Meet Soundarya Rajnikanth, director of VELLAI ILLA PATTADHARI 2 — Interview by Mythily Ramachandran (Exclusive)

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Soundarya Rajnikanth headshotA career in films was inevitable for Soundarya Rajnikanth, the youngest daughter of Rajnijanth, the Tamil actor who is fondly nicknamed ‘Superstar” in India. Soundarya stepped out of her father’s shadow in 2014 to direct her first film, Kochadaiiyaan, an animated period film with her father in the lead. This film, shot with motion-capture technology, is a first in the history of Indian cinema. Director Soundarya returns with her second feature, the live action Vella Illa Pattadhari 2 (Unemployed Graduate), the sequel to the eponymous Tamil blockbuster, Vella Illa Pattadhari, which was released in 2015.

VIP 2 is scripted by Dhanush, the noted Indian national award winning actor who reprises his role as Raghuvaran from part one, and who is currently doing his first Hollywood film.

Adding to the hype of VIP 2 is the presence of Bollywood’s star, Kajol. She returns to south Indian cinema after two decades. The trailers of VIP 2 show Kajol as Vasundhara, an arrogant and stylish business tycoon who locks horns with Raghuvaran.

Read what filmmaker Soundarya has to say about VIP 2, which releasing world over on August 11.

How was it making a commercial film after ‘Kochadaiiyaan?

Kochadaiiyaan is my first baby and I am proud to say that ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ will always be known as the first film in Indian history to use motion- capture – technology. There were many challenges in its making and in trying to explain the technology to people. I put in so much effort and when it was not well received, it hurt.
‘VIP 2’ is a live action film. The process of making is different from that of ‘Kochadaiiyaan.’ Working with Kajol and Dhanush is a dream come true. The experience was amazing.

vip2 poster tamilA sequel brings its challenges. How did you deal with it?

Comparison with the first part is inevitable with a sequel. When Dhanush, (he wrote the story of VIP 2) discussed it with me, initially I was apprehensive for two days. I wondered: ‘Can I? Should I? I believed in the script. It’s an extended version of Raghuvaran’s life. I love Raghuvaran, his world, and his family. So, I was confident of pulling it off.

In the second part, we have retained the street-smart Raghuvaran from part one- the witty guy everyone could relate to. Now Raghuvaran is not an unemployed graduate only, he is married too. What are his new challenges make up part two. VIP is a franchise that is never going to go and if given a chance I would love to direct VIP 3 and VIP 4 too.

How was it directing Kajol?

During my discussions with Dhanush on the characters of Vasundhara in VIP 2 the first person who came to my mind was Kajol. Vasundhara is a stylish, confident and self-made woman. As a director, I wanted someone who could be just that. en we met her she was initially not keen since she was not familiar with Tamil (a south Indian language). After two days, she agreed to do the film. She found speaking Tamil very difficult. During filming, I described every scene and explained the Tamil lines to her in English. I guided her on the modulation for Tamil words. She is a dedicated artiste. She was Vasundhara not just when the camera was rolling but even after the takes.

And working with Dhanush?

We are best friends when we are not working together. We often discuss stories and are creatively compatible.
A relationship between a writer and director is akin to that between a music composer and a lyricist. There are two creative minds here and there will be creative differences. However, in the beginning we decided to agree to disagree. We met at a common point as writer and director to do what’s best for the film. Dhanush is a senior actor and more experienced so there were times when I accepted that he knew better. Once we locked the script he gave me full freedom. Having been a director himself, he knows that there can be only one captain of the ship.

Did you face any gender discrimination?

Not at all. I worked with senior actors like Vivek and Samudrakani, both accomplished performers. But they never made me feel like a new director or a woman. Samudrakani who is a producer, director, and an award-winning actor often checked with me if his shots were to my satisfaction.

What do you feel about women in cinema?

The idea that a female director can only make women-centric stories should go. It’s not male or female but the subject and the vision that counts. I wish to see this broken soon. I also want to see more women in this industry, not merely in the costume department but in other spheres like editing, cinematography and more. For ‘VIP 2’ I balanced my team with more women as production designers and assistant directors.

What do you enjoy most producing or directing?

I started off as a Producer with the Tamil film, Goa. But being a creative person, I enjoy direction. I have always been a visual person. In my mind, everything runs as visuals not as a text.

You are beautiful, have you not considered acting?

Of course, I am open to acting. There were acting offers couple of years ago, but I did not take it up. But if something good comes up, why not? It’s such a creative and evolving industry to be in.

What’s next?

I have a wish list and would like to work with few people and that includes Ajith (Tamil star). It’s the script that will ultimately decide.

mithilyMythily Ramachandran, a Chennai based Indian journalist, is a regular columnist for Gulf News, a leading UAE daily. When this crazy film buff is not catching up with films, she is snooping around for those little-known stories of human interest, which eventually find a place in the Weekend Review of Gulf News.

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