Tuesday, March 6, 2007

scenes from Aayitha Ezhuthu

all about yuva

Three men.
Three different lives.

A chance meeting on Kolkata's famed Hoogly bridge.

And three lives will never be the same again.


It is easily one of 2004's most eagerly awaited films.
After all, how often does Mani Ratnam come knocking on Bollywood's door? And, this time, he's put together a package that includes Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukerji and Esha Deol.

Catch the interviews with the stars. Get the low-down on the behind-the-scenes action. Hear the crew's views.

rediff.com presents the curtain-raiser to Mani Ratnam's Yuva, which released on May 21.


Mani Ratnam

Vivek Oberoi


Sreekar Prasad

Ajay Devgan

Esha Deol


Abhishek Bachchan I

Abhishek Bachchan I I

Kareena Kapoor

Sabu Cyril

Ravi K Chandran

Anurag Kashyap

I had two nightmares!

The Rediff Interview/Mani Ratnam

I had two nightmares!

May 20, 2004

He had two nightmares, confesses Mani Ratnam, arguably one of India's finest directors. The task of shooting a bilingual simultaneously in two languages, with two sets of star casts cannot have been easy.

Yet, Ratnam seems to have come out none the worse. Like all his movies, under the aegis of his production company Madras Talkies do, Aayitha Ezhuthu (Tamil)/ Yuva (Hindi) have been the subject of much speculation and hype -- as all of Mani Ratnam's films are.

But as Siddharth, one of the leads in the Tamil version says, "We at Madras Talkies believe in keeping our traps shut." And so shut they shall be, about the plotline of this latest offering of Ratnam.

In an extended telephonic interview with Managing Editor Saisuresh Sivaswamy, Ratnam reveals exactly what we should know about the movie. No more. No less. Excerpts:

Be it Roja, Bombay, Dil Se/Uyire or Kannathil Muttamittal, your movies deal with contemporary issues. What issue does Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu deal with?

Yuva is contemporary in that it deals with three youngsters, their attitudes. How today's youth, from three different backgrounds, deal with a situation. The film is set against student politics. When you make a film, the bigger picture is to take the heart of the story and managing to convey it on screen. That is the challenge.

Directors normally find it a nightmare to juggle just one cast, and here you have gone made the same movie twice, in Hindi and Tamil. What was your experience?

I had two nightmares (laughs). I have not done this before, and the two movies were shot back to back, not simultaneously. I dealt with two different set of actors, and each brought its own changes. Filmmaking brings its own organic way of doing things, changes, it develops a character of its own.

Did you resort to this because in Dil Se/Uyire, the same cast speaking in two different languages did not gel with the audience, and that the north and south have their own sensibilities?

Dil Se was dubbed into Tamil as Uyire. Dubbing a movie brings its own set of compromises, and you end up losing some of the elasticity.

Abhishek Bachchan plays Madhavan's character in the Hindi version. There is a tremendous buzz about him even though box-office success has so far eluded him. What is your take on him?

I am very happy with Abhishek Bachchan. He has played a very interesting character, and the rest you will see for yourself.

Yuva is a youth film. Although your films are young, two of your previous films -- Thiruda Thiruda and Alai Paayudhey -- also had youth in the centre. Did your experiences with those two movies impact on how you shaped Yuva?

No impact. Once you identify the script and characters are formed, the whole thing just drags you in. There is no baggage. The most important thing is to be honest to this particular script, and not to start off with the intention of making a good film. It depends on the story, and the characters. Each dictates its own rhythm.

The project also earned its share of headlines, what with Vivek Oberoi's accident etc. How was the schedule affected?

That was a most unfortunate thing. Sometimes the most ridiculous things happen and Vivek's accident was one of those. Yes, it did push back the schedule by some three months, but then there is no other choice. It was particularly hard on Vivek.

Yuva is a multi-starrer, which is a sort of break from the past in that this is the first time you have worked with three protagonists.

That is because the script demands three different attitudes. Sometimes films work with just one character, sometimes with more. It all depends on the script, and is built in. I had not done it earlier because the scripts did not require that. There was no specific intention of doing a multi-starrer, it so happened that the story is about three youths. The story decides whether I use new faces or not.

You are also a tech savvy director who constantly pushes the boundaries. You have used sync sound in Yuva. What else is new?

When you do something new, you don't do it in order to do something new but because it is required by the story, because it improves your filmmaking. Sync sound is used now because the story demanded it. These things are done without realising that one is doing something new, because that is not the intention.

Do you have a favourite character among the three protagonists in Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu?

