I have been inspired by Ajith’s off-screen life: Siva

There’s a palpable excitement in director Siva‘s voice as his recent song for Ajith‘s upcoming film, Vivegam, Thalai Viduthalai, has become an instant hit. The movie has completed the post-production work, and the cinematographer-turned-director is upbeat as the end product has come out as expected. In a candid chat, he opens up to us on working with Ajith, the challenges involved in directing a mass hero and what he likes about the hero…

From Ottanchatram in Veeram to Europe in Vivegam, how was it working with Ajith?
(Laughs) Veeram, my first venture with Ajith sir had a vil lage theme, set in Ottanchatram. In Vedalam, we explored a city subject with Kolkata as the focus. When we started thinking of what to do as the next project, the idea of having a movie with Europe as the back drop came up. In fact, it was Ajith sir who sug gested that we do a film in a Hollywood can vas. Ajith sir plays an international agent and the story required shooting it in Europe. We have shot extensively in Bulgaria, Siberia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.

The research that went in….
Ajith sir’s characterisation was finalised way back when we did Vedalam. He really liked the portions before and after the interval of the movie, and discussed whether we can come up with such a stylish film, in a different genre. I should thank him for believing in me, especially when I was going `international’ -a genre which has never been attempted in Tamil before.Vivegam is a spy thriller with loads of values and emotions weaved in.This was an exciting genre for me as I have never attempted one. We did a lot of research -my assistant director Adi Narayana and Kabilan Vairamuthu were of immense help while working on the script. The core idea of the story has been in my mind for a long time. We completed the dia logues and locked the script in three to four months.

Tell us about your team
Starting from my first film in Telugu, I have a team with whom I work in all the movies. Cinematographer Vetri was my classmate -we have been together since col lege days. My editor Ruben is extremely good with his work. For this movie, art director Milan Fernandes had come up with a sleek, stylish and futuristic set. The CG work in the movie has come out really well, in fact, on par with international standards.

It has been revealed that Ajith’s character name in the film is AK.Is his name going to be Ajith Kumar?
Being a spy thriller, we have christened his character as AK. But at this moment, I can’t reveal whether it has any connection with his real name or not.

What about the curious case of titling your movies starting with V…
When we were working on Veeram, the title was decided much later, after the shooting started. We chose the name considering that it is a movie on valour. When I suggested the name Veeram to Ajith sir, his first reaction was `are you sure this title has never been used in Tamil?’ Vedalam happened because it’s one of the character’s name in the movie. We opted for Vivegam since the title goes very well with the movie’s script. Also, is it not natural that after Veeram or valour, Vivegam which means prudence has to be there?

This is your third film with Ajith in straight sequence. How did this happen?
After Siruthai released, I got a call from Ajith sir. Actually I didn’t believe it then. A big star of his calibre contacting me was something unimaginable. Apparently, his manager who is a friend of my brother and actor Bala had told Ajith sir about me. It was magnanimous on his part to call me and ask me to meet him. Once I got introduced to him, I realised that he is a great human being, a very humble, and wonderful person.While I admire him, he is someone who appreciates and values my hard work and sincerity .

What are the challenges of directing a mass hero like Ajith?
While working on a film, I don’t really get worked up, thinking about people’s reaction. I give my 100% to the movie. I am truthful to what I do. Hence, I think hard work pays.Moreover, I am a strong believer and am sure that God blesses those who work hard. I think the results come naturally .

What about the action sequences in Vivegam?
There are three major action sequences in the film. Ajith sir doesn’t use any body double and he has done all the stunts by himself. The bike stunts have come out amazingly well and even the foreign stunt choreographer Kaloyan Vodenicharov was surprised at his ability to pull off the stunt sequences. For instance, after the stunt master explaining the stunt to him, Ajith sir asked him whether he could just roam around in the bike for a while and return? He agreed and soon sir got ready with his safety gear. He zoomed past a distance, performed wheeling, did a doughnut before getting back to the spot doing a drifting. Ajith sir used to be a bike racer but bike stunts are totally different from racing. We were shooting at subzero temperature with dim lights for getting the night effects. Due to snowfall the road was slippery and hence dangerous. It was a breath-taking moment for the team including the stunt master. The bike stunt sequence would be one of the highlights of the movie.

In the first-look poster of the movie, Ajith is shown all beefed up. Is it photoshopped or is that his real physique?
It’s his real look, which he achieved after hectic exercising schedules.The moment we locked the script, Ajith sir started hitting the gym and till now he has been on a strict diet and gruelling workout sessions.Even while shooting abroad, he made sure to exercise twice daily .At present, he is looking exactly like the photo that appears in the first look poster.