Exclusive: Pa Ranjith on how he handled the politics in Kaala and Rajinikanth's contrasting political ideology
After assisting director Venkat Prabhu on films such as Chennai 28, Saroja and Goa, filmmaker Pa Ranjith made an acclaimed directorial debut through the youthful, rooted romance drama Attakathi. With his sophomore feature Madras, Ranjith made everyone sit up and take notice of his work. He announced his arrival as a strong filmmaking talent loud and clear. Madras landed him an opportunity to collaborate with superstar Rajinikanth in gangster drama Kabali, which raked in the moolah at offshore markets and could not live up to the expectations in Tamil Nadu.
Now, Ranjith and Rajinikanth have joined forces for the second consecutive time, for another gangster film Kaala, which is all set to hit screens on 7 June worldwide. Talking to Firstpost in this exclusive chat, Ranjith quickly clarifies the genre, "Kaala is not a gangster film. It is a family drama about a person living with his wife, four sons and grandchildren in Dharavi. There's a lot of emotional undercurrent in the family's bonding. Even little happenings in our families usually give us great happiness. Kaala is replete with such beautiful instances that reflect our lives and families."
Talking about how he came on board to helm Rajinikanth for the second time, Ranjith recalled, "Kabali got mixed reviews and questions were raised about the politics I portrayed in the film. After Kabali, I was in talks with Studio Green for my next movie. It was then I received a call from Soundarya Rajinikanth. Rajini sir wanted to meet me. When I met him, and we were talking about Kabali. To my surprise, Rajini sir himself asked me, 'Shall we do the next film?' I was delighted to hear those words from him."
Strongly refuting reports that Kaala is based on neither Haji Mastan nor Thiraviyam Nadar, Ranjith explained, "Dharavi is a place which houses several cultural, ethnic and linguistic groups from across the country. Kaala is a fictional story and not based on any individual. In fact, I drew inspiration for the titular character from my grandfather Panjhaatcharam. He was an important person in our village. He had immense respect for the land he lived in. He was fearless and would never think twice to come forward if there's a problem for his people. I grew up watching his inspiring personality."
While Kabali was set in the backdrop of Malaysia, Kaala entirely happens in Dharavi although the makers filmed only for 15 days there. Extensive portions of the film were shot in a massive slum set erected in Chennai. "Kaala is about the politics surrounding the land, especially the slums in cities and, the lives of slum-dwelling people. Land rights is an issue throughout India and all over the world too. When Commonwealth Games were conducted in Delhi, a lot of people were forced to relocate. The first target of urbanization has always been the slums. It is not just the issue of Tamil Nadu people; it happens all over the country. Brazil's Rio de Janeiro which houses world's biggest slums had to undergo the same ordeal during 2016 Olympics."
About choosing Dharavi as the backdrop, Ranjith said, "In Mumbai, there is a daily struggle between the people who live in chawls and the people living in apartments. So I wanted to speak about this through my cinema and I wanted to show this from India's biggest slum."
Ranjith says while he had certain apprehensions about conveying certain things to Rajinikanth during Kabali, he gained more confidence in Kaala. "Before shooting Kaala, I had clearly told him about my expectations. I was very confident about what I needed this time and how I was going to do it. And I attribute my confidence to the space Rajini sir gave me."
Ranjith also heaped praise on Rajinikanth for providing him complete creative freedom despite being a massive star. "As a director, I always had my liberty. Rajini sir never interfered in it. A superstar like him giving me the freedom I need is of paramount importance for a filmmaker like me. Yes, he will have his apprehensions and ponder a lot about how the messages he delivers onscreen will be received. We used to have healthy discussions."
Talking about his contrasting political ideologies with Rajinikanth, Ranjith stated, "Rajini sir is a person who sees cinema purely as an entertainment medium and business. He has also advised me to direct more films and then convey the politics I have in my mind. He is keen on making interesting movies in a commercial space. When we discuss a shot his thoughts would always be about how his fans would receive that scene."
On a concluding note, Ranjith lauded Rajinikanth's commitment as an actor. "It's quite natural for any actor to enjoy the unparalleled stardom he has achieved. But Rajini sir is a committed artist and always stays grounded. His punctuality to the shooting spot would surprise us. Kaala had a lot of physically demanding shooting schedules, but Rajini sir never showed fatigue and maintained the same level of keenness like a newcomer."
Updated Date: Jun 06, 2018 09:12 AM