Director Shankar Interview for Indian 2: Senapathy and Indian are timeless concepts that work even today

Director Shankar Interview for Indian 2: Senapathy and Indian are timeless concepts that work even today

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Director S Shankar has become synonymous with larger-than-life films. But in contrast, the director has also been made movies about the common man versus the system, and in particular how a man goes against all odds to weed out malpractices in society. Over 28 years since the release of his iconic film Indian, Shankar is back with its sequel, Indian 2. He has revived the character Senapathy with Kamal Haasan. But why did he think this was necessary? We find out from him in an exclusive interview...

"After I finished Indian, I moved on to other projects like Jeans, Mudhalvan and others. While the thought of my next project kept running through my mind, I kept stumbling upon these newspapers about corruption and bribery cases. It is all at these times when I remember Senapathy and how it would be if he came back. It would be nice, and I also wanted a story to go with it. But the headlines never changed and it felt Senpathy had to come back once more," Shankar says.

So does he see Senapathy and Indian as timeless concepts from his works so far?

"Yes, that is how it is. We have not seen the headlines change in newspapers. If you see it that way, then there is a necessity that Anniyan also has to return." 

So would Anniyan 2 also be a reality?

"Like I said, I have thought about it, but like Indian 2, it has not been converted into a story. So if it happens, I might or might not do it."

S Shankar interview for Indian 2

Shankar might have felt that there was a need for Senapathy to return, but that alone was not sufficient for the filmmaker to get going with Indian 2. With the first part already elaborating on who Senapathy is and how he uses Varma Kalai for defence, it was Shankar's persistence that made him pursue Indian 2. 

"We had everything about Senapathy, which was like an open secret. After thinking a lot about what we can include and not, we arrived at a pan-Indian thought that can reach across our country," he adds.

The director, who is known to make one film at a time, juggled between shooting Indian 2, Indian 3, and Game Changer at one point in time. Asked about this, Shankar recalls the times when Indian 2's shooting was stalled for an indefinite amount of time and how he had to take up another project. This has left Shankar shooting for both films. "In fact, I had finished working on Indian 2 during the lockdown period. Hence, I got some space to distribute my time. The correct planning has helped us."

Shankar's penchant for stories on corruption 

Be it Sivaji, Indian, Gentleman or even Mudhalvan, Shankar's penchant for stories against corruption is evident. The filmmaker reiterates the "pan-Indian thought" he made Indian 2 with, which will make the film not be just the same as his previous ones. 

"I am very aware of what kind of films come when I am handling a particular genre. Like who has done what, so that I don't repeat it. So, in that way, I am very sure there is something different to tell in Indian 3 and some genuinity," he says.

Shankar, who has also achieved success by pulling off big-scale films, says that it is never his intention to make a film bigger than his last one. "What excites me and what I will do next determines this. When there is a possibility to show new things to audiences and if the story also accommodates it, I will try to do it. If you see, Indian 2 is made on a smaller budget when compared to 2.0. I did not think of doing it on a bigger scale, yet Indian 2's budget is big. Only when a thought hits me and forms into a story, I go ahead and make it," Shankar explains. 

Shankar on recasting, franchise building 

Has it ever occurred to Shankar to cast someone else apart from Kamal Haasan's Senapathy? To this, Shankar shakes his head and explains, "We have the best actor in the country and you cannot think about anyone else. I don't think I can recast him. He is still like a professor who guides everyone in cinema and has a courageous filmmaking style. He is an updated actor, even now. He makes it easy for everyone to work with him."

With Indian 3 also in the pipeline, Shankar reveals that he never had the idea of making Indian into a franchise."Thata varanum, that was all it," he says. 

Shedding further light on the multi-part film, the filmmaker says that Indian was an expansive project. "There were many characters, and it was Tamil Nadu-centric. It ran for 3 hours. Indian 2 spans across the country, so naturally, it is a bigger film. We cannot compress it just for the sake of making it a 2-hour-long film. I could see two stories with respective starts and ends. It evolved naturally," he adds.

Shankar reiterates that his stories are always from the common man's point of view and Kamal Haasan's political career has not been a hindrance to filmmaking. At the same time, referring to the pre-conceived notions that people build on a particular film before it releases, and how Senapathy's age is debated, Shankar says, "You cannot do anything about it. I did not think I would do second part when I did the first. We had to put an age for Senapathy and we did it. But now, people are dissecting it and calculating his age. To answer this, Senapathy is a grandmaster in Varma Kalai. All these masters are on strict diets and lifestyles. For people like them, age is not an issue."

Shankar also points out how people expect someone like Senpathy to look very old and fragile. "Will anyone like Indian thatha with a hunchback and a weak demeanour? Indian thatha is the personification of the anger that all of us have within us. Can our anger take the form of a weak human being? We should look at him like a Super(old)Man," he laughs.

Lessons from Indian 

Shankar feels that a filmmaker has to keep reinventing and learning from his previous body of work. Giving an example of what he learned from Indian, he says, "If you see the prosthetics in Indian, they were thick enough to hide Kamal Haasan sir's face. When we attempt something new, we will have to work on the process. This time, I was determined to show more of Kamal sir's face. You can see more of him in the second part. We worked the same way on 2.0 as well."

The director also sheds light on working with writers for his films. "When a proper writer takes up our stories, we cannot miss their contributions. They add flavours to our characters. We have three writers for Indian 2 and have worked back and forth to present this film."

With Indian 2 and 3 featuring actors like Priya Bhavani Shankar, Rakul Preet Singh and Kajal Aggarwal, Shankar assures that women in his films will have strong roles to look out for. 

Pointing out how an artist's work is to point out issues in the society, in this case corruption, Shankar says he will keep raising the issues time and again until it gets eliminated. "Many after seeing Anniyan have come to me and said how they obey traffic rules now. Changes don't happen overnight, but one at a time," he concludes.

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