Report by Niveda Manohar. Photography by Dani Charles.
Eyes lit up as a royal blue Mercedes made its way into the Prasad Labs. Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada director Gautham Menon had arrived, and journalists scurried into the preview theatre for what turned out to be an eventful press meet.
It all began with a screening of three songs from the film, composed by Rahman. The PRO requested the media to keep spoilers to a minimum, so all we’ll say is that the visuals had Gautham Menon written all over. And even though it’s been a year since the film’s audio released, no one has got over the music. Also, it’s evident that the film has been canned for a very long time, because STR’s features keep changing between shots.
Choreographer Sathish was literally at loss for words on the podium. He spent more time smiling sheepishly than on the brief words of thanks for Gautham Menon and STR.
Thamarai, who has written the two most popular songs from the album “Thalli Pogathey” and “Rasaali” spoke about her writing process. She openly admitted that she did hadn’t understood the “Thalli Pogathey” tune Rahman had sent them, “I could not understand it one bit, even after listening to it several times. I had to make Gautham Menon make me understand the tune – all this while the shooting of Showkali was happening!”
A calm and poised Manjima Mohan began by apologising for not speaking in Tamil. She said she was happy, and relieved that after so many delays, the film was finally releasing. “This film is a perfect launch for me, I couldn’t have asked for more. I thank Gautham sir for trusting me, even when others said ‘no she is not the right for the film’. You have always given me confidence and strength,” she said.
The audience visibly straightened when Gautham Vasudev Menon took the podium, knowing that strong opinions and rejoinders would be forthcoming. They weren’t wrong. “I felt bad that we couldn’t have an audio launch for the film in Tamil. I wish I could have played “Thalli Pogathey” for you today, because I think it’s one of the best songs I have shot for my films.”
Multiple controversies have surrounded lead actor STR, but Gautham Menon stood by him. Saying that he had tremendous support from the actor, Menon added, “I don’t always approach the cast of my film with a fully prepared script. I know around 80% of it, and mostly I improvise on it while shooting, and he is one of the few actors who doesn’t torture me asking for the entire script. He goes with the flow.”
Of course, a journalist wanted to know which actors had “tortured” him in the past. GVM immediately said that he wanted to work with those actors, and so it wouldn’t be a good idea to name them.
With the Q&A session, came the burning question on everyone’s mind: Why did the film run into so many delays? Gautham Menon said, “To be very honest, I do not know the reason why we had so many delays. We had a few funding issues between the Tamil and Telugu films. We actually shot for only 60 days in total, but it took us a year and a half for that.”
One question rather optimistically wanted GVM to explain why all his films run into problems. GVM’s answer raised a few eyebrows but led to general laughter. He said, “I do not know! I just do my work. Problems crop up, but I can’t come up on stage and cry like Sivakarthikeyan, can I?”
There was also a chorus of questions about why STR wasn’t at the press meet. Some even wanted GVM to explain why Simbu never attends promotional events. GVM said he had informed STR about the event, and STR had told him he had already met members of the press. When many journalists said they hadn’t met him, GVM said, “There’s only so much that I can answer on Simbu’s behalf. I did my job of inviting him to the press meet.”
Simbu’s unavailability for regular shooting had caused many of the delays, but GVM had no complaints, “There were a few issues with the shoot of Thalli Pogathey but they were solved later. I would definitely work with Simbu again for a film.” He quickly added, “Only if I produce the film myself.”
On the subject of an alleged fallout with actor Suriya, GV Menon said, “Suriya did not like the script of Dhuruva Natchathiram. He felt the film was too international to be made in Tamil. We may do it in a later point of time.”
One journalist asked him why all his films repeat certain elements. GVM cheekily replied, “You know, someday you’ll go to a movie theatre drunk, and you’ll buy tickets to my film without knowing it is mine, but you’ll still be able to tell that it is my film. That’s why.”
One journalist attempted to drag in lyricist Thamarai’s personal issues, but GVM was quick to suppress it. He said, “We love press meets. It’s a great chance to interact with the press. But don’t ask questions that would make us wonder why we even made a film in the first place.”
As arguments grew heated, the PRO had to intervene and close the session. And for a film that was surrounded by so much controversy, that was only to be expected.
Photos from the press meet: