In 2003, it was Kaakha Kaakha that put South Indian director Gautham Menon into the spotlight. But before that it was in 2001 when he tried his hands in Bollywood with Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein. The film didn’t work and post that Menon kept his feet firm in South Indian cinema making hits after hits till Fox extended their hand to remake his earlier Tamil blockbuster Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa now titled in Hindi as Ekk Deewana Tha. For a man who loved Notting Hill and DDLJ, for a man who defines ‘Love’ as – ‘Never to say Sorry or Thank You’, Gautham Menon surely comes across as a director who has his sense and sensibilities right when it comes to making love stories. He tried tested and failed with his debut movie but it’s the trying and testing time for him right now with Prateik and Amy Jackson attempting to win over the audiences hearts with their ‘love’ly love story. We all want to fall in love. Why? Because that experience makes us feel completely alive. Where every sense is heightened, every emotion is magnified, our everyday reality is shattered and we are flying into the heavens. Well, it’s time! Time to fall in love!
In times when directors are busy churning comedies, rom-coms, thrillers and horrors, you are one of those rare ones who is making love story.
I am a love story freak. I love telling love stories, rather making it. Most of these stories that I am able to film are drawn from real life and from the people I know. I am not being modest but people identify with these love stories. Ekk Deewana Tha is one such story that people will surely connect with.
How did the idea to cast Amy Jackson come to you?
The idea to cast Amy Jackson in Ekk Deewana Tha began when I was clear in my head that I wanted to cast a new face and not the heroines that audiences have seen or known over the years. I wanted her character to walk into the heart of the audience straight away. It’s that mystery in a fresh face that the audience always wants to see. I had seen a Tamil film that Amy had done where she plays herself. I also knew the director of that movie who told me that she was very good with her lines. People were a bit apprehensive about me casting Amy in the movie. But then we brought her down, got her to do the look test, we came with the right kind of clothes and gave her lines way in advance. She gave her shot in one take and she is really hard working.
Tell me something about Prateik’s streak in acting.
Prateik is a vulnerable actor. Underdogs are here to stay and Prateik is here to stay. There is a streak in him that’s brilliant. I’ve loved him in Dhobi Ghat. He is a fine actor. This is a first solo hero movie for Prateik even though he had done My Friend Pinto. But that movie had too many supporting casts. This movie is entirely him. He has an endearing quality in him that girls are going to swoon over once they see him in Ekk Deewana Tha.
Getting A.R. Rahman to say yes is a difficult job now-a-days considering he is the busiest musician in the world.
A.R. Rahman has heard and liked my work I’ve done since the past decade in South Indian movies. When I approached him for this movie, he didn’t take more than two minutes to give a positive nod to my Tamil movie titled Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa now being remade into Hindi titled Ekk Deewana Tha. The songs from the Tamil were highly popular and we then remade the movie into Telugu titled Ye Maaya Chesave. The Telugu songs too became a rage. When it comes to A.R Rahman, you do not question his abilities, you only fall in love with his tunes. In the Hindi version he has come out with three extra songs.
Like Master, like Student?
I’ve been a big Ilayaraja fan actually. But when Roja released, there was a sudden revolution in music. I’ve been born and brought up on Ilayaraja’s music. I’ve really admired his work over the years and when A.R Rahman started to work with him, I knew his music would be something to look forward to. Like master, like student.
Ekk Deewana Tha is your second Hindi release since 2001’s Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein. Why a decade long for your second movie?
My debut Hindi movie Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein didn’t do really well at the box office but for me Tamil is my language. I did a few super hit movies down South. One was starring Kamal Haasan called Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu, that was before he did Dasavatharam. I’ve also worked with Suriya in Kaakha Kaakha that was a huge hit. Language is just a language but it’s easier for me to make films down South. I guess Ekk Deewana Tha had to be told to a wider audience after I made it in Telugu and Tamil and when Fox approached me, I couldn’t say no.
Name your top three love stories.
I like Notting Hill and I thought it was a beautifully woven love story. I love Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge because of its story and Kajol. She was absolutely brilliant. My last but not the least is a Kamal Haasan produced movie titled Raja Paarvai where the protagonist (played by Kamal Haasan) is blind and there’s a girl who falls in love with him. These three rank in my all time favourite love stories.
How do you define ‘love’?
Love is definitely not what’s shown in Hindi cinema these days. Love is when you smile and feel about something. You never have to say Sorry or Thank You, that to me is love.