Director Gautham Menon on Kollywood controversies, the Tamil Ranbir Kapoor and women in his films
Gautham Vasudev Menon started his career as a director with Minnale in 2001 and since then, there’s been no looking back. His impressive filmography includes Vaaranam Aayiram, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (VTV), Kaakha Kaakha and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. Most actors in the Tamil film industry want to work with him because a film with Gautham sets their career on a different path and gives them an image makeover.
The ability to work successfully across numerous genres - from romantic dramas to action thrillers - makes Gautham special in the film industry today. His recent Yennai Arindhaal, starring Ajith, was a big hit at the box office and he is already working on two new projects, Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada (with Simbu) and Dhruva Natchathiram with Vikram. At 42, Gautham has seen both success and controversies, and he takes it all in his stride. Although he usually prefers to let his movies do the talking, this time, director chatted candidly about the controversies, his current films and the women in his films. Read on.
In your films, you focus a lot on the romantic track between the couple. Do you draw on your own life experience?
I can’t draw a lot from life because lots of things are personal, but somewhere it’s inspired by and reflects how I look at women. I stick to the idea of how I see a woman and how I’d like the woman to be on screen, be it Reema Sen in Minnale or Anushka and Trisha in Yennai Arindhaal. Even if I break away and show a different kind of woman, it’ll still be lovely and respectable. My idea of romance is exactly what you see on screen.
The women in your films are beautiful and simple, and yet strong and independent.
It’s because I grew up with two sisters and have heard almost every conversation from guys to clothes. I’ve also seen my mom who’s strong and fiercely independent even though she’s a family person. She’s 70 and still works! Even the women I have brought on board to work with me are independent and strong. They all have their own issues of course. Even in my films all the women also have problems within themselves, but this everybody goes through. I try to keep it real as possible.
So what’s your perception of women?
I don’t see women being different from what men are or weak. But when it comes to love, they end up falling in love with the wrong guy! I think it’s very important for women to identify the right man because I’ve heard most women say ‘what a jerk he turned out to be’. And the good women don’t end up falling in love with the right guys!
You’ve worked with Suriya, now Ajith. Unfortunately, Yohan with Vijay was dropped. Would you still work with him?
Why not? They’re big draws and you need a big draw to get your film going across multiple screens, get the audience out of their homes, etc. You can get away with a small actor and lots of word of mouth publicity and pushing theatres to hold onto screens, but with Ajith, Vijay, Suriya, Kamal or Rajini, you get that buzz right away. I’m just riding that wave.
Vijay has a certain method – you need to give him the bound script and then he has to envision it. Strangely, I don’t work like that. I start with a 60 to 70 % script and it starts evolving once I get into it – once I get to know the actor’s body language, what he puts into it, etc, I change around a lot of things. I know it’s wrong, but I’m conditioned to work like that.
Why did the fallout happen with Suriya? You’ve both been good friends.
I can understand people who don’t know me asking for a full bound script, but someone like Suriya asking me was a little difficult for me because that’s how we worked for Kaakha Kaakha and Vaaranam Aayiram. So I think he’ll know what I can do as a director by now.
I told him Dhruva Natchathiram was almost a full script and we’ll discuss and take it forward as we shoot. I thought for one, he should’ve understood that. I was ok with all the questions he had because he was coming from two films that hadn’t done well and some insecurity is bound to happen. We went to shoot and then, he said no. That was disappointing.
I have no issues from my side. After he put out that statement, I met him and said you shouldn’t have put that out, but we’ll work together at some other point. Suriya wants a complete bound script and I don’t mind giving it to him and then working on my terms.
What’s the status on the film with Vikram?
We have finalised things 99%. We’ll be doing Dhruva Natchathiram with Vikram because he really loved the script. Nayanthara will be playing the lead actress. It’s something you haven’t seen on screen before, but it’s not a risky experimentation. When this movie comes out, the idea itself hopefully will catch the audience by surprise.
You’re working with Simbu in Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada. VTV changed his image. Will this movie do that too?
I want him to get into an action space now after VTV. It starts off as a love story and then gets into a violent / action space. Simbu’s capable of absolutely anything. If you ask me, he’s the Ranbir Kapoor of south India. But he doesn’t know that, which is good in a way.
The last few years you’ve been plagued by controversies. Did you think at any point you should get out of films?
No, never! The issues that we dealt with happen to every production house. In the middle of all these so-called issues, why would Ajith call me and say let’s do a film together? It’s not like people didn’t want to work with me.
There was a certain perception that the company is going through a bad phase and financiers backed off without realising that if they had come on board and given us the money to complete the films, we would have sorted out all the issues with the films’ release. Tamilselvanum Thaniyar Anjalum with Jai and Courier Kalyan with Nitin are very sweet films and they’re up for release now. It’s a lesson for me that just because people have money, you can’t work with them. There’s a certain class one has to maintain in the industry is what I believe right now.
Your two Bollywood films - Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein and Ekk Deewana Tha - didn’t click at box office. Would you look at Hindi films now?
Why not? Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein did really well on TV and as for Ekk Deewana Tha, I think Prateik Babbar was the wrong choice. Of course, he can turn around and say the director wasn’t good. (Laughs) Next time around hopefully it will be with an established star actor for the film to get noticed. But I’d love to do a Hindi film with an established actor like Ranbir Kapoor or Akshay Kumar.
Updated Date: Mar 30, 2015 12:09 PM