Saani Kaayidham follows the journey of Ponni (Keerthy), a constable who lives with her five-year-old daughter Dhanna and husband Maari, a coolie working at a rice mill. On one unfortunate night, she loses everything. To avenge the injustice done to her, she takes the support of Sangaiah (Selvaraghavan), with whom she shares a bitter past.
Speaking to Silverscreen India about the film, Arun says, “The film is part of a revenge trilogy I have in mind. After Rocky and Saani Kaayidham, I have one more story, which I will pursue later. While both these films are revenge dramas, Saani Kaayidham is more emotional and deals with the equation between the two characters and the dynamics of their relationship. It is a simple, direct revenge story; there aren’t any parallel plots nor a complicated screenplay.”
Explaining the title, Arun says that Saani Kaayidham means low-quality paper or pulp paper. He adds that it has relevance to the plot.
“I got the idea for this film around the time I was writing Rocky. It so happened that it became my second film. Had Rocky been released earlier, as per plan, then I would have started my film with actor Dhanush after it. But since I had time, I began working on Saani Kaayidham before that,” he tells us.
The film was supposed to mark Selvaraghavan’s acting debut, but Beast released earlier, in April.
Speaking about casting the filmmaker, Arun says, “After I wrote the story, Selva sir was the first person who came to mind for Sangaiah’s character. I felt that with him playing the role, it would add another layer to the character, an element of surprise. It was a gamble trying to rope him in, but I took the chance and approached him. When I narrated the story, he liked it and agreed to come on board.”
As for Keethy, he says he chose her purely for her capacity to perform. “I liked her performance in other films, especially Mahanati, where she portrayed several emotions. Also, since she has never done a character with a raging, vengeful arc, I thought it would add to the film’s intrigue. Although both of them may look like an odd couple on screen, this will set the tone of the narrative effectively,” he adds.
Aside from the leads, the film also features art director-actor Vijay Murugan, Lizzie Antony, Vinoth Munna, Aadukalam Murugadoss, and Krishna, among others. “We have also incorporated an inanimate character in the story – a matador van. It plays an integral role in shaping the overall narrative,” Arun reveals.
There are some similarities in the visual aesthetics of Rocky and Saani Kaayidham, and Arun attributes this to the black and white-toned, wide shots. “This correlates with the mood that I have planned for the trilogy. However, aside from the mood, all other motifs and elements will be different. In Saani Kaayidham, the two lead characters are familiar with one another, yet they are strangers. In Rocky, I used surrealism and the film had a non-linear screenplay. This film follows the journey of the leads in a much more linear manner.”
The director also mentions that Saani Kaayidham is set in the early 1990s and notes that he specifically chose that time frame as there was almost no usage of mobile phones then.
The film went on floors in mid-2020, and it was shot in 2021 amid the Covid-19-induced restrictions, across Rameshwaram, Cuddalore, and Chennai. Calling it a “challenging film” to shoot, Arun says that cinematographer Yamini Yagnamurthy has predominantly used handheld shots, barring a few sequences. “There are a lot of lengthy shots and it was physically demanding. She has done a fabulous job. We also scouted a lot of live locations, but were unable to film in these places due to the lockdown. However, with the help of my art director Ramu Thangaraj, we were able to erect realistic sets.”
Saani Kaayidham is edited by Nagooran, marking his second collaboration with Arun after Rocky, while Sam CS has composed the music for the film, including the “intense background score.”
Saani Kaayidham was written with a theatrical experience in mind, Arun admits, but he is happy with the OTT release. “I would have loved to see it on the big screens. But, Rocky only had a limited release and not many people could watch it in theatres. This film is releasing worldwide and I’m happy that it will get more viewership. I request people to watch it with an open mind.”
After Saani Kaayidham, Arun will be collaborating with Selvaraghavan’s brother, actor Dhanush, for an action adventure. “It is a big-budget film and I have wanted to work on it for a long time. It has elements of war, action, and adventure. It’s set in the 1930s-40s during the Madras Presidency era and revolves around a specific character from that time,” the filmmaker says, stressing that this character is not a freedom fighter.
Asked about the final part of his revenge trilogy, Arun says he has finished writing the script and is looking to produce the film himself. “The last film will be shot completely in black and white, and it will be much more intense as compared to the first two.”