‘Vaaranam Aayiram inspired me to make Star’

Director Elan, along with actors Aaditi Pohankar, Preity Mukhundhan, speak about their recent release Star, their unique connection to the story, and more
Preity Mukhundan, Elan and Aaditi Pohankar
Preity Mukhundan, Elan and Aaditi Pohankar

Stories about the struggle of chasing a dream are perhaps more intoxicating than the ones that glorify the glitz and glamour of stardom. Elan’s sophomore directorial Star, is one such story that captures the relentless pursuit of one man to make it into the film industry. While the protagonist, played by Kavin, dreams of becoming an actor, one wonders why the director chose to write the central character as an aspiring actor and not as a filmmaker, like himself.

While many shy away from revealing their lofty dreams, Elan gives us an honest answer, “I myself dream of becoming an actor someday.” Preity Mukhundan, who plays Meera Malarkodi in the film, is fresh off her foray into the spotlight. Marking her debut with Star, Preity reveals that the premise of the film is something she could relate to.

“I wouldn’t say I relate to every aspect of Kavin’s Kalai in the film but I deeply understand how a passion grips someone and slowly grows to take over every aspect of their life, and that was portrayed emphatically in the film” she says. Elan interjects to add, “We wanted the story to broadly talk about chasing any dream and not just that of an actor.”

When we think of a newbie entering the film industry, the image of a wide-eyed dreamer with a lot of hopes and expectations comes to mind. However, Preity reveals that her countenance was quite the opposite. “I had no big expectations but after I entered the (film) industry, I realised I had an ocean of things to learn.

Initially, I had no idea how to explore the various aspects of the industry and it took me a while to even learn what I had to learn,” explains Preity. Director Elan adds, “The wisdom to know that you have a lot to learn is what stops a dream from becoming a hopeless fantasy. And such pragmatism only comes from intense self-analysis. Everyone should have a dream to aspire but having just that without self reflection makes us out of touch with reality, and that’s how you end up with people who lose their way.”

Actor Aaditi Pohankar, who plays Surabi in Star, points out that one should not confuse pragmatism with intense planning, “Because that never works out.” She continues, “I started with theatre and then I was cast in the Marathi film, Lai Bhaari, and then took some time off because I had a knee injury and that was a big issue for me because at the time, I was a state level sprinter for seven years.

After the break I went back to theatre, and after trying out a number of projects, I landed She and now I’m in Star. You cannot plan such a career trajectory, and yet you think you can.” Speaking of plans and preparations, the actor confesses that you do need to prepare for certain things. “When I signed on to the project, I did not know Tamil and I worked diligently to learn the language ever since.

I have a lengthy monologue in the film and I practised it so many times that my sister was fed up with me,” she laughs. On how she prepares dialogue delivery in a language she does not know, Aaditi says, “I try to capture the emotion and emotions are universal, especially when it comes to something like love. So when you capture that point there are many directions you can go from there.”

While all films are autobiographical in some way, Elan reveals that a part of the film is actually inspired by his father Pandian’s journey into the film industry, who made his acting debut playing a supporting role in the 2013 film Raja Rani. Kavin’s father in the film, played by Lal, is inspired by Pandian. While the character is supposed to be a docile, supportive father, Elan reveals that Lal is intimidating in person.

“Lal sir is tall and has a deep voice so we used to joke around on the sets about how no one should mess with him, even our cinematographer Ezhil Arasu was scared of him initially,” he laughs. He then adds, “But he is such a sweet person at heart and is fun to work with.” On the note of inspirations, Elan says, “Vaaranam Aayiram was one of my biggest inspirations to make Star.

The film opens with a card that says ‘Dedicated to my late father’, and I was watching it with my father. I remember thinking I should make a film like that and dedicate it to my father.” The director did not just dedicate Star to his father but also created a pivotal character inspired by him, and also cast him in a supporting role, a fitting tribute.

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The New Indian Express