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.
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.
(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.