I want to write a book about the bitter experiences I have had with movie directors, says art director Thota Tharrani. While this might come as a shocker to fans of the veteran artist, he assures us that the statement comes from years of pent up...shall we say, ‘seeing red on canvas?’ After some not-so pleasant incidents involving actors, technicians and directors on various films over the years, the art director, who has worked on films like Sivaji with Superstar Rajinikanth, as well as other big titles like Nayagan —tells us that he will soon reveal all. For the moment though, he talks to CE about his first major role in a biopic documentary on Swami Chinmayananda The Quest. The English flick will release in September, commemorating Chinmayananda’s 100th birth anniversary later this year. Excerpts from the interview:
On the role
Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to take up the role as I didn’t know if I would do complete justice. So I called up make-up man Sundaramoorthy (who has been in the industry for over 40 years) and he boosted my confidence. I am more comfortable to work behind the screens, but it was the crew that convinced me to say ‘yes’. I am no actor, so I get nervous in front of the camera. But it was an honour to play Swami Chinmayananda on screen. And when I accepted the role, I did request that they give me fewer lines, so that helped.
I’ve been in this industry for decades now, but there has been hardly any recognition for the art work I’ve done in films. I remember standing next to Rajinikanth once, when Sivaji was being shot. And some random person said a few words of appreciation. That day, I realised the power of ‘being onscreen.’ And though I have played roles in the past in Pushpaka Vimana and Sagarasangamam, this will be my first ever major role, so yes I am looking forward to hearing what people have to say when they see me in this avatar.
Getting into the skin of the role
I didn’t do any homework as far as the role was concerned. But I did watch a few small cuts of videos of Swami Chinmayananda. So I could get his body language and accent right. Also, many felt that I closely resemble Swamiji, so that was a big plus.
I have been getting quite a few offers, but I didn’t take up any until The Quest because this is a spiritual subject. But if anything nice comes my way, like a mature role, I can take it up. Of course, this depends on the director and the kind of script he gives me. I’ve realised that working with a young crew helps ease tension for an actor like me who is still learning.
If you’re wondering why Kollywood director RS Prasanna is making this docu-film in English, he says, “Swamiji’s talks were predominantly in English and he taught ancient scriptures and the Upanishads in a scientific manner. I also have plans for other versions of the film in regional languages.” While a young Chinmayananda is portrayed by a real life monk, Sandeep, his later years are played by Thota Tharrani. The Quest was shot cross India, including the Himalayas, Rishikesh and Gurgaon and was completed in 27 days