From the age of 10, CV Kumar has been travelling the length and breadth of the country, accompanying customers on package tours conducted by the family-run business. Every evening in a new city, be it Delhi or Mumbai, the first thing he’d look for was a theatre. And, without intending to, movies became a part of his everyday life, as much as travel did.
“I still remember how I loved watching movies in Rajmandir, Jaipur. Every time I was in the city, I would head there for the night show. I’ve seen Hum there, Anari… It was a magnificent hall, and it was magical watching a movie there,” he reminisces, a week before the release of the long-delayed Maayavan.
And so, the magic of movies slowly seeped into him, unconsciously, and that’s how his Thirukumaran Entertainment was rolled out with Attakathi. The Pa Ranjith film starring Dinesh went on to give the actor a prefix to his name, and threw the spotlight on many emerging talents, besides Ranjith and the hero. Santhosh Narayanan, the toast of Kollywood, made his debut with Attakathi. That was the beginning of Kumar steadily backing people who deserved to be in cinema. Nalan Kumarasamy, Karthik Subbaraj, Vijay Sethupathi, and more. The hits never stopped – Attakathi, Pizza, Soothu Kavvum, Pizza 2: The Villa, Thegidi, Mundasupatti, Irudhi Suttru, Kaadhalum Kadandhu Pogum…
“At one time, when people called me the ‘Man with the Midas touch’ and ‘Kingmaker’, I was afraid. Because, in economics, after a business reaches the peak, it has to come down, so that it can start the upward swing again. The faster you climb, the faster is the fall. And so, with every film, despite all the due diligence, I did wonder if this was going to stop the upward trend,” smiles Kumar. For whatever reason, none of the films he produced did that.
What gave him grief, however temporary, was the film he decided to direct. Maayavan began sometime in 2016, and the expectation was huge; it continues to be. Here was a hotshot producer making a movie, collaborating with Nalan as writer, starring Sundeep Kishan, Jackie Shroff and Daniel Balaji, among others. How could things go wrong? After all, Kumar was not called the Kingmaker for nothing. His films were made within the stipulated budget, within the promised timeframe, publicised well and stuck to the release date.
Maayavan ran into a lot of trouble, purportedly because of finance, but Kumar does not want to dwell upon that now. “I was very upset that it happened to a film that I was directing for the first time, but sometimes you have to cross these hurdles. A person cannot be in the same track always. These setbacks are what give life some unpredictability, and, therefore, the enthusiasm to look forward to a new day. A lot of friends and relatives helped, I got to realise who was really with me. It was a lot of learning. This, after all, is an industry where people create or mar a person just by talking. But, I’d like to look ahead, and not think of anything negative. I’m happy, I’m past that phase,” he says.
What the experience reinforced in him was that the system of financing in the industry has to be corrected. Kumar weighs every word before speaking, as if he’s almost reluctant to share his thoughts. “There is something inherently wrong in the industry. The dynamics have to change. For that, we need the original collection figures to be released. Till that happens, we will have newer people walking in to produce without having a clue as to what is happening. We need to address this issue collectively.” The hesitation in his voice is surprising, when there is such clarity in thought. But, this is probably because Kumar, at some level, remains the person who is still unaffected by what the world might list as his achievements. He’s still the boy from Madurai.
The newly-minted director says that working on the film was a deeply satisfying experience. “I think I was always a creative person. This was the final frontier, if you could call it that. The movie has shaped up the way I wanted it to. It helped that I had a great team. The two revelations were the versatile Daniel Balaji, who kept giving me options, and Bagavathi Perumal. People have only seen him in comedy roles. They will see him in a good character role now.”
The film also stars Jackie Shroff, a star that Kumar once saw in movie halls up North. “That you are seeing him in person is a high. He’s one of those original stars. He just has to stand in a place, and you turn to look a him,” he says.
A whole lot of celebrities have tweeted and posted on social media in support of Kumar, once the date was announced. “I chose my friends well. We respect each other, probably why we have travelled together.” Among them are Santhosh Narayanan and RS Prasanna, who’s fresh from the success of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan in Hindi. The original, Kalyana Samayal Saadham, was released under Kumar’s banner.
Always admired @icvkumar s taste in quality cinema and backing it with his actions. Wishing you a wonderful new journey as Director Sir and you will find success there too 🙂 You always wished me well and saw the Bollywood in KSS and gave it all the love. God bless! https://t.co/E3hS1CbjfP
— R S Prasanna (@rs_prasanna) December 3, 2017
He picked me up from the lowest point of my life, embraced me, and built a dream. @icvkumar , after overcoming so many struggles, is releasing his directorial debut. My applause will be the loudest in the theater 🙂 …God speed sir! #Mayavan pic.twitter.com/ZMlgeHUoKK
— Santhosh Narayanan (@Music_Santhosh) December 2, 2017
“I loved the film. I told him that while I’m not sure how it would do in Tamil, it will do very well in Hindi.” This ability of his to choose the winning horse has baffled many. But Kumar’s policy is simple: “You can’t guarantee a hit or predict a flop. What you can definitely say is whether a film is good or bad. I think I gauge that well. And while he loves watching commercial films, Kumar has steadfastly promoted middle-of-the-road cinema. “It is not a conscious decision, but I end up choosing a non-commercial project to back.”
A phrase that is a constant in a conversation with Kumar — 100 percent — this, despite all that he’s been through the past few months. Probably, it’s the belief in innate human goodness. So, how many times has he watched Maayavan so far? “A director loses the count of the number of times he watches his film,” he laughs.
But, does it still thrill him? “100 percent,” he smiles.