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'I do not want to do art films to prove my worth'

Saturday, December 13, 2014

In an informal interview in Goa where he was conferred with the Centenary award for the ‘Indian Personality of the Decade’ by the Government of India recently, the generally reticent Rajinikant tells JyothiVenkatesh about his experience as an actor while working in the film ‘Lingaa’

Reportedly , the world rights of the film 'Lingaa', produced by his old friend, Kannada producer Rockline Venkatesh were sold at Rs 160 crore to Eros International. Music of the film is scored by A R Rahman and the satellite rights are reported to have been procured by Jaya TV, known as a mouthpiece of AIADMK, the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, for a whopping Rs 32 cr. 'Lingaa', a period film set in the 1940s, has been released simultaneously in about 2,500 screens on Friday including 600 in state of Tamil Nadu alone, according to a tweet by Soundarya Rajinikanth, his daughter.

Lingaa has also been released in over 1,000 screens abroad and nearly 400 screens in north India, 750 in Andhra Pradesh, 250 in Kerala and more than 200 screens in Karnataka.

On whether he will work with Kamal Haasan in any film.
Basically Kamal and I are friends and we do not encroach on each other’s films. Also he is senior to me, having been in the industry as a hero for almost 45 years, apart from having acted as child artiste in several films, when I did not even know what this medium was all about. Kamal and I do not intend working together in any film, whether in Tamil or Hindi even though there have been several offers. After having acted in nearly eight films, it is like once bitten eight times shy. If any director wants to cast us together for what we are- actors, we are certainly ready but not to cash in on our saleability.

On his latest film 'Lingaa'.
'Lingaa' is an out and out action thriller film directed by K S Ravi Kumar who has also scripted the film in tandem with the dialogue writer Pon Kumaran. Besides me, the film, which is a revenge saga of a guy who seeks retribution, also has Anushka and Sonakshi Sinha in the lead roles. The story is regarding an 80 year old dam prepared by Raja Lingeshwaran in Kottaiyur, Tamil Nadu during the year 1944 which is shrouded by catastrophes as well as human casualties. In order to look into the reasons behind such mysteriousness, a probe is initiated which reveals numerous unsaid things about the dam and also the history related to it. Music has been composed by A R Rahman and the film has been made in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.

On the double roles that he plays in the film
Yes. I play a double role in the film. I play Raja as well as Lingeshwaran. One of the characters played by me will be related to pre-independence period while the other one will be contemporary one. Sonakshi Sinha will be seen pairing with the character related to pre-independence while Anushka Shetty will share the screen with the contemporary character.. It is very different from my earlier films. The principal photography of the film commenced during the last week of May 2014 in Mysore very soon after the release of 'Kochadaiiyyan'. A vast majority of the film was shot in Ramoji Film City while the climax portions were filmed in Shimoga.

On whether he is game to act in art films
I am not at all keen on doing art films. Only when a director is frustrated in not succeeding in commercial films he resorts to making a so called art film. But this does not mean that I do not admire certain filmmakers. I did admire the late Satyajit Ray and I do admire directors like Govind Nihalani, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal. Look at 'Ardh Satya'. It was definitely a mass oriented subject which was treated artistically. And it clicked tremendously because it held your interest. I admire makers like Ray and Sen who make films without resorting to compromises of any kind. According to me, just as Mahatma Gandhi is the father of the nation, Satyajit Ray is the father of the art cinema movement in the country. Girish Karnad, Govind Nihalani, Mrinal Sen etc follow Satyajit Ray’s style. However, I will never act in serious films’ like 'Maya Darpan', 'Uski Roti' or 'Aashaad Ka Ek Din'. It’s not at all my cup of tea. Thank you.

On completing 'Lingaa' in just six months.
'Kochadaiiyaan' was my last release. It took us a long time to complete the film because it was an animation film directed by my daughter Soundarya. It involved a lot of hard work by Soundarya as she had to work on a lot of VFX and special effects. I wanted to be part of a film which could be completed in a short period and when K S Ravi Kumar came up to me with the idea, I instantly agreed to do the film, as I felt that he was the perfect person to execute a big film like 'Lingaa'.

On roping Ratnavelu, the cameraman for 'Robot' to crank the camera for 'Lingaa'.
Yes. Producer Rockline Venkatesh and I were very particular that we should not be penny wise and pound foolish as far as spending lavishly on the shooting for the movie was concerned. We asked the ace cinematographer Ratnavelu to wield the camera for 'Lingaa'. It was amazing but Ratnavelu climbed even 150 ft to can a few scenes with harness to film an action sequence for 'Lingaa'. He has even already used a high speed camera to shoot a stunt for the film. Ratnavelu had earlier worked with me on our film 'Robot'. We also roped in production designer Sabu Cyril for our film because we had to shoot the pre-independence portions in massive sets.  

On the biggest challenge for him as an actor while shooting for 'Lingaa'.
 Frankly, I should confess that doing duets with the two young girls, Sonakshi and Anushka, was the toughest job I had ever faced in my 40 year old career. I know Sonakshi since her childhood and she had grown up as contemporaries of my two daughters, Aishwarya and Soundarya. I was sweating when I had to do duets with her. I did not feel so tensed even while doing the first take of my first film. I am 64 today. If God is to punish an artiste, it is by letting him do a duet after the age of 60. The matinee idol turned 64 yesterday.

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