He’s also a restless presence on-stage; moving ever so often and gesticulating wildly. Photographers scramble to get him in their line of vision. A couple of them even admit defeat, resigning to their handhelds as a last attempt to record him.
Hari though, is quite oblivious to all of this.
Wrapping up the press conference, he finally makes his way over to us. And requests that we wait a little more.
“Give me five minutes, please,” he says, “I heard the food is brilliant here. Oru kai paathutu varen.”
Hari returns some time later, carrying a plate heaped with food; and begins his narration in earnest – all the while shovelling biryani into his mouth.
And from what he tells us, he’s quite obviously led a very colourful life. His interests had ranged far and wide when he was a teenager – the most cherished ambition was to become a police officer. Something his father was not too happy about. “He refused outright when I told him about it,” Hari recounts impassively; “he thought the role wouldn’t suit me. I was shattered, but I found a way to realise my dreams, and also to satisfy my parents.”
This “new way” had Hari aiming a little higher – for the post of an IPS officer, which would definitely make his folks happy. “I was arrogant,” he declares, “I thought I could do anything. It was only when I started training that I realised you need to be very very clever to pass those IPS exams. So that was the end of that.”
Hari has always nurtured a dream. He has dreamt of being “something or the other” most of his life. So it was only natural that he wrote about the things he couldn’t achieve. And it probably wouldn’t be a stretch if we imagine Hari as a character in one of his films, spouting a punch-line or two and zooming away in a huge white Sumo. “I love it when people make that connection,” he smiles, “I write stories in which I wouldn’t be afraid to act in.”
Samy, Singham I and II, all have police-officers as protagonists. And in Poojai, Sathyaraj plays the role of a tough cop.
Despite critics walloping his films for being too formulaic, Hari remains unapologetic about his scripts. “I always hear that my movies revolve around the same theme,” he observes, “it’s gotten to a point where they call me the aruva director.”
Hari pauses to laugh heartily at this.
Aiyya and the Singham movies were the ones where he ventured out of his comfort zone.
Adhula aruvaave illa, he says.
“But people didn’t notice those, I think. See, when you make films set in the South, you have to include fight scenes because that’s how it happens here. I am showing things as they are, not using ‘creative license’!”
Criticism, no matter how harsh, has never fazed Hari. He has faced the worst when Seval didn’t fare well at the box office. “I never get angry when someone criticizes me,” he reveals, “The same way, I never apologise for the kind of stories I show on screen. I am a purely commercial director and these are the only kind of movies that I know to make.
…idha thavira enakku theriyadhunga!”
Hari proudly calls himself a “producer’s director”. “I have more than earned this, I think. I always make movies with a hawk’s eye on the budget. I cut costs when I can and make sure that the movie at least breaks even for the producer, even if it doesn’t reap in profits.”
Vishal would be a happy man, this Deepavali, predicts Hari. Poojai is purely commercial – “a masala padam,” he declares with obvious glee. “There’s a healthy dose of action in it alongside a sweet romantic track. Yuvan’s music is a big plus and Priyan’s camera work is near flawless. We’ve got rain fights, song sequences in Switzerland and racy dialogues. What more does a masala film need?”
He will soon begin discussions with Suriya for his next project. Three scripts have made the final cut and he plans to zero in on one by the end of November. “If all goes well, same time next year, I will have a film for you all again,” he assures us, “And that’s a promise.”
Also, in what’s probably a first for him, the director has no plans for the next ten days. His eyes light up when we mention Deepvali – and that’s not just because of Poojai. He loves bursting crackers, and goes berserk every year. “We go all out with the fireworks everytime. This one isn’t going to be any different. I have a pile waiting at home, and we might begin the festivities early. My kids and I are going to have so much fun!”
The Director Hari Interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.