I hope not. I hope I have been able to do justice to all three. All three are important aspects to the film, so there is no choosing one over the other. When you see the movie you will be able identify with the characters, not necessarily with just one of them. You will feel at different times, in different circumstances, you are able to identify with all three. That way, each of us has a bit of the characters in us.

The burden of being Mani Ratnam, the pressure of consistently being among India's better directors. How do you handle it?

I ignore it. One knows where one stands, so there is no burden. The only burden is to make the film right, and constantly struggling to make it right. The pressure is enough to not only bring anyone down to earth but also take you a couple of feet under (chuckles).

You don't suffer from pre-release jitters?

The journey of filmmaking is so amazing. You start off with great confidence, and develop insecurity at the time of release. When you are ready with the finished product, you are constantly wondering if you have been honest to the story you started out with, if you got what you wanted. One is too close to the project by then to be objective. You never know if you have been true.

You have said Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu is a seed that has germinated with you for some time. How does your creative process work?

Sometimes it is quick and happens fast. Sometimes the seed remains with you for a while, as is invariably the case with me, been with me for two-three films. Unlike in the West where an idea goes into development, with different departments taking over different stages of its development, we work differently here. Sometimes you have not found the writers to develop the script, so it remains with you for a while. After some time it falls into place. Everybody works this way. It is important that you have people around you with the same passion for good films, and have the same flair. That is as important as the story itself.

Actors, and technicians will give their right hand to work with you. Since you can have anyone you want, how do you pick and choose for your movies?

When it comes to casting for movies, it is a priority that you cast right. The guiding principle must be what is right for the movie, that is the basis you cast someone, not because so and so is a friend. It helps to have a wide choice, it makes filmmaking easier. But the priority must be the film, and to be clear about it. Of course, the person you want may not be available, say, then you go for the next best choice.

About Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu you have said it is about how three different characters react to the same situation. Do you see a bit of yourself in any of or all the three characters? Is the movie then a vehicle for self-examination?

No, not self-examination. This is true for everybody. Everyone will identify with the characters at different times. About a bit of me in my films, every filmmaker puts a bit of himself in his movies, that's how it is done. Just as every actor puts a bit of himself into every character he plays. In this case it could well be about three different aspects in the same person. When you are in one person's shoes you see things differently, when you are in the other person's shoes you will see it differently yet.

You have also said the kernel is a real-life incident. Do you think you have remained true to the original incident or changed it anyway?

No, it is totally different. That incident I referred to was just the starting point. I have taken the spirit of the person, and this is in no way a real-life drama.

Your films have never used the female character as simply an adornment, rather they have very strongly delineated characters. Your promo material, however, focuses on the male characters?

Wait till you see the film (laughs). I don't use women characters for the sake of using them, this movie calls for very specifically designed characters. They have strong feelings and express them. They are not heroines, they are characters. They all have a mind of their own.

Your wife Suhasini is a talent in her own right, and is an integral part of your filmmaking process. What is her contribution to Yuva/Aayitha Ezhuthu?

She is a critic first. She is the bouncing board for this film. She brings in the objective view, and was involved at the script and the post-production stages. She has the long-distance perspective.

Be it in Roja, Sonu Walia in Dalapathy, Malaika Arora in Dil Se/Uyire, you have used what Bollywood calls 'item number' long before the term became fashionable. Is there one in Yuva?

The songs were not considered 'item numbers' at that point (chuckles). The point is, because I used Sonu Walia from Mumbai it became an item number. Had I used, say, Disco Shanti, it would not be considered an item number.

In Yuva the songs are more an integral part of the story. I had started off saying there will be no songs, and then changed my mind. But when you see the movie you will realise that nothing stands out as a song, but they flow with the story. The music too deals with three different people with three different styles, and is more in tune with the characters.

A R Rahman has said working with you is a two-way give and take. Music is a strong element of your movie-making, and it has a tremendous Tamil idiom. What is the extent of your involvement with Rahman's music?

I don't make, but merely choose, the music. I get to tell Rahman, sometimes push him to what I want, but finally it is up to him to deliver. Rahman is very very director friendly. He is ever ready to go whichever the director wants, the story wants, depending on the kind of movie or the music you want, and within that he finds his niche. It is a constantly complementary process. At the end of the day he is not pleasing you, he has to please himself.

Nayagan was the only movie you and Kamal Haasan, the two powerhouses from Tamil films, worked together. It has been a long time. Are movie buffs to be denied a chance to see you together?

I don't know. Kamal Haasan is a huge talent. We need to have something to offer like Nayagan, we need to cross that benchmark, or at least go up to it. We are not merely doing a project, that is very easy, but we need to something good. As of this moment we have not hit on anything.

