Friday, 15 January 2010

Meet the boss of Sivaji Productions - Ramkumar

‘For us, the star comes first’
Shobha Warrior in Chennai
The boss at Sivaji productions is legendary Sivaji Ganesan’s eldest son, Ramkumar.
As the latest Tamil movie from the production house, Aasal directed by Saran starring Ajith, Sameera Reddy and Bhavana gets ready for release, Ramkumar speaks exclusively to’s Shobha Warrior about the movie and movie making.
Do you feel Sivaji productions has changed after the success of Chandramukhi (based on the Malayalam film, Manichitrathazhu)?
No, we are the same production house, which is a pop-and-mum retail shop. It has been 34 years and I am still here. There haven’t been that much changes. The only change we feel is that Sivaji is not with us. Many of us thought we would have the goodwill only when he was alive but we managed to retain the goodwill even after him.
Why is it that in interviews, you refer to your father as Sivaji or Mr Sivaji Ganesan and not as father or Appa?
We have seen him introduce himself as Sivaji Ganesan. He didn’t expect everyone to know him. We talk of him as a cinema personality and not as our father. When I refer to him as father, I don’t want anyone to ask, who are you talking about. That is why I always refer to him as Sivaji.
What are the things you look for before producing a film?
Like I said, we are still the old pop-and-mum shop. We are still a star oriented company. We have not made many small budget films. We made a film with Prabhu (Ramkumar’s younger brother) only five years after he became a star. We only go for a star who will get a good opening and minimum guarantee.
Does that mean story and director come only after the star?
Yes, first I get a star’s date and only after that comes the story and the director.
Won’t the story suffer then?
This has been the practice from the time of Sivaji and MGR. Writers write stories with them in mind. Many writers had stories for them then, and now they have stories for Ajith, Vijay, Surya, the Super Star (Rajnikanth) or Kamal (Haasan). When I say I am going to make a film with Rajni sir or Ajith, many people come with their stories written with them in mind.
This time, before Billa released, we got Ajith’s dates. We had some other director then.
Gowtham Menon was to direct him then for Sivaji Productions. What happened?
We had Ajith’s dates but the script was not getting ready and we were waiting for it. He was busy with some other film. Then, we decided to part ways and work together some other time.
Was it a friendly parting of ways?
We have been in the industry for a very long time. It is because of this goodwill that we are still making films. I don’t know how others feel about it, but yes, we parted ways amicably.
Then again, we thought of a couple of people before booking Saran as he had given a few hits with Ajith. There was agreement on the subject also.
Your son and Prabhu’s son are looking after the production ofAasal now. Have you passed on the baton?
Yes, partly. The youngsters have come in and I want them to learn. They are taking over the creative side as their style of thinking suits today’s audience. For the first time in 35 years, I didn’t go to the shooting spot except once when they shot in Chennai. Vikram and Dushyanth take care of everything.
I also feel Ajith might feel more free if the youngsters are there. When I go there, he will stand up and call me ’sir’. He is a very decent man, very respectful.
Aren’t you part of the creative discussions at all?
It is not that I have left completely. If not for anything, we have been in the industry for so long and made a few hit films.
Do you feel the taste of today’s film watching audience has changed?
The tastes of the city audience might have changed but if you take the state as a whole, there are not that many changes. Ladies, the B and C audience are still the same. When you are making a big budget movie, you cannot think of multiplexes alone; you have to think of the whole state. Only then can you recover the money.
What is the revenue share from the A centre?
You get 50-60 per cent from A centres because you have big theatres and the ticket rates are high. Now, what has happened is most of the B and C centres have become A centres. We might even get 70 per cent of our collections from A centres. But the crowd mentality has not changed much. It may be less melodramatic but a little tug at the heart is what they need.
You say you want to cater to the entire state. From the producer’s point of view, how do you make a balance between different kinds of audience, from the urban to the real rural?
You have to create a balance between all the centres. We have movies where heroes fight the villains. Good stunts attract all tyeps of people. We have beautiful songs, good looking girls, good clothes, dramatic scenes. We tried to strike a balance in Chandramukhi. But who thought the film would run for 2-3 years?
Aasal is one of the most modern looking films in the history of Tamil cinema. 70 per cent of the film was shot outside India.  So, the whole look of the film is different but we have an Indian story and an Indian guy.
Tell us something more about Aasal?
Aasal is real or original. It is about Shiva, played by Ajith, who is not getting his due and it is his fight to get that. From childhood, he has been fighting to get his due. It is also about the interesting people he meets on the way. It is an action filled adventure.
The story takes place in France and later moves to Mumbai. We shot most of the film in France and the Mumbai portions were shot in KL as Mumbai was flooded at that time. Film France website mentioned about Aasal as the Indian movie that had the longest shoot there. When we were shooting there, Clint Eastwood was shooting next to us.
Prasant Misale, an assistant to Nirav Shah, who shot the Dhoom series and Billa has shot the film. Some of the aerial shots taken in France are breathtaking.
When you are shooting in France with artists walking in clothes that suit the place, the whole look of the film changes.
How was Ajith as the hero of a Sivaji production?
He was extremely co-operative. He was there when the story was discussed. He is part of the post production work too.  Sameera Reddy and Bhavana were also fantastic.
Do you like an actor interfering in the technical aspects of the film?
I don’t find it interfering. I call it contribution. We are also a family of actors. Even Sivaji sir was part of story discussions. He used to listen to the songs before going for shoots. Why are they super stars? Because they make the right choices. So, their contribution will always help and add value to the film.
But I am the boss here. Even the director is the captain of the ship but I own the ship [laughs]. But I am a very lenient, broad minded and a supportive boss. I still want discipline. If there is no discipline, I will ask the captain to move away.
Source: Rediff


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