Gautham Menon Speaks About AYM

Gautham Menon talks to us about Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada and other films. 

Gautham Menon confirms what we always suspected. His films are, for the most part, autobiographical in nature. He won’t, of course, confirm if he, like his protagonists in Minnale and Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, was in love with a Christian girl (possibly a Malayali), but he does mention how all his films, except Nadunisi Naaygal and Pachaikili Muthucharam, borrow incidents from his life. But he sounds almost rueful about this element of autobiography. He has always wanted to make films far removed from his life (even if the one farthest from his life, Nadunisi Naaygal, didn’t fare well). It bothers him his actors, like Suriya and Simbu, look and talk like he does. “I guess I should just explain scenes and let them interpret it,” he says. He has tried that. “But I step back in because I’m irked when it’s not like I’ve visualised it.” 

He knows exactly what he wants. He has rules about how women should be portrayed onscreen. He admits he could never make a love story like Madhavan’s in Aaytha Ezhuthu. The raw, even abusive nature of such relationships upsets the romantic in him. He wasn’t completely at ease with the recent Trisha Illana Nayanthara, though he “salutes” director Adhik for being gutsy enough to do such a film. “I want people like my mother to feel comfortable watching a film.” Still, he’s now in talks to produce a film by Adhik, hopefully one more agreeable. Like other directors, chiefly Shankar, Gautham likes to produce films that he knows he can never make. Because he’s a diehard romantic. “Today is an overcast day, right? I know many people who consider this weather to be gloomy. But I like to get out. Even if I’m indoors, I’m not somebody who’ll close the curtains.” I’m reminded of Maya in Kaakha Kaakha insisting that the curtains always be kept open. More autobiography? 

His upcoming Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada is also rooted in love. I say ‘also’ because, contrary to what the teaser suggests, the love story is not all. “The first half is about their love, but the film shifts into a violent space in the second. The love story sets up all the latter violence.” The film’s original title, Sattendru Maaruthu Vaanilai (which couldn’t be used due to copyright issues), now makes sense. All of Rahman’s five songs will be used in the first half. “I’ve treated the romance slightly differently. The hero isn’t really sure if he’s in love. He’s in a friendship that opens up gradually.” This is quite different from his usual films in which the hero takes a glance at the heroine, and knows beyond all doubt that he’s in love. “These things do happen. But there’s a new angle here.” He’s utterly sure that he will not run out of love stories, or “angles”, as he calls them. “I’ve got one-liners that can be made into love stories for the next 10 years.” 

Achcham Enbadhu… is a bilingual (with Simbu in Tamil, Naga Chaitanya in Telugu). The story is inspired by the scene in The Godfather where a bruised Michael Corleone plots revenge against the corrupt policeman McCluskey. “I’ve portrayed cops as heroes for far too long, I think. So, this time, a cop is the bad guy.” While writing the second half, Gautham took care to ensure he wasn’t watching films in other genres. “I was so affected when I saw Angadi Theruthat I couldn’t write my script for two weeks.” 

Terrible films, he says, have a similar demotivating effect. His outspoken, uninhibited nature means that if pressed, he will likely name the bad films. But I don’t. Recently, he was quoted as saying Simbu doesn’t quite turn up to the sets regularly. “They (the press) used it as the title because it was controversial. I also said that he’s the most talented actor we have; that he can do several hours of work in an hour or two.” This frankness has caused him trouble in the past too. During the making of Neethane En Ponvasantham, he told an interviewer that he preferred Simbu to Jiiva. “I don’t think that was particularly wise.” 

Simbu, in Achcham Enbadhu…, is paired with Manjima, known for her work in Malayalam cinema. Gautham is very pleased with her work. “Like Tamannaah and Nayantara, she works hard on her lip sync. I’ll be working with her a lot, I think.” 

And then, like a film that reserves its biggest twist for the end, he tells me the big news. I prod him about Vedalam. “I understand why it was made,” he said. “It’s a proper Deepavali release.” But of course, it’s not the sort of film he would make with Ajith. “I’d make another Yennai Arindhaal.” He isn’t speculating. He’s written half the script for Yennai Arindhaal 2. Ajith hasn’t given him any assurances though. They haven’t even spoken much since Yennai Arindhaal’s release. “But it doesn’t matter. I’ll take the bound script and stand outside his gate.” It’s dimly reminiscent of a hopeful Simbu, in Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, approaching directors for a chance. Make of it what you will. 

Published in THE HINDU Daily English News Paper Dated 22-November-2015