From the Western perspective, Bollywood has become an all-encompassing term for Indian cinema. It does not justice to talent like you who are out of the Mumbai film industry, or to the Malayalam and Bengali industries. Does it irk you?

The name itself. Calling yourself after something that rhymes with Hollywood is, well, sad. Obviously they are doing it to identify Indian films, but that is a classification one can grow out of. As long as you are making the kind of films you are happy about, it is okay. One is not in competition with Hindi films.

Making films appealing to the NRI sensibility is the trend now, but Tamil films seem to stay out of it. Do you see yourself making an NRI film?

My focus is on the script, and the characters are rooted here. I don't think it is easy within the script to take them over there and bring them back. I have to be honest to the story I have. If the story is based over there, I will have no problems doing it, but not with this story.

Your films are rooted in the local idiom and have done well for that reason. Dil Se/Uyire was one movie that failed to connect at that level. With the 20:20 vision of hindsight, what could you have done differently?

I don't know. When you make a movie for a year-and-a-half, obviously you are convinced that it is right. Yes, the film didn't do commercially well. Yes, I made a mistake, but that doesn't mean the one-and-a-half years were a lie. It was intended to be right, but some elements didn't work. There could be a few faults, I was aware of them at that time, but despite it I thought we will be able to make the film work. It was confidence.

But, then, you get on.

Among all your movies, do you have a favourite, one that you can look at and say, 'yes, this was it'?

No. Probably the next one.

(Parts of this interview first appeared in India Abroad)

Vivek Oberoi: Acting the Mani Ratnam way!

Vivek Oberoi: Acting the Mani Ratnam way!

Vivek Oberoi | May 19, 2004 20:00 IST

Mani Ratnam is a genius."

"My role was challenging."

"All three actors from the Tamil version are good friends of mine."

"I hope Yuva will be memorable."

"Kareena is fun to work with."

The excitement in Vivek Oberoi's tone is hard to miss in his interview to India Abroad's Deputy Managing Editor Vaihayasi P Daniel. Excerpts:

Yuva has been a fascinating experience because of the master of cinema: Mani Ratnam.

He [Ratnam] is one of the best talents that India has ever produced. It has been a great experience working with him.

I have never performed a character like this [Arjun Balakrishnan] who does not have any direction. He represents the masses, the youth in India, which is indifferent to most political issues. They [the youth] are not politically conscious [or] awakened.

He [my character] is very self-serving and selfish. His whole drive is very individualistic. He does not think about what he can do for others, only what he can get for himself. He is not good. He is not bad. He is not polarised. He thinks he has got it all figured out. But the film reveals that there is a certain inherent goodness and nobility that comes out. How he polarises them. And, by the end of the film, how his stand on things, his perspective of things change.

It [playing the character] was challenging. It was different to do a film like Yuva. Because there are two ways to act — one way is the regular way to act and one is Mani Ratnam's way.

He is a genius. What is amazing is that he throws up a challenge all the time. You have practised something. You have been given a scene. You have worked it out for yourself. You have rehearsed it a number of times. You have worked on the lines. You have thought how you are going to deliver. You have thought how you are going to mechanically work out the entire scene in your head. Then you have gone there. You have done it. And he says, "Great, fabulous, I love it. It is damn good. But now that we have this, how about trying something completely different? Whatever you have done, leave it all aside. Try something different from everything that you have done."

You have put in everything you have got into that [scene]. Now, you have to try and find something that is totally different and apart from what you just did. It is challenging. It is interesting. It gives you a fresh perspective on everything.

What is amazing about him [Mani Ratnam] is that he plans so brilliantly and executes so perfectly. What is amazing is that he still leaves enough room for spontaneity.

As an actor, I love improvising. I love bringing stuff that was never in the script out. Try to add on stuff, you know? And to have a director who is so confident and assured enough to be able to decide what he wants to keep and what he doesn't. [He is not] somebody who is not insecure enough to say, "No, no, let's go by the book, let's go by the book, by the rules. This is exactly how it has to be done." He is not like that.

In spite of being so well planned and well organised, he leaves enough room for spontaneity.

He is a wonderful human being, a great guy. I had so much fun working with him. He has different moods. He is a lot of fun. He has a great sense of humour. In spite of being so much older than I am, he makes me feel like we are the same age. The way he behaves, the entire attitude, the way he interacts, it makes you feel that the generation gap does not exist. He just thinks, behaves and acts. He is so hip and cool.

