Returning after three years to the box-office is director Mani Ratnam whose last offering Raavanan was a critical success. Spinning a love story, besides other plot lines, on the shores of coastal Tamil Nadu and basing it on the fishermen community there, Kadali will bring to the screen a scenic rustic film. Ratnam who was in the city on Thursday to release the trailer, tells us more about the upcoming film which stars two debutantes in the lead pair — Gautam Karthik and Thulasi Nair, both children of yesteryear stars Karthik and actress Radha respectively.
“It was completely coincidental that the two of them turned out to be children of stars. I was just looking for someone to cast. When you make a good casting choice, it makes your job 50 per cent easier,” he begins.
With his previous string of films including a biography, a loose adaptation of Ramayana, and a socio-political love story, comments that he was in a way coming back to his roots arose. But the director disagrees saying, “I have never really left my roots. I have done all kinds of films in my career and you will see that in my body of work. Kadali is also my kind of film.”
The film which is based on a Christian fisherman community also stars Arvind Swamy in a comeback role as a priest, Arjun as the antagonist and Lakshmi Manchu in a supportive role. Talking about his casting process he says, “When you begin making a film, the character is created on paper, nowadays a laptop, within four walls. It is done in the most cold fashion. When I cast an actor, I want them to bring something to the character as well. They need to put in something of themselves as well.”
While most of the cast were seasoned actors with a body of work behind them, some having previously worked with Mani himself, how did he zero-in on a lead pair that had nothing to show for themselves in terms of previous work?
“It’s really simple; you put them through a screen test. You give them the dialogues, the costume and a setting as close as possible to the intended set and see how they fit. I have to see which one of them came closest to getting it right and I need to get a feel of them as actors.”
Re-uniting with A R Rahman once again for the film’s music score, most of the technical team including lyricist Vairamuttu, cinematographer Rajiv Menon and Sreekar Prasad are collaborators who Mani Ratnam has previously worked with. Doesn’t he ever think of mixing things up? “These are people who I’ve worked with and things have worked beautifully so far. They deliver more than I ask for. Why will I think of working with different people,” he questions. In the industry for almost three decades and a matching number of successful films, doesn’t he feel exhausted of ideas or films? “Really? I think I’m just warming up!” he chuckles. Explaining that making a successful film is really easy, for all one has to do is “be foolish and ridiculous” and people will come and watch a film. But making good films is the catch.
“I make films that are sensible and rational as well aesthetic. I believe those films can also do well.” Mani who writes most of his screenplays, including the script for Kadali, says that the process is also a constant one. “Writing is a nagging, fascinating process that keeps going on. When the idea comes, that moment is a high. That is what I enjoy. There are constantly ideas coming up which sometimes even seem absurd but ultimately make a good movie.”