In an orthodox old-fashioned film industry that thrives on star-worship, one man has the spine to call a spade a spade.
Gautham Vasudev Menon has to be the gutsiest of our filmmakers. He’s also the rare professional who is man enough to take criticism with all sincerity.
Yes, man is the word because Vaarnam Aayiram is all about the essence of being the man you look up to, being the man who can sweep the girl off her feet with his strength, poise and courage.
It’s an emotional personal film straight from the heart for Gautham considering it was born out of his father’s death. “Three days after he passed away, I decided I must do this film,” he says.
He had initially pitched the idea of a coming of age tale about a youngster on the verge of life and Suriya was like, “Yeah, but is that it?” Gautham however was confident of convincing him with the screenplay but he just couldn’t focus on writing with his father’s deteriorating health. “We knew we were losing him. I had made Suriya wait really long. So when I finished Pachaikili, I thought I’ll take off for a week just to write because the doctors said my father was going to be Okay. I couldn’t ask the producer if I could show only my Dad the film one week ahead of the release. So I asked if we could have the premiere for the cast and crew and friends. I showed him the film and I left that night to write. Three days later, he passed away.”
“I experienced something when I came back for the funeral. I went through a lot of emotions and when I sat to write the film a week later, I thought I could put all that into the film as a tribute to my father.”
Vaarnam Ayiram, he insists, is not an action film, it’s a coming-of-age drama where boy becomes man.
“Because at every point, when you are young and discovering life and what it’s like… with the evil lurking around the corner or a love that hits you and at every point, I thought that the father could be the inspiration which is how it was for me in my life. I put it together with 75 per cent from my life and 25 per cent from everybody’s life.”
There is no commercial thought that dictated the content, he says. “If you walk out of the film and if it reminds you of your Dad, then I think that’s the success of the film.”
“This is a very meaningful film. It’s high time I made something like that. Pachaikili had a climax for the hero. For Kamal Sir, we gave him a 20 minute intro which wasn’t there in the first script… Everywhere, I was toeing the line. This time, I thought let me make a film that deserves what it needs and nothing more. So I was thankful for someone like Suriya who straightaway said Yes, I love it. This is perfect. I relate to the story.
I am reminded of my Dad. At the Filmfare awards, I remember him calling me and saying: I hugged my Dad on stage after a long time after I worked on this project. I knew people would think it’s for show but I realised it was a great moment to hug him because at home, I’ve never hugged him. So it works for him, it works for me.”
Any influences in making the film?
“If you say it reminds you of Autograph, I would be happy because I love that film and I like Cheran as a filmmaker. I’ve grown up watching Raj Kapoor films because my Dad asked me to watch them. I like the way music wasn’t thrown in and takes the story forward. So those are influences but I’ve not copied any scene from any film. But just like Forrest Gump sits and talks about his past, this is also like that… when a set of memories are triggered off because of an incident and his whole life unfolds before him.”
This is his most realistic film till date. Did he make Suriya starve for the six-pack?
“Definitely not,” he laughs. “When I narrated the script, I said I also wanted to give a small message to youngsters that if at all you are going through a low phase in life, working out and pushing yourself to the limit might be a good way to overcome anything instead of smoking and drinking. So Suriya said he’ll do a six-pack. But when I saw what he was doing, I told him Don’t do it. There were times he wasn’t eating breakfast and skipping meals. He pushed himself.”
He’s all praise for the actor. “Seriously, the things he does for the director and the film. I have worked with Kamal Sir, so I know what that man is capable of and I can say this… Suriya is there and nobody else is capable of performing like him.”
Gautham also shares a special relationship with Harris Jayaraj. “When I take a project with him, I take it to him from scratch. When I took Pachaikili, he said Don’t do it. Your audience are expecting a big film. This time, we’ve done a Gaana. It’s a first for us. I got up and danced like how Suriya would dance (we hadn’t shot the song) and so I danced like for one minute. He laughed his guts out and then worked the groove out. He trusts me completely and I trust him. We’ve done 35 songs and not even once, have I said I don’t want the song after listening to it.”
Being a successful filmmaker, he has to deal with escalating expectations and uncontrollable hype.
“I don’t think I have a fan base but Pachaikili proved that people have certain expectations from me. That’s when I started thinking maybe you should be careful but then, that’s bad. Because you start writing for the audience and you can’t make a film you want to make. So somewhere you have to balance that.”
Candour and controversy
“My friends tell me don’t talk because the industry doesn’t understand. Maybe they have a point. Like, Vijay doesn’t talk to me now because of the Tamil magazine thing…
I was misquoted. This journalist asked me why I work only with Suriya. So I said that’s not true, I narrated a story to Vijay. He loved it. He laughed as I was narrating it and he said: You know what Gautham, can you put stuff like what I do in the film? Have you seen my films, he asked and gave me a few DVDs for reference?
I had seen those Perarasu’s films. So I immediately I said ‘Vijay, that wont work in the film I narrated because this was meant to be a refreshing love story’. There would’ve been a sensibility disconnect. So I told the journalist I was disappointed when I got home but he went on name Perarasu’s films and made it sound like I was degrading Perarasu’s films, which I was not. I tried to call Vijay to explain but he didn’t see the bigger picture. So sometimes, it is better to keep quiet.
If I don’t like a film, I say it but that wasn’t even the case with the Vijay episode. Even when I said I didn’t like Bheema, it was not about Vikram, it wasn’t meant to be personal. I called Lingusamy to invite him for the audio launch party of Vaarnam and he said he was angry with me. I said it’s okay to be angry but please come. And he said: Okay, I’m coming with a gun. So, he came and we had a good time.”
