Director Siva is nothing like his brash, aggressive movies that are more often that not, quite an earful.
He’s soft-spoken for most part of our interview, and spontaneous with answers. When I mention this to him, he laughs. “My films are my alter-ego,” he says. “That’s why I make loud movies.”
Vivegam, his third film with Ajith, is no less flashy from what I see of the trailer. But Siva prefers to call his genre of films ‘cinema with mass appeal’, rather than ‘commercial’ fare. He actively shuns the label. “You call a bad person ‘commercial’,” he rues, “I don’t agree with that term. In my opinion, if someone has become commercial, he has become corrupt.” Instead, engaging and non-engaging cinema are what Siva classifies films under. “In engaging cinema, the filmmaker is worried about retaining the attention of the audience in every scene, while the other category of filmmakers pursue a concept they personally like.”
I think I make engaging films, Siva says after a pause. “When I watch a mass film, it gives me an adrenaline rush. I’d be happy the whole day. I personally feel that movies that show heroism give hope to the audience. They see themselves in the hero and get excited if he wins.” A high-octane song in Vivegam – ‘Thalai Viduthalai’ – was written for a comeback scene for the actor, “but a common man can relate to it as well,” says Siva.
That’s one of the things he remembers while writing scripts. The ‘pulse of the audience’. “Directors of mass movies are misunderstood,” he declares, “people think it is easy to make such entertainers. But, every scene has been written keeping in mind the audience’s likes and dislikes.”
For instance, Siva says he receives a lot of mail from fans of Ajith. “They tell me not to shoot risky stunt sequences with Ajith, because they are worried he may get injured. I keep their requests in mind while filming action. But Ajith insists that I don’t compromise, and attempts all stunts at his own risk.” For Vivegam, an action sequence was shot in Serbia, involving two moving trains. “There was a small gap between the trains, and we shot a scene there. It was thrilling; I have never done something like that before.” The female leads in the movie – Kajal Aggarwal and Akshara Haasan – are a part of the action as well. “Fights are not just for men,” says Siva, “when I watched my films in the theatre, many women enjoyed the mass elements in the film.”
Siva then goes on to call women “a support system” in the lives of men. “I have also shown a strong marriage bond between my lead characters in this film. Though there are emotional elements, this is an out-and-out action film; no comedy or sentiment track will disturb the flow of the film.”
Siva, who was once styled ‘Siruthai’ [leopard] Siva after his 2011 movie with Karthi, was introduced to the world of movies when he was 14. His father ran an editing studio, and Siva would handle the ‘collection’. “My father wanted me to learn editing when I turned 14,” he recalls, “I began taking up television projects for editing. That’s where my career began. Then, I grew interested in cinematography, and after handling the camera for a few films, I wanted to become a filmmaker. A massy one at that.”
Now, after a couple of Telugu movies under his belt, and having directed Ajith in three films, Siva recalls the time he first met the actor. “I met him to narrate the story of Veeram,” he says, “When we were speaking for about 30 minutes, Ajith said, ‘let’s work together’. I still hadn’t shown him the script then. A year later, he called me to work on Vedhalam. While filming Vedhalam, I shot an introduction scene of the villain using a chopper within two days. After watching that, he said if I was able to deliver good stuff in a short period of time, then I should be able to do a full-fledged action film with stylish sequences. He wanted me to write an international spy thriller and that’s how Vivegam happened.”
Calling Ajith’s physical transformation for the role of an international spy agent “amazing”, Siva recalls that the actor was on crutches, recovering from a knee surgery when he listened to the script. “He told me then that he would lose weight for the role of AK. And, he did just that after many months of rigorous diet and workout.”
Siva also has another film coming up with Ajith. “A historical script,” he says, “Ajith liked it, and it may happen – but I’m not sure if it would be our next film.”
Vivegam, starring Ajith, Kajal Aggarwal, Akshara Haasan and Vivek Oberoi, releases tomorrow.
Featured image: Ajith Kumar photography / @directorsiva
The Director Siva interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.