The Other Side Of Rajinikanth

“Rajini Sir Insisted On Calling Me Sir On The Sets,” Karthik Subbaraj whose dream-project with Rajinikanth Petta is on release, speaks to Subhash K Jha on the pleasures of being a Rajini fanboy turned his director.
The Other Side Of Rajinikanth
Rajinikanth in a still from 'Petta'

Just hours away from release…Are you nervous?
Yeah, now that it’s finally happening I am nervous and anxious. It ’s very mixed feelings. But for me, the most important thing right now is to go watch the film with the audience. I’ve to join Rajini Sir’s fans in the theatres because I will be watching Petta, not as a filmmaker but a fan.

Will be you watching it first-day first show?
I watch all his films on the first day. Now I will be watching my own film with Rajini Sir. It ’s unbelievable. I will be watching it the entire day on Thursday(on release). I’ve watched it a hundred times during editing.  Now I want to see what the reaction would be too specific shots and dialogues. I  just want to see the audiences’ reaction. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. For me this like a  dream come true. I’ve grown up watching Rajini  Sir’s films. I am a big fanboy….I guess everyone is(laughs), at least in the South. When  I started making films my first wish was to show them to  Rajini  Sir. By God’s grace, I’ve been able to go far beyond my dream.

So has he seen your previous films?
Yes, he saw my first film Pizza and called me to say he liked it. Then he saw Jigarthanda. After that, we met. When he expressed his appreciation for my work I gained the confidence to be able to make a film with him. Three years back I pitched the script for Petta to him. He liked the script. And he said he will work in my film. But we didn’t agree on a time frame.

You mean he said he’d do it when he had the time?
Yes. Rajini Sir knew  I wrote Petta for him. Even he felt only he could do this script.  So we were in the safe zone with each other.

Rajinikanth’s 2: 0 is still running in theatres. Now  Petta…iisn't it coming too soon?
I don’t think so. Petta is Rajini Sir’s  60th  film. He has  40 years of experience. He  is  way above  all these strategies. He is still so energetic  and inspiring.

But wouldn’t there be an overlap in the theatres?
Well, come theatres in Tamil Nadu are going to  continue playing 2: 0. But I don’t see that as a problem for Petta. His fans just can’t get enough of him. Besides, it’s Pongal.

There are  5-6 major Pongal releases in the South. Aren’t they going to eat into each other?
In Tamil Nadu, it’s two films only, Rajini Sirs and  Ajith Sirs.  In Telugu, there are three major films. But this Pongal we have an extended holiday, from 10th  till the 18th. This is the longest holiday ever for Pongal. People are in a festive mood and they’d love to  go see  movies with their entire family ,specially since  the Pongal  releases this year all   feature  big  stars.

Since you are  a fan was  it difficult  for you to direct Rajinikanth?
I was very anxious and  eager to make  him comfortable.  But from day 1 he made me comfortable.After the  first day’s shooting he   called me  and  said he liked working  with me and my team.That spirit  remained  till the  last day. And mind  it, it was a very tough shooting schedule. But he was so cool. He  even called  me ‘Karthik Sir’ on the sets.  When I protested he   said, ‘Look,  on the sets  you are the captain and you must get that respect.’ I pleaded  with him not  to  call me ‘Sir’.But  not a single day on the sets  did he  call my name without adding  ‘Sir’ to it.

What did  you  think of him as an actor?
Dedicated, inspiring,  exceptional.And  so  sincere  . His  selfdiscipline  is motivational.He prepares  for  every scene. If it’s an important scene he begins to make inquiries  from a day before.  He’s  so involved.It’s amazing.

Has he  done his own action scenes?
Yes ,  he has done  all the stunts. And he has some very elaborate dancing to do.   You have  to see his energy level. I felt he was younger than me. Petta  is   a proper masala  entertainer  , the  kind Rajini Sir’s fans enjoy  the most. There’s no politics  in this film at all. This time he  is  only an entertainer. So  this is  his most massy  film in recent times.

You  have two  established  heroines Trisha  and Simran in Petta. Do  they  enough  to do?
They have well-established characters  to play. But Petta  is obviously not about them. It  is Rajini Sir’s  film. But the  heroines are  no props. They move forward  the story.Also  I wanted  the heroines to look well-matched   with Rajini Sir.

Finally, Nawazuddin?
(lights up) I am  a big fan of his. According to  me  he looks South Indian. I  was  confident he  could  pull off  a South Indian character. He was worried   about  the Tamil lines. He put in a  lot  of effort to  say  his Tamil  lines with feeling. But he hasn’t dubbed  his own lines  in the Tamil version . But you can say in his performance  that he  understands  his lines.

Your closing  thoughts?
I want to say to the audience…..It’s Pongal and it’s time to have a  good time with Rajini  Sir.

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