by Sreedhar Pillai
Kollywood-Bollywood director AR Murugadoss is on cloud nine.
His Diwali Tamil release Thuppakki with Vijay has taken a gargantuan opening and is being hailed by both the masses and the critics. The trade has declared it a super hit.
On the opening day, Thuppakki netted an impressive Rs 9.25 crore from Tamil Nadu alone. Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, who had a special screening at home, called up Murugadoss after watching the film and congratulated him for a “fantastic job and a brilliant film”.
The Kollywood grapevine has it that when Aamir Khan was first introduced to Murugadoss for Ghajini, he mistook him for a schoolboy! But soon, Amir realised that behind that boyish charm was a steely determination and enthusiasm to get his work done. The man from a small town in Tamil Nadu, Kallakurichi near Salem, is today one of India’s most wanted directors among Bollywood and southern superstars. He will be starting his next film with Akshay Kumar shortly, the Hindi remake of Thuppakki.
Take a look at Murugadoss’s awesome strike rate. His debut film Dheena (2001) with popular Tamil star Ajith was a super hit. It was followed by Ramanna (2002) with Vijaykanth (now the opposition leader in Tamil Nadu assembly) another super hit. Then came Ghajini (2005) with Suriya, which was a blockbuster. Next was Aamir Khan’s Hindi remake of Ghajini (2007), which is considered to be the first Rs 100 crore-club film in Bollywood. He has also done a hit film in Telugu, Stalin (2006), with megastar Chiranjeevi.
The only exception was his last Diwali release with Suriya in Tamil, the Sci-Fi thriller 7aum Arivu (2011), which was an average grosser. Now, the big budget specialist has bounced back with Thuppakki, which trade analysts feel has blockbuster written all over it.
In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Murugadoss opens up:
Q. Congratulations on the initial reports on Thuppakki.
I’m absolutely thrilled with the opening and the feedback I’m getting about Thuppakki. All sections of the audience are loving it and WOM (word of mouth) is strong. Right from the time I wrote the story, I was sure it will work and with Vijay agreeing to do the film, I was even more confident that it will be a hit.
Q. You have an impressive track record with superstars. What is the secret of your success at the box-office?
First and foremost, I believe content is king in commercial cinema. Today’s audiences want something fresh and innovative in story and presentation. I got the story idea of Thuppakki from 9/11 and 26/11 Mumbai attack, which happened due to meticulous planning and the use of sleeper cells. I found that terrorism is an industry by itself, and sleeper cells are there in many parts of the world to coordinate terrorist strikes. After my story was ready, I looked for the commercial packaging, which is important if you have to reach the mass audiences.
Q. So, story, big star and essential commercial elements are the ingredients for a super hit?
Yes, definitely a big star has the pull. The fans of the star initially buy a ticket to watch him in action and if the content is good, the film becomes a hit. In the case of Thuppakki, Vijay has a huge fan base, which helped the film to garner an opening.
However, the most difficult thing is to get the correct commercial mix, or what we call mass elements, to sync with the story. In the case of Thuppakki, there was comedy, romance, action and songs. The best of technicians added finesse to the product. The villain played by Vidyut Jamwal was as cunning and smart as the hero, and in the end he loses out only because of his ego, which made it believable. The ‘Google Google’ song, composed by Harris Jayaraj and sung by our hero Vijay along with Andrea, has become a chartbuster. I believe in telling a story under three hours with a popular star. It has to be engaging, interesting and at the same time, entertaining.
Q. How did you manage to rope in internationally reputed cinematographer Santosh Sivan and national award winning editor Sreekar Prasad to be part of the film?
(Smiles). Yes, it is a coup of sorts to work with national award winners such as Santosh Sivan and Sreekar Prasad. To work with Mani Ratnam’s cameraman and Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s editor is a dream come true. They agreed to do the film after I narrated my story to them. Today, a commercial film has to look rich and technically chic in all aspects. Santosh sir and Nani sir (Sreekar Prasad) have done a great job. Santosh Sivan has shot the film using digital cameras and has shot in never seen before seen Mumbai locations, while Nani sir's seamless editing with no jerks made a 2 hour 50 minutes film racy.
Q. What next?
I’m starting the Hindi remake of Thuppakki with Akshay Kumar and Parineeti Chopra in December for producer Vipul Shah. The technicians and the rest of the star cast are being finalised.
Q.The best compliment you received so far?
The one and only superstar Rajinikanth called me up after watching Thuppakki and said it was brilliant and a well-made entertainer. During my school and college days, I was a crazy fan of his and still remember watching his films first day first show!