of his dreams, Mask stars actor Jeeva (of 'Rangam' fame) and debutante Pooja Hegde as the lead couple, while Narain essays the antagonist, Dragon.
First look of the film shows the (super) hero in a midnight blue body hugging costume, a face mask that reveals the forehead and jaw and a black cape billowing behind, while his hair is smoothed back in layers of glistening gel. While it does seem a bit impressive, expectations for the film are see-sawing between the typical comic-hero fans and cynics. Actor Jeeva though is a happy man, fairly confident of the film’s success. He tells us more of his swashbuckling exploits as the character Bruce Lee in the film.
“The film is a super hero film, but the hero doesn’t have any supernatural powers. He’s well trained in martial arts and uses a bit of gadgetry to accomplish the job. The idea of the film is that anybody can be a supe hero — it’s about the hero within, which is also the tag-line of the film title.” Using arts like Kungfu and Wing Chun, the hero is caught in a predicament that forces him to don the mask and cape. “Through the course of the movie, Bruce Lee (named after the martial arts genius and actor Bruce Lee), who initially wears a prototype of the costume to impress the girl, is soon caught in a situation which forces him to become the masked vigilante. Most of his action takes place at night.”
The movie lightly borrows from the Hollywood film 'Kick Ass' in terms of a normal guy rising to the occasion and also the taser baton that 'Kick Ass' wields in the film. “Bruce also has a similar kind of stuff that 'Kick Ass' uses, but that’s the only gadget he has,” clarifies the actor.
Trained in Kungfu himself for almost seven years, Jeeva perhaps was meant for the role. “The film script had been floating around for a while and people in the industry knew that Mysskin was making Mugamoodi (Mask). Suriya was initially signed on and then Vishal, but it didn’t work out. I am a huge fan on Mysskin’s films and so when he asked me if was interested, I was on board immediately.”
Professing that had it been any other director, he might have been a little skeptical about doing a super hero film, his utter faith in the director’s ability to deliver was the deciding factor. “If you see his films, you wouldn’t ask me about my apprehensions of doing a superhero film. 'Nandalala', 'Yuddham Sei' and his other films are so very well-taken. He is a visual stylist and you will find that in the kind of shots he takes. They are all mostly long shots. His film sense is also very intense, along the lines of Akira Kurosawa and Takashi Miike.”
Just shoot me
While sitting and chit-chatting the actor seems relaxed, his recount of the shooting of the film tells a different story. “The costume was a complete body suit that was designed by a French company Cirque du Soleil. They took a full body mould to create the 11 kg suit that was made of a mixture of silicon, rubber, latex and coupe of other materials. Everyday I’d have sweat pooled in my shoes because the body couldn’t breathe and there was no where for the sweat to go. I was dehydrated, had developed rashes and boils and even fainted on the sets once.”
Next in line
Having been wrapped up in superherodom for almost the past two years, Jeeva has a fully-packed schedule ahead of him. His future projects include Gautam Menon’s bilingual 'Neethaane En Ponvasantham' (Tamil)/ 'Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu' (Telugu), Bejoy Nambiar’s 'David' and Tamil director Ahmed’s 'Endrendrum Punnagai'.
“I was really caught up in the making of 'Mask', so now I have quite a few projects at hand. I try to balance between doing big budget films and interesting characters that wouldn’t sell. In 'David' I play a guitar player while 'Endrendrum Punnagai' is a romantic comedy. So, it’s all about trying out different stuff because a critically acclaimed movie is not necessarily a commercially successful movie.”
As the hero of the film, Jeeva has been very involved in the not just his role as the protagonist, but also in the packaging of the film as such. And it isn’t just him, most heroes now are very involved in their films. Ask him if this a mark of change in times and he replies, “I was in fact just discussing this with (actor) Suriya. We have taken on an additional responsibility because at the end of the day, people come to watch the hero. So if the film does well, it’s him who takes the glory and also the fall if the same tanks. We’re also experimenting a lot more and want to do good films. So when a good script comes by, we try to see what kind of music best goes, how well to package it, etc.”