Report by Niveda Manohar, Photos by Sriram Narasimhan
A few days ago, reports came in that Thozha’s audio would be launched at St Bede’s School, with students in attendance. Perhaps, we thought, for once an audio launch would start on time, and not run on late into the night. We walk into the huge Anglo Indian School, which has a gorgeous sea view, better than most resorts. Unfortunately, the only people present are media-persons and a few odd adults. No students. No uniforms. With a sigh, we settle down for another late audio launch.
Way past the stipulated time, the guests trickle in. There’s actor Sivakumar and his wife Lakshmi. Sivakumar poses for selfies with a few fans. Soon the balcony in the hall is filled with Suriya and Karthi fans. When they spot Suriya, they roar with excitement. Suriya looks dapper with his trademark ‘Singam’ moustache.
The event kicks off with a dance performance accompanied by a fusion of Hindi and Tamil songs. After this, hosts Makapa Anand and Nakshatra Nagesh engage in some trivial chatter to kill some time. The lead trio of Karthi, Nagarjuna and Tamannaah make a grand appearance, with LED screens lighting up, and fireworks sparkling in welcome. Short teasers of the songs are screened at intervals. Actors Suja Varuni and Poorna reel off a few dance performances to the film’s music.
Each of the three leads are welcomed on stage with special audio visuals of their careers. The dance crew performs to a medley of their hit songs.
Nagarjuna was the cynosure of all eyes. Though he isn’t a regular in Kollywood, the audience loves him. Years may pass. His charm remains intact. Everyone present had a chance to talk about their fan moments with Nagarjuna, including Karthi and Suriya. “I wanted to whistle when the ‘Udhayam’ song was played,” exclaimed Suriya. KE Gnanavel Raja said that Sivakumar never envies another actor. But he makes an exception for Nagarjuna, because his wife is a great fan of the Tollywood superstar.
On the subject of how Nagarjuna maintains his youthful looks and charm, Karthi said that the actor works very hard for it. “He has very healthy habits. He sleeps early. More than anything else, he stays positive and takes life as it comes. And that is the biggest lesson I have learnt from him.”
Tamannaah sashayed on stage wearing a beautiful red dress. She talked about how nourishing the experience of working on Thozha had been for her. She said Karthi was the only actor she liked to compete with, and hopes to better someday. As she spoke, she switched so often between Tamil, Telugu and English, that many were left searching for subtitles. Nevertheless, her command over both Southern languages was appreciated. She said she had spent hours practicing, to get the syllable ‘zha’ right. That’s definitely a toughie. Even many native speakers can’t say it correctly, after all!
Karthi joked that while most scenes were shot without difficulty, the scenes with Tamannaah took ages to shoot. So much so that people had time to take breaks in between. Why? Because the lights had to be constantly adjusted to ensure that both actors could be seen on screen. After all, he said, “she is as bright as a light bulb, and the contrast dims the people around her.”
Nagarjuna, who wasn’t too comfortable speaking in Tamil, reminisced over his time in Chennai. “I’m a Chennai boy and the city is very special to me as people treat me with so much love. Whenever I go to Madurai or Coimbatore, people keep asking me about my comeback. I was waiting for the right time, and finally Thozha has happened,” he said. “The only problem is that in the film, both Tamannaah and Karthi got their chance to dance, while all I got to do was sit on a wheelchair,” he joked, much to the amusement of the audience.
Meanwhile, the fans in the balcony seemed to have forgotten what event they were attending. They kept chanting “24! 24!” throughout the speeches. Finally when Suriya got on stage, he requested them to calm down, and promised them a teaser in the first week of March. “Teaser eh naan paathuten, supera iruku,” he laughed. (I’ve seen the teaser, and it looks superb.)
Suriya spoke about the warm reception he gets whenever he visits Hydearabad. And how he rarely gets a chance to appreciate their hospitality. “Sometime in the 80s, Tollywood moved base from Chennai to Hyderabad. I really wish they hadn’t. They are such nice people. I wish to see more of them in Tamil cinema as well,” he said.
As always, the last person to speak was the music director. In this case, Gopi Sunder. The guests had already begun to trickle out after Suriya’s speech was over. Sunder spoke about how the project was a dream come true for him. Meanwhile, the Victorian clock in the hall struck 10 pm. And Thozha’s audio was finally launched.