Ajith does not treat me like a
the first time, you are doing a film with
a big star cast. How do you feel?
am happy and at the same time, a little anxious
too. My responsibilities are huge in Mankatha
as I have to satisfy Ajith sir’s fans
and also the general audience. This is what
we are targeting at and working towards it.
At the same time, it is also an enjoyable
experience as I know Ajith sir from the days
of Ji. We share a good rapport. Ajith is my
friend, well wisher and does not treat me
like a director but like a friend. He never
gave me a feeling that I am directing a big
star. He made it so cool and is very cool
with my boys too. He has put everybody at
ease which is the best part of him. During
shoots, he never goes into the caravan and
always sits outside, chatting with everyone.
Overall, it is a nice feeling.
Did you write
the script with Ajith in mind?
there are many directors waiting for Ajith,
how did you manage to rope him in?
since Ajith watched Chennai-28, he showed
interest in working with me. We tried in two
films but it did not take place. I don’t
know how it happened but it just happened
in an unexpected manner. I think it is pre-ordained
that I do Ajith’s 50th film. I feel
proud and happy about it.
It is pre-ordained that I do
Ajith’s 50th film
I had a script ready but it was not intended for Ajith.
He just heard the one line of this and opined that
it would be good if he did it. I call Ajith as Anna
and asked him, “Anna, do u really mean it, are
you serious?” Later I spoke to producers Durai
and Vivek and it was a pleasant jerk for all of us
because we had planned for an ensemble cast and were
skeptical about introducing such a big star into the
script. We had discussions and brought about changes
in the script which are necessary when a star comes
in. That’s why the project got delayed because
there are many artists and it is difficult to bring
everybody together and shoot. Yes… the script
was a little altered for Ajith sir although he told
me not to change it for his sake. I am also a big
fan of Ajith and would expect certain elements from
a fan’s point of view and would incorporate
all those in Mankatha. To sum it all, we had a script;
Ajith came along; we made a few changes for Ajith
sir and we are ready now.
Will there be
Venkat Prabhu style in Mankatha too?
You will have to watch and tell whether I have retained
my style or not. There may not be huge changes but
there would indeed be a few variations. Generally,
I am also very keen to bring about differences right
from the genre to film making in every film of mine.
Fortunately, it has come out that way now. Although
humor is the common thread that connects Chennai -28,
Saroja and Goa, their premise and the manner of narration
are different. Boys have fun in all my films which
will be there in Mankatha too. You can certainly perceive
the difference in Mankatha; that’s what we feel.
Hope you also feel the same way.
First there was
Nagarjuna and then it is Arjun. Who is actually there
Yes, initially we had told the story explaining about
the ensemble cast to Nagarjuna and he had also agreed.
Later when the shoot got delayed, there were some
date issues and he had wondered if we could shoot
his portion alone from March. But there were some
combination sequences also which would get affected
and we are working for a summer release on Ajith sir’s
birthday. Rains have also played spoilsport and we
have no control on such matters. Hence we needed to
look for an alternate and the next best choice was
Arjun. I know Arjun for a very long time right from
my school days and when I explained to him about the
date issues of Nagarjuna, he was kind enough to agree
and that’s how he came on board. We would start
shooting his portions from this month end. So it is
only due to date problems that Nagarjuna could not
do Mankatha and nothing else.
has said that she has missed Mankatha. Is Trisha her
No, the initial line of Mankatha was different and
Neetu Chandra’s role in it was perfect. When
I altered the script for Ajith sir, it was necessary
to modify certain components which brought about the
change in the character of the heroine with a different
personality. By then, Neetu had also started doing
Ameer’s film and I asked her if she could do
a different role in Mankatha. But date issues came
into play and it was not possible. More over, when
I wanted a heroine with a certain personality, I felt
Trisha was suitable and approached her. She also consented.
Hence the character that Neetu Chandra was supposed
to play and what Trisha is currently playing are totally
My forte is ensemble cast
have a unique style of film making. Is it
a conscious attempt?
No, it is not like that. My forte is ensemble
cast. Films like Italian job, Oceans Eleven,
Twelve and Thirteen are my kind and I almost
follow that style. Goa and Saroja were multi-starrers.
I have not yet come out of this although I
wish to do single hero subjects. Let’s
you think there is a danger of getting slotted
if you continue with ensemble cast?
think I can bring in variety in ensemble too.
