I speak to Bharathan, a good twenty four hours before the release of his Bairavaa. One wouldn’t know it by the coolly-detached way Bharathan speaks to me.
My questions are met with short, almost curt answers.
Time illenga, he tells me later. Almost apologetic.
There has been no time for Bharathan since Bairavaa happened. The director, who debuted with Azhagiya Tamizh Magan, has been ‘running around in circles’ since the project (Bairavaa) went on floors. “That’s what happens when it’s a Vijay sir film. One has to accept it, and simply move on,” he tells me.
ATM marked the debut of Bharathan, who had till then assisted director Dharani. For a brief time he wrote dialogues for other filmmakers, and often worked as a script consultant. “I was always outside looking in. I wanted to be a part of the process. I didn’t want to just write and give away my script. I wanted to be a part of the action, I wanted to execute things.”
In 2007, Bharathan got a chance to be in the action. Vijay liked his script (two men who look alike, one bad, the other good) and agreed to act on the project. While the film gave us countless ‘comedy’ scenes, catchy songs, the project itself did not find the success Bharathan hoped it would.
“Fate decides what fails and what succeeds. Azhagiya Tamizh Magan was an interesting script, and a rich film. We had AR Rahman’s music, Shriya Saran, Vijay sir in two roles. But, somehow somewhere it did not connect with the audience.”
The failure itself did not disappoint Bharathan. For the director, it was the opportunity missed that hurt. “I wanted to repay Vijay sir’s faith in me by giving him a super hit. I felt very guilty for years that I could not repay the very huge favour he did me. He accepted to act in my film, and yet, I could not deliver.”
Bharathan chose to stay away from the film scene for a long time. He did not want to risk running into Vijay, he tells me. “I felt very bad. I didn’t want to see him, that’s how guilty I felt.”
It took Bharathan seven years to return to the director’s seat again. In 2014, he made and released Athithi. At the audio launch of the film, I spoke to a relaxed, at-home Bharathan; who told me things like:
“all that you need to succeed is a really good friend. I had several of those and they really supported me through my bad days!”
The two years since then, and all that time on a Vijay movie, has made Bharathan wary, cautious even. All Bharathan needs now is for Bairavaa to succeed. He is curious to see how it does, the director confesses.
“I feel very excited to see how the audience react to this film. It’s a new kind of movie for Vijay sir and his fans too.”
Azhagiya Tamizh Magan had some surreal moments. Bharathan gave Vijay’s character in the film ‘extra sensory perception’.
In Bairavaa, Bharathan has tried to introduce ‘something similar’. “Filmmakers keep making the same movies with the same formula. The onus is on those with experience to come up with something new. Those who think different win the game. The ones who keep doing the same thing, they will exhaust their opportunities at some point.”
The film’s music composer, Santhosh Narayanan, has been criticised for the film’s soundtrack. Bharathan, though, doesn’t understand the hate. “It’s a superior album from Santhosh. I think the audience have come to expect a certain kind or genre of music from Santhosh. Bairavaa is not his usual fare, and so that disappoints them, I think. As a director, I was satisfied. So was our team. We all think he did a great job.”
Keerthy Suresh warms Bharathan’s heart, he confides. “She is probably the only heroine who can read, speak and probably write Tamil. This makes her performances all the more real. Keerthy has the girl-next-door looks coupled with the sort of realistic acting skills it takes others years to master. She was the real surprise for me, during Bairavaa.”
Bairavaa will also be a throwback to the cinema of the 60’s, a time when entertainment and family values reigned. “Bairavaa will have entertainment, thrilling stunt sequences, and beautiful songs. Audiences will walk out of the film with a renewed take on things. This film will, I hope, bring Vijay a lot of applause,” Bharathan says.
And till it does, one gets the feeling that Bharathan will stay his wary, cautious self.
There’s not too many directors who get second chances like these.