S. Ravikumar, whose Mudinja Ivana Pudi has just released, tells me that he has nothing to prove to anybody and that his track record speaks for itself
Excerpts of the conversation in video
Before answering the first question, K. S. Ravikumar mentions that he isn’t altogether comfortable with speaking in English. I tell him he’s free to talk in Tamil. He smiles and goes on, “No, Mudinja Ivana Pudi has nothing to do with Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, and no, there isn’t much riding on the film for me.” He believes in leaving “all that to fate. That swing scene in Padaiyappa is thought to be legendary today. But only I know that it wasn’t conceived so in the script. It all just fell into place on the sets,” he says. The scene, he reveals, was inspired by an incident in Ramayana that has Hanuman fashioning a seat for himself using his tail after being insulted at Ravana’s palace. Ravikumar has always been happy to take stories from other people. “Even my first film, Puriyaadha Pudhir, was a remake.”
He is also a firm believer in the system of writing stories to suit heroes. “That’s how I have made successful films like Muthu, Thenali, Padaiyappa, Villain, Varalaaru and Avvai Shanmughi. The story has to be tailored to suit the hero’s image and his body language. I cannot give a Kamal story to Rajini or vice-versa.” Rajini, for instance, wouldn’t be right in Panchathanthiram, he says. Similarly, Mudinja Ivana Pudi was written to do justice to Sudeep’s image—in his case, images: that of a superstar in Kannada cinema, and a villain in Tamil cinema. But Ravikumar admits that there are “filmmakers, these days, who are attempting to break the image of certain heroes.” He denies he’s talking about Kabali, a film he wasn’t particularly delighted with. “It was neither a Rajinikanth film nor a Ranjith film. Sure, it was a good don film but a film like Mullum Malarum did more to break the image of Rajini. I loved Rajini’s performance though.”
Mudinja Ivana Pudi was supposed to have been made three years back, but “I was approached for Lingaa, and Sudeep and the producer were kind enough to wait till the film was made.” Lingaa, incidentally, was aired recently on Tamil television last week, and “lots of people called to tell me that they really liked the film.” Ravikumar was far from happy. “Where were these people when the film was released? I guess sometimes, it takes a while before a film can get appreciated.” He says Panchathanthiram suffered the same fate too. I can’t help but ask if he thinks Lingaa was ahead of its time. “Sure, but I won’t compare it to Panchathanthiram.”
Mudinja Ivana Pudi is Ravikumar’s first-ever bilingual (“Sudeep insisted that we make it a bilingual, as I’m a popular Tamil director”), and his first film in Kannada. Parallels can be drawn to director P. Vasu, who after making the disastrous Kuselan with Rajinikanth, went to Kannada cinema to prove himself again. “I don’t need to prove myself after all these years. I don’t intend to sound arrogant, but in the last 26 years, I’ve never had to approach any actor to do a film. I’ve been busy; there was a time when I was making a film every three months, and I had no time to react the success and failure of my films.” While technology has improved many aspects of filmmaking, Ravikumar says it has made the process slower. “If we were mixing eight tracks back then, we now have 124 tracks. It’s not possible for a director to make four films a year any more.”
Mudinja Ivana Pudi will be a typical Ravikumar film, he says. “Like a kalyana saapaadu. There will be a bit of everything for everybody. People will come out of the theatres feeling entertained.” He says it’s important not to depress people, “as they do in television serials”, if films are to make money, which he frankly admits is the reason he’s making films. “My family is into business; I am in the movie business. Along with making money for my producer, if I’m able to tell a decent story and make a name for myself, why not?” He also has no qualms admitting that he considers his peak period as a director to be over. But he is a man of fierce pride. That’s why he never really switched to speaking in Tamil during this conversation, despite his opening disclaimer. That’s why he ends the conversation with, “I leave it to fate to decide if I’m meant to have another shot at the top.”
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