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Director Nithilan Saminathan Interview for Maharaja: I don’t see filmmaking as pressure | Exclusive

Nithilan Saminathan, who is expecting the release of his second directorial Maharaja with Vijay Sethupathi, speaks about the film, the similarities and differences between Kurangu Bommai, and more

Director Nithilan Saminathan Interview for Maharaja: I don’t see filmmaking as pressure | Exclusive
Nithilan; Maharaja poster

Last Updated: 09.35 AM, Jun 12, 2024


Director Nithilan Saminathan made a splash with his debut in the critically acclaimed film Kurangu Bommai in 2017. After a gap of seven years, the filmmaker is back with yet another film, Maharaja, starring Vijay Sethupathi. We recently met him to speak more about it. Here are the excerpts. 

Nithilan Saminathan interview for Maharaja

Your first film, Kurangu Bommai, was a critically acclaimed film. Up next, Maharaja seems to be a commercially larger film. How do you view these tags?

Vijay Sethupathi in Maharaja
Vijay Sethupathi in Maharaja

Personally, I don’t have any scale in terms of making films that are commercially successful or critically acclaimed. As a director, you would know how to present the film. I always wonder how director Mysskin would present a film like Kadhal. I weigh the scale of the film and choose to see how to present it. I don’t try to insert commercial elements voluntarily. Maharaja is a commercial film but I have not wanted to make it that way.

Has the question of why you are making films ever occurred to you?

I am one of those who isn’t profound about a particular subject. I am a common man who may have some knowledge of a handful of things. From this perspective, my main goal is not to fool, misguide or cheat the audience. At the same time, I believe that the taste of the filmmaker should appeal to the audience and I would like to make films that are in my taste but still likeable to the audience. I don’t seek to profess through my films.

How would you describe your taste?

I am unable to describe it, but something that may seem conflicting is that I like comedy films. I enjoy most of Sundar C’s films but I may not be able to make such films. I watch films like Saamy, Ghilli, Thuppaki, Subramaniapuram, Kalavani, Chennai 28, and Aadukalam. At the same time, I like Schindler’s List and Aaranya Kaandam. I may be able to do films that partly capture my tastes.

Be it Kurangu Bommai or what we see from Maharaja’s trailer, your films may seem to revolve around inanimate objects...

I agree. Director Vetrimaaran once said that if you make films with an object, your scope is limited. I did Kurangu Bommai in that way, and probably after watching Maharaja, you will feel it is different, or not.

You had said that you like to see faces in different ways. In Kurangu Bommai, you experimented with Elango Kumaravel’s casting. With Maharaja having star faces, how was it for you to make these actors your characters by shedding their baggage of fame?

Anurag Kashyap and Vijay Sethupathi in Maharaja trailer.
Anurag Kashyap and Vijay Sethupathi in Maharaja trailer.

Firstly, I don’t see people differently. I only do it if it strikes me to show an actor in a different shade; I don't do it deliberately. Certain faces emit a different shade and emotion, which I try to use. I watch a lot of comedy films and that also helps me visualise faces in a different sense. With Elango Kumaravel, I thought of him when I saw him in Abhiyum Naanum.

With Maharaja, I wrote the script without knowing it was Vijay Sethupathi sir’s 50th film. Once I finish a script, I design the characters with the real people I have met. In this process, I develop scenes and emotions.

Compared to Kurangu Bommai, Maharaja is made on a bigger scale. Has that added extra pressure on you?

I am not stressed when I make a film. I only get tense when I talk about it. When doing Maharaja, it was comparatively a bigger set than Kurangu Bommai. That was the only difference. My first film’s release got delayed and I was anticipating the reception. I don’t see filmmaking as pressure. As Maharaja is about to release, I am only excited about what people have to say about the film.

I do not make films with the intention of bringing about a change. All I see is that the producers are safe and people enjoy the film that I enjoyed making.


The business of the film industry has grown multi-fold. It now includes calculations for streaming and satellite rights. Even before its release, we knew that Maharaja is going to stream on Netflix. Does this hinder the creative process?

There have been no changes that way. We have moved to a place where we are roping in actors from various industries. We still get films like Aavesham and Premalu, which have content. At the same time, we are catering to multiple industries. We are now in a place where we are mingling creative and business aspects of the films, which gives us a us a new path for evolution.

What do you consider a success for your films?

First and foremost, that the producers are safe. Even before Maharaja release, the producers are in a safe place now. Secondly, I see reviews of some noted reviewers along with what the public has to say, how many tickets are sold and the audience reaction once they come out of cinema halls. I think if all these are in place, then the film is is a success for me.

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