With ensemble, it was street cricket in Chennai-28,
a kidnapping story in Saroja, a rom-com in
Goa. I am doing a more mature and responsible
theme in Mankatha which will still have the
entertainment value in tact. The manner of
narration is more significant. As I had said
earlier, I would like to do single hero subjects
too. However more than that, I want to do
films for children in 3 D format.
I want to do films for children
I want to do a film for my
daughter, her friends and all the
A certification was the saddest part for me
because I was not able to take my daughter to
the film. My daughter’s friend, a 3rd
grader, reproached me saying, “how dare
you take such movie” as she was not allowed
into the theatre. But I don’t think Goa
was such an adult rated film. They said it had
a mature content; but films with more mature
content had received U certificate. I pleaded
with the censor officials for a U/A. They said
there is a lot of drinking, bikini clad babes
and adult content which children should not
watch. I argued saying that TV already shows
such stuff but they did not agree. Hence I want
to do a film for my daughter, her friends and
all the kids. When my target audience is kids,
it is only natural that they come with their
parents and in the process you have a full house.
I have such desires, let’s see how things
there is no Sampath in Mankatha?
is no suitable role for Sampath in Mankatha
but I tried to cast him in a different one
and it did not work out well. Sampath is just
not there in this film of mine and he had
shouted at me enough for this. If I had to
have a role for him, it was like a repeat
of his character in Saroja which I did not
want. My earlier 3 films had a different role
for Sampath and I don’t want to waste
Sampath’s talent by giving him an ordinary
role in Mankatha. That’s the reason.
There is no suitable role for
Mankatha will go under the
black comedy genre
will be Premji’s signature statement
like that! I have slightly changed his looks
in Mankatha; there are many interesting things
and you need to watch the film to understand
it. Mankatha will go under the black comedy
genre. There is a lot of comedy and action
in Mankatha and it is a commercial entertainer.
I cannot say I have conceived an artistic
plot or anything like that. It is a fun film
and I am sure it will be a big treat for Ajith
sir’s fans. The usual elements of Premji
are abundant in this film. In the recent times,
Ajith sir’s comedy has not been utilized
fully and in Mankatha I have taken care to
bring that aspect out because by nature Ajith
is a humorous person. There will be many hilarious
moments and Mankatha will be a fun game for
Will you act again?
Absolutely no way! There is a character in Mankatha
and Ajith suggested I do it. I am not sure if I can
straddle the twin horses of action and direction.
I did not want to risk and have used another artist
for this. I am not keen to act. Samudirakani told
a story for me but when things are going smooth, why
rock the boat? As of now, I am happy in direction
and have the complete job satisfaction.
What do you think
of current trend in Tamil film industry?
It is good. There will always be rough and smooth
phases. I see a lot of changes and variety in the
industry. Prabhu Solomon rocked with Myna. The market
is getting bigger and Endhiran proved that a regional
film can be marketed big with many overseas prints.
Hindi films always enjoy a wider global audience than
Tamil films and in such a scenario Endhiran has certainly
taken Tamil films to the next higher level. This trend
is certain to usher in good films. When we enjoy Iranian
films, people in Iran also will watch Tamil films
and the ways to such trend are slowly getting unraveled.
In my opinion, we have good projects in hand but it
should reach global audience. And Tamil film industry
is definitely proceeding in that direction in terms
of film making, distribution and the pattern is very
similar to Hollywood. Over there, independent film
makers produce the film and release it through Warner
Brothers, Buena vista. In a similar vein, Cloud Nine,
Red Giant and Sun Movies operate here. Hence, make
films that you like it and distribute through major
players and get a wider audience. If we have more
distribution companies, then we will have lot of good
films and the trend will be healthier.
prove themselves well in their very first film, fade
out fast. Why is that so?
When a director makes his first film, he has lot of
time in hand. The time period comes down for subsequent
film. I don’t know if that’s the reason;
it was just an extempore answer. Every director gives
his best in every film. There is no doubt on that.
Some films reach the audience while some don’t.
Personally I liked Goa but it did do well like Chennai-28.
A thought of us is getting made into a film and some
are accepted and some don’t. That’s the
difference. Every director works hard; we can say
we are having fun making films but we definitely toil
hard but we enjoy it. I don’t get tensed or
angry in a big way. I feel bad when people tell we
boys succeed working playfully but we do work sincerely.