Read the last interview I did with Gautham before Vettaiaadu Vilayaadu here.
Sudhish,I’m interested in what you think about the line where he says that “Nobody is capable of performing like Surya”.
That’s a lovely interview. Amazing it was on print, even happy to find the “uncut” version here. Ta 🙂
so varanam aayiram is not an action story?
ppl willl come in with an expectation of a sequel of kaakha kaakha. when they expect a film like KK, if autograph look alike film starts,i am not sure how they’ll take it.
High risk,Gowtham!But if the movie still refreshes and make ppl feel good,then you should be happy..
If Gautham seems to read this,I want him or atleast SK to reply to this.Does the director really approves of his music director lifting songs?
The adiye kolludhe song seems to be influenced (in true cinematic style) from AC DC Love Bomb
Truly nice interview !
I have always loved Goutham’s movies from “Khaaka Khaaka” … and I am really happy to see that he is a very talented director !
Nothing to say abt Surya … he is so perfect !
gowtham i like ur all movies and also ur voice
goutham i like your all movies and also your voice
Congrats.You have done a good job in Vaaranam Aayiram.Iam sure your father will be very pleased.
Vaaranam AAyiram is such a lovely movie. After a very very long time i have watched a wonderful movie. Surya is so perfect in the film and he has done an extraordinary work. Hats off to Surya for his acting and for Gowtham for this wonderful script.
hi sir how are you? how is your family? you are such a wonderful director to this cinema world i love your films so much… even i felt to act in your film i gave my to your office if you didnt get again iam ready my profile i love to act in your film this is arequest bcoz your thoughts of film and all is lookin like a hollywood picture pls trust me iam waiting for your reply (i love too say one thing your a indian [james cameron]) sir
thank you ,
gouthammeanan is very taleted director his taking related by maniratnm taking and he is hard worker ilike him
Gautham……… a creative hard worker……… who has a versatality in his scripts……………. his own style of speech …. n dressing……………….. n activites……. which i follow…………… i tooo luv the character names of his scripts
I came across this interview by accident and I am glad I discovered it. Loved the interview because GVM is one of those refreshing faces in Tamil cinema who is not afraid of speaking his mind and he gets bricks thrown at him for that. What Tamil films need is a wake-up call: people who will call a spade a spade. I was delighted to read his comments on Bheema because it was honest! Not many people have realise he also made a very good observation about Sivaji. Yes, it was a good entertainer but was it really necessary to spend that much of money for a movie with that message, he asked, which was very true.
I liked the fact that you ask some “tough” questions. I find that most profiles on Tamil movie personalities in either the English or Tamil media is so wishy washy and rarely takes the reader into the mind and the personality of the celeb. And they are all so politically correct. The media in TN seems to revere the celebs especially if they are really big and bend over backwards for them and are rarely critical.
I loved Vaaranam Ayiram and it was easily one of the best Indian films for 2008. Many of my non Indian friends for whom Indian films means Hindi films who watched it (because I was on a one woman campaign in KL to get as many people to watch it) were amazed that Tamil movies could be so good or that they had handsome heroes. My Malay friend is now a huge fan of Surya and has seen most of his movies (especially the ones with Jo) on DVD.
GVM had said in one of his earlier interviews that he plans a triology of police movies. I am hoping he will make his third with Surya and Jo!
Keep up the great work. And if you do know GVM personally, please tell him that he is one of the reasons why we who watch Tamil films can walk with our heads held high.
Goutham’s body language is good.
hi sir how are you?im love your film.
Great interview. Loved the frankness with which Gautham speaks. Very very disappointed to hear about the ‘Vijay issue’ that Gautham had. I have always liked Vijay but once this episode happened, everything went downhill for him. Now he is left to cling onto Sun Pictures to call his films a superhit, megahit, etc through their channel (everyone knows Vettaikaran’s fate). Vijay can do a love story and a Gautham signature love story with great elan. I still have some hope that Vijay would realize that Gautham can give his career the boost needed, and will join with Gautham one day. I dont care abut his fans, VIJAY WAS WRONG IN THIS ISSUE!
i like his all movies.i am so happy that he is from kerala,my state
You have done a great job in “Vinnai thandi varuvaaya”………………….
I am very intrested…………..
please allow me to join your assistant………
I would like to assist you…….
goutham i like ur movie surya son of krishnan. i watch that 54 times
i’m a great fan of yøu and ur films…especially vaaranam aayiram,vettayadu vilayadu& vinnai thandi varuvaaya……
hi gautham this s selva from bangalore…… vtv was outstanding…… all tha very best for your “neethane en pon vasantham”…..
Gowtham sir,i would like to speak tamil..
Neenga direct panna vtv.padam ipatha sir pathen.ivlo naal enaku thonala intha padam pakanum nu.bt ipa thonuthu..naan enoda lifela arputhamana 3 hrs ah,ivlo naal miss paniruka.sir basicave enaku film industryla zero knoledge .so enala unga talent pathi pesa mudiyala.oru request…enkuda ore oru coffe….sir.only 3 mins.3 hrs la life pathi evlovo enaku solirukinga.oru 3 mins enakaga spend panunga sir…ithu kidacha pothum.ithu tha en vazhkaiyin athisayamana 3 mins.pls.
Your movie “Neethana yen ponvasantham” is really very very very super…………….. I really enjoy your movie i feel like very good and main important point samantha acting is very beautiful thank you sir to give this movie to direct hmmm..:):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-) thank you sir….:)
I sincerlly say that i saw my life in ur movie ‘nee thana en pon vasantham’
I really facinated because
This film have many similarities with my own life iam expecting more from u iam not a secophant but u really own this credit