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Exclusive! Magizh Thirumeni: The intention behind making Kalaga Thalaivan was to make people aware about whistleblowers

The director talks in detail about writing a script for Udhayanidhi, weaving a story on corporate culture and choosing actors based on the characters 

Exclusive! Magizh Thirumeni: The intention behind making Kalaga Thalaivan was to make people aware about whistleblowers

Magizh Thirumeni and posters of Kalaga Thalaivan

  • Thinkal Menon

Last Updated: 04.03 PM, Nov 19, 2022

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Filmmaker Magizh Thirumeni, who is reveling in a sense of satisfaction after his project Kalaga Thalaivan has released on Friday, says that this is the first time he has developed a script after deciding the actor who is playing the lead in it. But he notes that it was a fulfilling experience, as what matters finally is the outcome.

The director, who has an impressive repertoire to his credit, opens up on what made him choose a subject which revolves around whistleblowers, the impact of greedy corporate sectors in today's economic scenario, roping in suitable actors for the film and the need to have a female lead in movies to cater to a wider audience in an exclusive chat with OTTplay. Excerpts...   

After delivering a box office hit with Thadam, what was your thought process like with regard to coming up with a story for your next project?

My thought process in terms of choosing a plot and developing it has always been the same. One major difference I experienced this time was with regard to penning a screenplay for a story for which the lead actor came on board much earlier. Udhayanidhi and I committed to the project soon after Thadam was released.

I told him about the plot and he was impressed with it, all I had asked was a time period of five months. Unlike my previous movies, I had to build a screenplay for a hero based on his strengths. Though it was new to me, I found the process exciting. 

Udhayanidhi in a still from the film
Udhayanidhi in a still from the film

Does writing while keeping someone in mind affect freedom in some way?

Not really. I was aware that I'm not compromising on any aspect. As a writer and a director, all I had to do was to exploit the strengths of the actor who is playing the lead. A story can be narrated in many ways. I never felt that writing a screenplay for someone restricts your freedom or creativity. 

The movie touches upon the lives of a few whistleblowers and the price they have to pay for their good deeds. What made you weave a story around them?

I have been intrigued with the theme of corporate theft for some time. I don't think this is a concept which Tamil cinema has explored much. It is actually a vast topic, at least two or three movies could be made on it. Since Udhay came on board much earlier, I had to keep certain things in mind. 

His family audience, political stature and a full-fledged action movie which he hasn't attempted before were the major aspects I kept in mind while looking out for a story. I read a lot about whistleblowers. Like I mentioned in the film, 150 of them have been killed in the last five years. 

Besides, there are similar cases which haven't been registered officially. I felt the public should know about their story, what they went through and their sacrifices. Many died without achieving their goals. They were killed for doing something good for society. This really bothered me. But I knew that my film is a commercial flick, and hence, couldn't resort to a completely raw narration or documentary style execution. I wanted this topic to be discussed by as many people as possible. 

A still from the film
A still from the film

Tell us about the selection of actors. Arav, Kalaiyarasan, Nidhhi Agerwal...it is an unconventional list for a subject like this...  

I knew during half way through the script that the antagonist that I have developed requires someone who is not just talented, but also physically appealing to look convincing. He is someone who induces fear with his body language and silent movements, he doesn't need to raise his voice to draw attention. I had met Arav twice during then, and I considered him as an option.

But I felt that his features did not completely match the requirements. I asked him to bring some changes to his hairstyle and put on a few kilos. As he has been doing hero-oriented roles and romantic dramas, I wanted this character to elevate his position in the industry to the next level. Similarly, Nidhhi was happy to play the heroine and has brought life to the character interestingly. I have immense respect for Kalaiyarasan for carving a niche for himself in the industry. Anupama and Jeeva Ravi are actors I have already worked with; it is always a pleasure to collaborate with actors who are happy to give you what you need from them. 

Tamil cinema has had numerous corporate bashing films. In fact, many of them have striking resemblance, too, in terms of the character design of protagonists and antagonists. Was it a purposeful decision for you to give it a different spin in terms of treatment?

First of all, I'm not anti-corporate. I understand they are indispensable in our financial set up. However, I'm concerned about some of their blatant violation of norms and detrimental nature. I feel there should be a level-playing field without which things become difficult for everyone in a capitalistic economy. The monopoly by a few will hamper the chances of a flourished society. This film is endorsing a level-playing field that wants the corporates to correct themselves.

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