Director K.S.Ravikumar is Tamil cinema’s lone big-budget survivor. At a time when the industry thinks that small budget movies with newcomers is the future, Ravikumar still trusts only the superstars. His genre of films is family entertainers with lot of glamour. Ravikumar’s forte is that he understands the nuances and the undercurrents of commercial cinema, better than most of the other directors. He is a producer's dream as he wraps up blockbusters, in two months' time with the right commercial ingredients and sticks to the budget. Ravikumar has worked his way up, as he was an assistant to many leading directors. His super hits are Cheran Pandian, Nattamai, Padayappa, Tenali and Panchatanthiram. Here's an exclusive interview with the hit maker.
Q: Why do you make films only with big stars?
A: Superstars are commercially more viable than newcomers. It is easy to handle them because they know their job well.
Q: But off late the superstar films are not doing too well at the box-office?
A: We cannot blame them alone for the failure, as the content also matters. You should know that superstars alone cannot bring in the crowds but the film should be well packaged with a powerful story that holds till the end. Moreover the final product should be made keeping the youth in mind.
Q: There is a feeling that superstars are difficult to handle as they have mammoth ego. Please comment.
A: First and foremost let me tell you that while working with superstars, the director has to shed his ego and be prepared to accept their suggestions for the betterment of the film. Each star would have some “image” which he would like to incorporate into the story. And if the director is successful to take the interesting points and leave behind the unwanted, then there is no problem at all. After all the team’s effort is to deliver a hit. A successful superstar hit is the one that manages to blend the story with the star’s image.
Q: Can you elaborate it with examples?
A: I have done two films, Muthu and Padayappa with Rajnikanth. There are certain elements that his fans look forward to, and my job is to make them happy. I had worked out each and every scene in Padayappa along with Rajnikanth, especially the Padayappa-Neelambari confrontation scene that was the highlight of the film. Rajni knew where to place the punch lines, as he read the pulse of the audience well. In the case of Kamalhassan, he has more of an upper class city slicker image. In Tenali and Panchatanthiram he gave me plenty of ideas on how to tickle his core audience. Thus taking the suggestions that he gave me I added a slapstick element to them so that a person sitting in Satyam theatre balcony and a remote village theatre could laugh his heart out.
Q: Why are you called a producer's delight?
A: (Smiles) Is that so? My philosophy is that irrespective of the stars, it is the producer who should be happy with me. After all it is his money that runs showbiz, and I see to it that I don’t exceed the budget and always try to release the film on time. Do you know that I completed the shoot of Villain in 39 days?
Q: Villain is proving to be a big hit.
A: Villain is a typical mass entertainer that has all the commercial ingredients in the right proportion. Ajit plays a dual role- one as a handicap with some psychiatric problems and the other is a do-gooder. Ajit is a revelation as a mental patient and he has come out with a power packed performance. Usually actors tend to ham when they enact a mentally unstable person, but in my film Ajit is brilliant. It will be a milestone in his career and the film has an interesting twist in the climax.
Q: Will Villain make Ajit the ‘number one’ hero?
A: I don’t believe in slotting hero’s with numbers. Ajit is very hard working and talented. He along with Vijay are the young guns who are a mixture of Rajnikanth and Kamlahassan and both are here to stay.
Q: What is your next project?
A: Still undecided. But planning a village theme with Sarath Kumar, who excels in such films. He had done Cheran Pandian and Nattamai with me, which were both super hits.
Q: Rumours are rife that Rajnikanth has approached you to direct his next film. Please comment.
A: Discussions are on, but nothing concrete has been worked out. I am still searching for a suitable subject for him that suits his current image that has all the commercial elements. But it is upto Rajnikanth to take the final decision.
Q: Why do you make an appearance in all your films?
A: (laughs) Just for the heck of it. May be Alfred Hitchcock influenced me.