Reporting by Janani K; Photos by Sriram Narasimhan. Photos from the audio launch are below the report.
Prasad Labs is always jam packed when a Kamal Haasan event happens. Yesterday was no exception. It was 4:20 pm, an hour past the scheduled time for the event. Everyone was impatient. I glanced at my watch and remarked to my colleague, “They were supposed to launch the trailer at 4:21 pm. No clue how that can happen.” And before I could finish my sentence, Kamal Haasan walked in. Silently. And stood before the laptop. That’s when I understood. This man is perfect in every little thing.
The trailers for Thoongaavanam and Cheekati Rajyam were both launched, to whistles and applause every time Kamal Haasan appeared on screen. It looked like an engaging fast-paced crime thriller.
Then without invitation or introduction Kamal Haasan took the stage. Elegant in a blue waistcoat, blue pants, and white shirt. He began to introduce his Thoongaavanam team. There was Trisha in a cream saree designed by Neeraja Kona, Gauthami in a yellow floral saree, and Madhu Shalini in a bright red outfit. The actors sported jeans and Prakash Raj wore a dressy black shirt.
When it was his turn to speak, Prakash Raj said it had been more pleasing to spend time with Kamal Haasan than act in the film. “After the demise of our beloved mentor K Balachander, Kamal told me that feels more responsible for us, and consider himself an elder brother to the entire KB family. After a long time, I could completely trust a team and work freely,” he added.
This is Trisha’s 50th film in a 12-year career. But she only had words for Kamal Haasan. “Everyone in this industry, including Shah Rukh Khan, has a common dream. To work with Kamal Haasan at least once in their career. I am privileged and happy that I could work with him twice. I couldn’t have done any of the complex scenes or the dubbing work without his help.”
Writer Suka shares a bond with Kamal Haasan since the Papanasam days. Suka jokingly said when he heard that they would be working together on Thoongaavanam, he wasn’t happy. He was scared. “Considering Kamal Haasan’s stature, he should treat me like a writer. But he treats me as his own brother. I address him as ‘Annachi’. Truly speaking, he is not only an ‘Annachi’ to me, but for the entire KB family,” he said. Suka also pointed out that Thoongaavanam’s star cast might be huge, but the audience would see each actor as their character, not as their star persona.
We know that actor Yugi Sethu likes to play with words. But no one expected Kamal Haasan to do the same with Yugi. When Yugi Sethu entered the sets of Thoongaavanam, Kamal Haasan called to him ‘Vaa da Raama’. Yugi was puzzled and couldn’t understand why he was being called ‘Raama’. Kamal explained that it has been 14 years (the same amount of time Raama spent in the forest) since they had both shared screen space.
Popular TV anchor and actor Jagan said, “In Thoongaavanam, I play a blink and a miss role. In my childhood days, I used to skip classes and watch Kamal sir’s films and I blame the actor for not excelling in my studies. I got to observe a lot of things in the eight days of shooting. I saw Kamal sir cracking jokes, trying his hand at mimicry. All I can say is, I’m truly blessed.”
After Avan Ivan, actress Madhu Shalini seemed to have fallen off the Kollywood radar, so Thoongaavanam is something of a comeback. She graciously thanked her friend and fellow actress Priya Anand for suggesting the role.
Actress and costume designer Gautami said that her team had worked on changing the look of the stars in the film. Trisha, in particular, would appear in a completely new avatar.
For a debutant director, Rajesh M Selva didn’t seem nervous. After all, he had travelled with Kamal Haasan for almost 7 and a half years. He said, ” To be frank, I was scared of directing Prakash Raj sir, but he was so comfortable that he did some of the assistant director’s work on the last day of shoot. The best day of my life was April 17, when my guru Kamal Haasan came to me and said that I would direct his next movie. Kamal sir was a huge pillar of support, and cinematographer Sanu Varghese was another pillar. We used 360 degree lighting in this film. Which means, once the lighting was set, it was never changed.”
At last it was time for Kamal Haasan to speak. He has done 24 bilingual films, which he considers as a daunting task. ” Everybody thinks of ideas. Even the audience comes up with ideas after spending Rs.70 on a ticket. We would have spent Rs.70 crore while making the film. Where things go wrong is the execution. Execution doesn’t mean that the technical crew’s work is not up to the mark. The key lies in preparation before the shooting even begins. We can stand before you not in confusion but with confidence, because we have thoroughly prepared beforehand. That still doesn’t mean that we’ve done enough. We have a long way to go. In future, we will prepare even more. This whole team has given me the confidence that Raj Kamal production house’s journey will get stronger with future projects,” he concluded.