The audio launch of upcoming Vishal-starrer Irumbu Thirai was a curious exercise. At one point, all the phones of those attending the event rang simultaneously and those who attended it heard Vishal’s voice saying, “Your phone has been hacked”. The stunt is well in keeping with the subject of the film.
“Information theft,” says debutant director PS Mithran, who goes on to make some rather shocking revelations born out of his extensive research for the film. “Do you know that our phone numbers are with as many as 30 lakh people? Many of those have our address too. This is what leads to messages about everything from loans to Thai massages.”
He says that most of us haven’t woken up to the horror of today’s situation. “Every bank gets at least 5,000 complaints a month about money debited from accounts without the account holder’s knowledge,” says Mithran, who is a first-hand witness to his friend losing Rs 40,000 from his account.
“Verum phone number thaanenu nenaikirom.” Mithran knows how it’s done too. “An empty SMS is sent to us, and we think it’s an ad. However, it’s actually a bot that is able to read the other messages in our phone. Armed with such details, criminals call the customer and establish themselves as a bank staff, and receive log-in credentials.”
As criminals are often not in the same region, it becomes hard to nab them.
“That’s how Tamil Rockers is functioning. We know where they are and where they are acquiring the resources from, but we can’t nab them as it doesn’t fall under our jurisdiction,” adds Mithran who feels cybersecurity is still at its infancy. “We protect our phones with locks and patterns but that’s like closing the front door. The back door is where they access details from. We are hardly ready for Digital India.”
Mithran has researched on this subject for almost four years, and he owes his patience to his mentor director Naga — the man behind serials such as Marmadesam. “He taught me how things can be right in front of our eyes and yet, we end up missing them.”
He has worked as an assistant on soaps, but advertisements are his real forte. “Cinematographer George Williams egged me to give films a shot and Ruben got me Vishal’s appointment.” The actor interestingly hasn’t worked with a new director in recent times, but was wowed by the story. “I’ve always believed that content is the king. Other newbies go with the visiting card of directors they’ve worked with, but for me, George and Ruben, who are a part of this film, are my visiting cards (laughs).”
The film has Vishal playing an army man. “After he came on board, I had to consider his mass image. He has sent thousands of rowdies to the skies. I had to tweak the script a bit, but as the film is about a technical subject, I’ve made his character someone the audience can relate to,” says Mithran. The film also stars Arjun in a negative role. “When Arjun sir realised we wanted him to play villain, he refused to listen to the story, and pick up calls (laughs). Then we approached Arya who initially agreed but backed off because he didn’t think a negative role was a good idea. So, I returned to Arjun sir.”
Arjun, incidentally, had just called Ruben to congratulate him for doing a good job with the teaser of his 150th film, Nibunan. “Ruben asked him for a favour and got him to agree to a narration of this script. But even then, he told me not to have high hopes. After the narration, he said he’ll do it,” says Mithran, who shares that Arjun won’t be playing a ‘regular villain’.
The director was also keen that the rest of the cast be made of faces Vishal hasn’t collaborated with too much. That’s how Delhi Ganesh, Robo Shankar, and Samantha got on board. “Originally, I planned to set the story in an IT company but after I got the army angle for Vishal, I roped in Samantha to play a psychologist who takes anger management sessions.” Mithran is also excited about having roped in Yuvan Shankar Raja as the composer. “My playlists have always been full of his songs. I can say his music guided me through my adolescence.”
With as many big names in a debut film, Mithran admits to feeling pressurised from the first day of the shoot. “I was overwhelmed and worried. Whatever confidence I had till then, crumbled on the first day.” But the director says he learned the tricks of the trade immediately and never felt uncomfortable after that. “It’s been two years now already. We’ve crossed many barriers and finished the film. And now, we have another hurdle in the form of the strike. Intha padam moonu election eh paathuruku, moonu strikeyum paathuruku,” says Mithran, whose next is with Udhayanidhi Stalin.