Petta director Karthik Subbaraj on bringing back Rajinikanth of the '90s: Won't sacrifice content for mass appeal

Surendhar MK

Jan 11, 2019 08:33:02 IST

When Karthik Subbaraj was announced as the next director to helm Rajinikanth, Thalaivar fans were an excited lot, since Karthik has always been a self-confessed fan of the superstar. He is one of the most exciting contemporary filmmakers in Tamil cinema who delivered breakthrough scripts in Pizza, Jigarthanda and Iraivi. Although his Mercury opened to mixed reviews, it was another solid attempt at a silent film. Now, his dream movie Petta, starring Rajinikanth and produced by Sun Pictures, has released during the extended Pongal festival weekend.

Rajinikanth in a still from Petta. YouTube

Rajinikanth in a still from Petta. YouTube

"Petta will bring back the good old charisma and vintage style elements of Thalaivar on screen. The mass appeal, which some of the fans probably missed in his good films like  Kabali and Kaala  will be seen in Petta. But, when I say that, I also promise that the content won't get overshadowed by the mass appeal in the film's making," Karthik told Firstpost. 

Rajinikanth plays a hostel warden in a college. "I can't reveal much about the storyline. Petta is a story I wrote specifically by keeping Rajini sir in mind. We have paid a lot of tributes to some of his classic old films. In fact, the character Kaali that he plays in the movie is a tribute to Mullum Malarum," said Karthik.

The theatrical trailer of Petta received an overwhelming response on the internet, with many praising Subbaraj for bringing back the Rajinikanth from the '90s. "The main takeaway from Petta will be Rajinism. Audiences will feel Rajinified, and that was our main intention from the beginning. Thalaivar fans will celebrate Rajini sir to the core in the film. It's a complete Rajini sir film and will brim with his energy and histrionics. I grew up as a diehard fan of Rajini sir right from my childhood. I'm someone who thoroughly enjoys all facets of Rajinikanth. His dialogue delivery, style statements, mannerisms, and everything. So, I have tried to bring everything that we associate with Rajini sir in Petta," stated Karthik.

Karthik assures that Petta will be enjoyed by family audiences too. "Petta has a strong story with a family backdrop. And, there are plenty of moments for fans to enjoy too. It will be a proper mass commercial entertainer. The treatment will be classy, and I would say Petta is a genuine mix of mass and class elements. Rajini sir is the one who defined the word 'mass,' and it'll be reiterated once again in my film. A lot of stunts are there in the film and Petta will also be definitely talked about for stunt master Peter Hein's work," he said.

The movie has an all-star cast including Trisha, Simran, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vijay Sethupathi, Bobby Simha, Sasikumar, Megha Akash and Malavika Mohanan in essential roles. "I didn't have any specific pressure to handle the extensive lead cast as I have handled multiple actors in Iraivi too. Every character in Petta plays a crucial role to take the narrative forward. Although Trisha will be seen briefly in the film, her role is pivotal to the storyline. Like everyone, I've always wanted to see Rajini sir and Simran ma'am on screen together. It's long due, and I'm happy that it's happening with Petta," he said.

Asked about working with his dream actor, Karthik said, "Initially, I was a little nervous. But Rajini sir made me really comfortable. He has the biggest positive aura, and there were times when I used to be jealous of my assistant directors since they used to spend more time with him than me on sets. He will spread that positive aura to everyone in the team when he's in the shooting spot."

After a pause, he further added, "Everyone has appreciated Rajini sir's humility and down-to-earth nature. I want to say that he's the most dedicated actor out there. He doesn't take his fans for granted. He constantly thinks of different ways to satisfy his fans in each dialogue and scene. His commitment to the craft is incredible. Petta is his 165th film, and he still used to practice and memorise his lines before performing his scenes. That's the kind of dedication I'm talking about."

"It's still surreal for me to have directed Rajini sir. It was because of him I entered the film industry. He was the first hero I fantasised on. So, Petta is a complete mass film mixed with a very classic style of making. I was very excited to watch Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Sethupathi perform in my movie. Nawaz is an outstanding performer. I'm sure audiences will also enjoy their scenes in the film," he said.

One of Karthik's unforgettable moments with Rajinikanth was when he received his first call from the Kabali actor after the release of Sethupathi-starrer Pizza. "I still remember the moment when he called me and appreciated for Pizza. I was on cloud nine. After hearing his voice on the phone, I was longing for a moment to meet him. When I made Jigarthanda, I received an opportunity to meet him on the sets of Lingaa in Karnataka. I was shocked when he said that he would have loved to play the Paratta character essayed by Bobby Simha in the film. That's when he asked if I have any script. It was the starting point. Petta is entirely a dream-come-true experience," he concluded.

Updated Date: Jan 11, 2019 08:33:02 IST