Over time, Radha Mohan has come to be known for films where smiles and tears are given equal importance. His Kaatrin Mozhi, a remake of the breezy Tumhari Sulu, promises to be as memorable
In the 14 years he’s been in the industry, director Radha Mohan has made a name for himself as someone effective in making ‘soft films’. Ironic, for a person whose earliest memories of awe-inspiring films are high-action dramas such as Mackenna’s Gold and Sholay. He was in Class 7 or 8 when he got to watch these, and even as a child, the director was familiar with cinema — he belonged to a family that headed out to the movies at least once a month.
“As a person, I love all kind of cinema, barring possibly horror,” says Radha Mohan, whose film Kaatrin Mozhi releases this Friday. Starring Jyotika, Vidharth, Lakshmi Manchu and MS Bhaskar, among others, the film will see STR in a cameo; he reprises the role made famous in the original Tumhari Sulu by Ayushmann Khurrana.
This is the second remake that Radha Mohan has taken up, after 60 Vayadhu Maaniram (the original was Godhibanna Saadharana Mykattu in Kannada), and the film also sees him team up with Jyotika 11 years after Mozhi, where she was cast differently from her bubbly girl screen avatar. “Ever since she made a comeback, people have been asking when we would make another film. They wondered if we would do a Mozhi sequel… the thought of working with her was at the back of my mind, but I knew there would be huge comparisons. I wanted a woman-centric script and for some spark to ignite. One day, Jo saw Tumhari Sulu, asked me to watch it, and said we could remake it if I was interested. And that’s how things fell in place.”
Yes, the film was rewritten in parts to suit the local audience. “Any remake has to be restructured to our own sensibilities, especially when it is a Hindi film. The audience there and here is very different, and some things just won’t be accepted here. For me, the essence of Tumhari Sulu was the middle-age romance, and it was beautifully rendered. But, I had to do it differently here, make it as lovely, but without too much physical proximity. Also, we have introduced some new characters.”
When remaking it, Radha Mohan was careful to infuse Vijayalakshmi with the same traits that made Sulu endearing. “It’s a very emotional character, high on humour, anger, compassion, love, and an amazing amount of self-confidence,” he says.
Does the drubbing 60 Vayadhu… received haunt him even now? “I’ve moved on, but I will say that it did not get the attention it deserved. It’s become very tough to bring in people into theatres.”
This is something Kaatrin Mozhi’s producer G Dhananjayan has been speaking about for a long time, and actively tweeting about now. Even for Kaatrin Mozhi, the field has become a little crowded with Vijay Antony’s Thimirupudichavan joining this release window after opting out of Deepavali, when Sarkar took most of the shows.
“As a director, the biggest challenge now is to find a release date and the audience attention. Making a movie is not as difficult as getting the right show timings and theatres. Every week, you have four or five films releasing, and every filmmaker is worried. The producers have to be strong and promote the film consistently. Even if your content is great, it has become important to create a buzz,” says Radha Mohan.
This film too, falls under the umbrella of ‘feel good’ fare that has become the director’s calling card. “It was never a deliberate attempt. I merely made movies that came to me naturally. But, I guess after three or four films, this common factor got noticed. And no, I don’t find any tag limiting. Your imagination is yours, and any film can end on a happy note.”
Cast and crew have often spoken about the camaraderie on Radha Mohan’s sets. Jyotika has in recent interviews, spoken about the jovial atmosphere, his positivity and how he made even a “difficult” subject like Mozhi seem like a breeze. “I like a peaceful atmosphere on the sets. That’s very important for me. I guess that’s the working style I’ve chosen to adopt. That calm takes work, though. Everyone on the sets knows what they have to do; clear instructions are handed out. If you focus on pre-production, shooting is easy,” says the director who wrapped up Kaatrin Mozhi in 38 days.
Radha Mohan says credit for the pace they worked in and the end result must go to the supportive producer and the “superb actors who agreed to be part of the film”.
Be it the trailer or the promotional interviews, Jyotika seems to have lightened up a whole lot. She laughs more easily, and speaks her heart. Has she changed as a performer? “People have not really seen the old Jo in her second innings. In this film, her comic sense has been put to good use. They used to like her for her expressions. This film will see elements of vintage Jo,” says Radha Mohan.
In the 10 films (including a bilingual) he’s done, only two have been departures from the feel-good genre. And, the past year has seen well-made films across genres get appreciated. Does Radha Mohan think this is a good time for filmmakers such as him to be working in? “Well, I’ve always only been doing my kind of films. That has never changed.”
His Abhiyum Naanum, an ode to the father-daughter bond, might have been occasionally criticised for being over the top, but the director still receives the maximum feedback for that film and Mozhi. “They have somehow stayed alive in people’s minds. And, they are deeply satisfying films in my journey as a filmmaker. Do you know Abhiyum has changed lives? There are unbelievable stories. Two years ago, when I was doing a live phone-in for a TV channel, a caller from Coimbatore spoke about how the film transformed her life. She had given birth to a daughter shortly before the film released, and found that the entire family was upset. Her husband did not come near the baby, and she was heartbroken wondering how anyone could reject a child. One day, her husband rushed to the child and carried her, much to the mother’s amazement; he has apparently never stopped loving her. She wept in gratitude. He’d watched Abhiyum Naanum.”
The Radha Mohan interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.