Director Mohan Raja, whose last film Thani Oruvan smashed box office records on its way to success, is now busy with the shoot of his next film with Sivakarthikeyan, Nayanthara and Fahadh Faasil. In the midst of intense team discussions, Mohan Raja takes time to talk exclusively to SouthScope about his upcoming project…
His last film with his brother Jayam Ravi in the lead, Thani Oruvan, did not just set cash registers ringing at the box office, but also got a quite a number of people thinking about their societal responsibilities. That was possible because Thani Oruvan’s message was not just strong and right, it was also loud and clear.
Now, Raja, the man behind that message, will be challenging his limits again as he works on his next film with Sivakarthikeyan, Nayanthara and Fahadh Fasil. This time, Raja is looking to make the message even stronger and much louder.
Says Raja, “My messages are always centered on individuals. I believe in a single man’s ethics. I don’t like to blame anybody or anything. If we start to blame, we will have a 100 reasons to blame. Instead, I am someone who looks to see what best an individual can do to set the situation right. For instance, in Thani Oruvan, I had put across the message, “Do not close your nose because of the stench. Instead, have the guts to call it stench and do what you, as an individual, can do to clean it, even if means being able to clean only a little.’ I am someone who believes any change starts from a single person and my next film will also emphasise this point.”
Giving out more details, he says, ” My last film Thani Oruvan revolved around a self-sufficient person, who thought about society. I wanted to raise the question, ‘Now that I am self -sufficient,why should I not think about society? ‘ I did just that through the film and many people found that hugely inspiring. Now, my next film will be about a guy who is in such a position that if he thinks about anything other than his work, then his next meal will go for a toss.”
Raja admits that he is actually exploring a part of the self-actualisation theory. “Can a guy who is not self-sufficient achieve self-actualisation is what I am exploring in this film,” he says and points out that this will be even more challenging to make than Thani Oruvan.
But is this even possible? Can a man who is not self sufficient think about society? “My film will answer that question. This screenplay will be even more interesting,” he says and explains why he chose this theme.
“My strategy is to make films that both inspire and entertain. Thani Oruvan had something for everybody. While self-sufficient people got inspired by it, the majority of the audience, which is not self-suffiicient, took it as entertainment. As self-sufficient people are a minority in our society, the change won’t be big and the result won’t be big. If I want the change to be big, I must troubleshoot where it matters. I have to address the majority and inspire them. Therefore, I have chosen this story where the hero is not self sufficient”
So, why did he chose Sivakarthikeyan for this challenging film?
Says Mohan Raja, ” It was a mutual thing and had to happen. I had this story for him on the one hand and he, very kindly, came over and expressed his desire to work with me. The mutual respect that we have for each other firmed up the decision. He is the best choice for this story that I am doing as this story’s elements will accentuate his strengths.”
Mohan Raja thinks highly of Sivakarthikeyan, who he says, has presence of mind. ” His presence of mind is what appeals to me. He is spontaneous and has a unique way of handling situations. Even while doing mimicry on stage, he would not just change his voice but also come up with innovative ideas. He has learnt a lot and evolved quickly. Moreover, he deeply believes in this message that we are looking to put forth in this film and is like me, naturewise.”
The other important topic of interest is the fact that Fahadh plays the antagonist in the film.
Says Raja, “It isn’t a villain’s role exactly. His character in this film has grey shades. His character in the film has been given nice treatment and has a complete structure. We chose him because we were inspired by his performance. Both the producer of this film and I felt that he was the best choice. I had him in my mind and the producer also suggested his name. This character has multiple shades and I needed someone who was versatile and who could mould himself into the character and bring out all the shades.”
While in Thani Oruvan, the hero was a police officer and therefore had power, what power will a simple man struggling for his next meal have for him to change society? The question of money or postional power does not arise. The only other power that is available is intellectual power. Is Sivakarthikeyan’s character that of a super smart guy in this film?
Says Raja, “The biggest power is that of compassion. It can actually change everything. Compassion can make you do anything and this has been proven by social experiments. Necessity makes you invent ways to meet your needs and the intensity of your compassion is what determines the outcome.”
So what can Sivakarthikeyan fans expect from this film?
“They can expect what all they like in him. I am not going to reduce the dosage. However, he will also be showcasing a serious side in this film. It will be the story of an ordinary man in a really extraordinary situation,” says Raja, who is as always spot on with his homework.
“Last time, I employed one firm to do research before firming up the facts of my story. This time, we have employed two firms to do research and give us facts. These two research teams have been at work for the last four months,” he says.
Shooting will get over by April. “In May, we will film songs,” says Raja, who goes on to add that they will be shooting one song in Malaysia. “The story is set in Chennai by and large. There is one scene that has to be shot abroad. We haven’t decided if we will be shooting that in Malaysia or Europe,” he signs off.