He has just had a superhit with actor Vijay in ‘Theri’ and is now busy with Superstar Rajinikanth’s ‘Kabali’.
Kalaippuli S Thanu is a renowned person in the Tamil film industry. The producer has given superhits and many stars are keen to work with him. He started his career in the Tamil film industry as a distributor and is the number one producer in Kollywood today. After a superhit with Vijay’s Theri, he is busy with Superstar Rajinikanth’s Kabali. Clad in his trademark white full-sleeved shirt and trousers, the producer sits down for an exclusive chat with dna. He talks about his friendship with the Superstar and reveals some interesting facts about Kabali and more.
Tell us about your relationship with Rajinikanth.
My friendship with Rajinikanth goes back 35 years. When he acted in the film Bairavi in 1978, we were the distributors for Madras (Chennai). I saw the film stills that ‘Stills’ Ravi had clicked and every still of Rajinikanth’s was alluring and stood out. The way he stood, tapped the snake on the head, aimed his rifle, carried the goat on his shoulders – these images and his role were unseen in Tamil cinema before. So in the advertisement I wrote ‘Superstar Rajini in Bairavi’. The next day, Bairavi director M Bhaskar and producer Kalaignanam came to meet me. It seems Rajinikanth said that when there are two senior artists like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, he didn’t feel it was right to be addressed as ‘Superstar’. They wanted me to remove that title. The next day I released an ad saying the ‘Greatest Superstar Rajini in Bairavi’ (smiles) They realised I’m not going to change. And since then Rajinikanth has been known as Superstar.
What do you like about him as a friend?
He’s simple and a humanitarian. He’s very respectful and follows culture and tradition even today. No matter how high he rose in his career and big a star he is now, he will still walk you to the front door when you leave his house. I feel young because of him. (smiles)
How did Kabali happen?
During our friendship, there have been many times when we were supposed to work together. I was actually supposed to produce Annamalai and Muthu. Rajini then gave me dates for Baasha. At that time, I was contesting for elections as the political party was insistent that they wanted me. He asked me if there was no option and I said no. He then asked what he could do for me and I said I only need his blessings. Our friendship has remained strong over the years and now we are working together. We had shortlisted three directors and finalised Ranjith for Kabali. We listened to Ranjith’s narration together and liked it. He hugged Ranjith after the narration and that was the start.
Did you expect the Kabali teaser to be such a big hit?
When Ranjith showed me the teaser, I knew that it would cause a flutter and be successful. But the fact is that it became such a huge sensation and went beyond our expectations. We are extremely happy!
Your films Thupakki and Theri have made Rs 100 crore.
When the movie grosses such amounts, then as a producer one is obviously happy. I feel Kabali will do Rs 300 crore because the response has been tremendous. The number of theatres and viewers are set to increase for Kabali and people will watch it many times. When I asked someone why they’re paying such a huge amount to buy this Rajini film, they said that there are many families who come to the theatre only to watch a Rajini film. A Rajinikanth fan ranges from the age of 5 to 80! His personality is so magnetic and charming. But the amount of hard work he puts in is tremendous. Given the amount of success he has had and the fact that anyone who makes a film with him gets 100% profit, he has no ego and only thinks of the good of the producer, exhibitors, distributors, crew, cast, fans and people. Rajini makes a lot of sacrifices for others. At the Kabali audio function, I plan to speak about how he stands by and supports producers, distributors and the Tamil film industry and thank him.
Will Kabali be Superstar’s biggest ever film release?
200%! You’d have seen the number of posters around Chennai for the release of Kabali teaser by the distributors and exhibitors. That itself gives you the answer. The content of the film is strong. The success that the teaser has shown will be repeated by the movie. Kabali will release in a minimum of 2000 theatres. The antagonist in the film is a Chinese hero who is superstar in Taiwan. Aamir Khan’s PK (dubbed in Chinese) was released in 4600 screens in China and we want to cross that number of screens for Kabali. We are working on that now and discussing whether to dub it in Chinese or have subtitles. The movie will be dubbed in Hindi and Telugu as well.
What do you feel about Ranjith as a director?
Any producer or actor will want to work with Ranjith. At the audio launch, I will reveal a few more things about him. (smiles) He is a nice man and will be a top director for at least 25 years in the industry.
When is Kabali releasing?
It should release in June or early July. We are yet to finalise the date.
Most of your films have been hits. What’s the secret?
Basically, I’m a distributor and I know the exhibitor business as well. When there’s a producer who understands all these aspects, then he can be successful. Aascar Ravichandran and AM Rathnam were also distributors. Earlier, the big production companies did well because they had good distributors. The circumstances and long-standing relationships that existed earlier don’t anymore – someone comes in today and disappears tomorrow.
Recently, there was the exhibitor-producer issue.
There are a group of mediators (not the theatre owners) who confirm a movie for a theatre. These mediators will have numerous small and big theatres. When they come to close a deal on a film, they’ll say that the big theatre will screen the film if the deal is made for the smaller theatres as well. Misunderstandings started cropping as a result between the exhibitors and the producers. These mediators are the ones who are creating issues. In Tamil Nadu, there are 60 theatres in Chengelpet and only 30 theatres had this issue there. Panneerselvam became the leader of this theatre owner association and he used to keep saying he would quit that association but he didn’t quit and those people also didn’t let him go. No exhibitor is bad. Instead of using a mediator, if they directly coordinate, then business will be smooth. The theatre association and office-bearers are good, but it’s only the mediators who created issues in Chengelpet. Now, we have sorted that out as well.
Are you not doing a film with Ajith?
I like him a lot. I’m ready, but I guess the right time needs to come. Ajith is a good actor and human being.
You’ve done three films with Vijay. Are you close to him?
It’s not like that; everyone likes me! A producer has to give salaries properly, take the film well and market it well. It’s because I do these three things well, that everyone likes me. Vijay used to say that after his father, he likes me a lot.
What are your next projects?
We will release Indrajith next. I will also be producing a Gautham Menon film but the hero has not been decided yet.
Watch the Kabali teaser here: