Mersal producer Hema Rukmani: 'Vijay performed all the magic tricks himself, there's no CGI'
Producer Hema Rukmani of Thenandal Studios Limited, is in the midst of spearheading a comprehensive promotional strategy for TSL's 100th production Mersal — and tackling the various roadblocks that come up in the days before a film's release. The producer sat down for a chat with Firstpost about the last-minute issues surrounding the project, Vijay's readiness to walk the extra mile, and director Atlee's portrayal of women characters.
"Regardless of the budget of a film, we always go through this pre-release tension. It's all part and parcel of the process. Just because it's a big budget film, it's magnified. The problem depends on how big the budget and the target is. Every producer faces hell and heaven before the film hits the screens. And, everybody is in touch with us; we are all friends and working towards it. Lakhs of people have put in their efforts for the film, and we have all their support," Hema Rukmani told Firstpost.
Even if you hardly follow Tamil film industry, the odds are that you might have stumbled upon some of the promotional campaigns of Team Mersal. In fact, the film marks a lot of firsts for the southern film industry. Mersal is the first South Indian movie to trademark its title. It also has a character emoji curated by Twitter for various movie-related hashtags.
"Since it is our 100th film, we decided to do something as innovative as possible. We have a very young and vibrant team, and Murali (Murali Ramasamy, CEO of Thenandal Films and Rukmani's husband) is very passionate about doing things differently. He contributed a lot of ideas himself, and I executed some of those. Today we are glued to Facebook and Twitter, so instead of us trying to market our film, we decided to give that happiness to Vijay sir's fans, because they celebrate Vijay sir more than anyone. Now they are promoting the film, and it's a tremendous team working for the film's success," said Hema.
Although a lot of issues plague the release of the film, Hema says actor Vijay is quite upbeat, in a positive frame of mind and is calmly looking forward to the movie's release on 18 October, in time for Diwali.
"Vijay sir is thrilled with the kind of comfort we as a production company provided him, the support his fans lent during the audio launch, the amount of work Atlee has contributed and Rahman sir's music. He is delighted and looking forward to the Diwali release," said Hema.
Hema said Vijay didn't have starry airs at all and was very cooperative on set. She was part of the entire Europe schedule, where significant portions have been canned, as the on-site producer.
"Vijay sir liked the serenity of Europe. The hotel we stayed was above a shopping mall, and he even asked us if there's any good shop to purchase things. But I don't think we gave him the time to shop [smiles]. He was very cooperative and always there on time for the shoot, every single day. Irrespective of how strenuous the previous day was, he had never asked us to reschedule or postpone the shoot. Rain or shine, he was there," recalled Hema.
The off-screen to on-screen transformation of Vijay has surprised a lot of his co-stars in the past. Hema Rukmani, who watched him perform at close quarters in Europe, was taken aback by the firebrand performer in him the moment the camera started rolling.
"In Chennai, I mostly had to witness his performance live on the monitor since hundreds of people will surround him. But in Europe, I got the chance to behold the magic. It was such a revelation for me when the calm Vijay would transform into something else after the word 'action'. If there were any technical glitches and we ask him for one more (shot), there would always be a lovely improvisation. And his sense of continuity was unbelievable. For others, we have to remember the shot, but for him, it was never needed," said Hema.
Vijay's equation with children has been a favourite theme to explore for filmmakers who have worked with him over the years. Atlee, who sketched his debut collaboration with Vijay (Theri) on a father-daughter equation, has written a magician's role in the film for the star, which is said to be a major attraction for kids.
"Vijay sir insisted that he would do the magic tricks himself. There were three magicians on the set. Raman, an Indian-Canadian magician, was utterly zapped and said that Vijay sir learned the tricks faster than he did. He said he was glad that Vijay sir was not in this profession [laughs]. He possesses the style, so it was just a cakewalk for him. I guess there are around 16 magic scenes and no CGI was employed; Vijay sir entirely did the sequences by himself," revealed Hema Rukmani, about one of the three roles essayed by Vijay in the film.
Prod her about the most talked-about panchayat head role played by Vijay in the film, Hema said, "When we saw him on the sets with the rudraksha and holy ashes, we seriously felt like greeting him in respect. I told him a hundred times that it's his best look. A mass hero should be an excellent performer for the audiences to believe that he is larger than life. Vijay sir is one such performer. Whenever a superstar takes on a villager's role, we like it a lot. There is some naivety about him in that part, with innate goodness."
In Mersal, Vijay will be seen opposite Nithya Menen in the 50-minute flashback portion of the film. He also co-stars with Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Kajal Aggarwal, who are teaming up with him for the third time.
"I think the star couple of this movie would be Vijay-Nithya Menen. Even after the film gets over, their sequences will linger in your mind. Nithya Menen represents every innocent married woman. Kajal and Vijay sir will be bubbly and cute together onscreen. It will be kind of a classy portion. Sam and Vijay sir's sequence have much importance in the film. Despite her wedding preparations, Samantha has dubbed in her own voice and done a great job," concludes Hema.