Mani Sir had seen Company. He really liked that. He had seen Saathiya, which was written by Mani Ratnam. He also produced the film. He was very impressed with my work. He had been telling me that he wants to do something [a film] with me. I said, 'It will be an honour.' He called me and gave me the script. I think I was the first actor on that film [Yuva] to be confirmed. That was the best part. I was really honoured to know that the first person to be picked for a part was me.

I was really kicked about the idea. He called me and gave me the script. I read through it. I freaked out on the script. I told him all the roles are so brilliant that I would do anyone of them. Then he told me which one he wants me to do. I loved it. I went for it.

I have met Siddharth [who plays Oberoi's role in the Tamil version Aayitha Ezhuthu]. I met him before too. He is a really cool and fun guy. All the actors [Siddharth, Surya and Madhavan] from the Tamil version, all three of them, are very good friends of mine. Madhavan is a very good friend of mine. Surya is a very good friend of mine. Siddharth is a very good friend of mine. They are all very good friends.

The Hindi film was shot and completed first. And then they [the makers] commenced the Tamil shooting. We hung out together. Every time we [actors] were down in Chennai, we hung out with a lot of the Tamil actors, which was great fun. They would drop in on the sets. We would say hi and meet up.

I hope it [Yuva] will be memorable for reasons other than the accident.

I worked with Kareena [Kapoor] for the first time. She is fun to work with. She is a talented actress.

'Vivek and I have given our hearts to our roles'

'Vivek and I have given our hearts to our roles'

Siddhu Warrier | May 20, 2004 15:54 IST

Siddharth was the star of Boys, a fun, young movie that released in 2003.

He had assisted Mani Ratnam in Kannathil Mutthamittal and is one of the three stars of Aayitha Ezhuthu. Like the character he plays in Aayitha Ezhuthu, Siddharth also holds an MBA degree from a top business school in India.

He describes what it is to act under Mani Ratnam:

Working with Mani sir is fun. Period. I probably enjoyed assisting him more because it entailed more work, and hence, more interaction. Acting is far more gratifying, though, essentially because you get to be a bigger part of the finished product!

I played a boy in Boys. I play a young man in Aayitha Ezhuthu. I must say it took ages for me to see common ground between my reality and who I was in Boys. But I believe the main reason I was cast in Aayitha Ezhuthu was that I looked, talked and behaved like Arjun.

Working with Maddy [Madhavan] and Surya has been a great experience. I have known Maddy a while now, and we get along really well. He is hugely talented and it was fun watching him perform. He was like a protective big brother on the sets, always watching out for my safety. We had a blast.

As for Surya, he is one of those actors who makes you want to work harder to match his efforts.

The biggest thrill of this film is getting an opportunity to play along with these guys. It has also been an absolute pleasure working with Trisha [Krishnan]. I have another film coming up opposite her, so it is always a relief when you work well with a co-star.

I am not going to reveal what the plot of Aayitha Ezhuthu is. We at Madras Talkies pride ourselves on our ability to keep our traps shut.

But I can tell you what you need to know at this point. I play Arjun, a young educated man who has made airtight plans for his future. He couldn't be concerned with the interests and problems of the world. He strives for maximum joy with minimum effort. His goal in life is to look out for himself and himself alone. For more details on who this Arjun chap is, catch the film.

I think sync sound [in Aayitha Ezhuthu] worked more for me than against me. I am from the stage, so live is always better! However, I tend to speak very fast, especially in Tamil. That small impediment notwithstanding, I really enjoyed working on a movie with sync sound. Bob Taylor, our sound recordist, really helped me get into the swing of this technique.

I knew I was headed the film way even before I signed up for business school. I have dreamed of making films since childhood. It was not acting, but writing and directing that interested me. So I completed my education as a safety cushion, and headed south [he grew up in Delhi and Mumbai] to be an assistant director.

Three years have gone by. Now, I am an actor on the verge of a second release. I have no clue where I will take myself next. I am just taking things as they come.

I don't think Yuva and Aayitha Ezhuthu will turn out all that different. The theme of this movie is universal. The varied facets of today's youth manifest themselves in different ways in different places, depending on the individual. The facets remain the same. On a screenplay level, the films are identical, so the question of varied incorporation of nuances does not arise.

Making AE felt like living a dream. I was never in a frame of mind to pick and enjoy moments. The whole experience was a challenge, not to let down the faith that was shown in my abilities. Every moment of this challenge has been equally enjoyable, equally excruciating!

Although executed simultaneously, the locations and schedules of the two films were very different. The interactions were mostly informal. I am still intrigued by the prospect of watching both our performances back to back.

I gave all my heart to this role. Vivek [Oberoi, who plays his Hindi counterpart] has done the same. I hope we have both done justice to our characters.