Not Rajinikanth, content is the biggest star of ‘Lal Salaam’: Aishwarya
Aishwarya Rajinikanth talks about ‘Lal Salaam’, directing her megastar father, ‘Sanghi’ taunts, her long break, equation with Ilaiyaraaja and Rahman, and more
After almost a nine-year break, Aishwarya Rajinikanth is back with her third commercial film, Lal Salaam, which is all set to release on Friday (February 9).
The elder daughter of superstar Rajinikanth made her directorial debut in 2012, with 3, which also marked the sensational debut of today’s numero-uno composer Anirudh Ravichander.
She followed it up with a quirky crime thriller Vai Raja Vai in 2015 and the award-winning documentary, Cinema Veeran, which talked about the hardships of stuntmen in the film industry, in 2017.
Even as the audiences waited with bated breath for the much-hyped Lal Salaam, her debut film 3 scored big in the recent re-release season.
Ahead of the big release, Aishwarya spoke about Lal Salaam, directing her megastar father, her equation with Ilaiyaraaja and AR Rahman, and much more. Excerpts from the session:
“My kids are proud of my work; I didn’t want to miss out on their childhood”
“I could have made many films, but as a mother, I wanted to be with my kids. After the advent of smartphones, kids are growing up faster than anyone could anticipate. I didn’t want to miss out on the precious time of their childhood. Now, that both my sons have grown up, this is the right time for me to explore my career. In fact, both my sons are proud that I’m taking my career seriously. Their support is immense and they understand that my absence is only because of my busy schedule. The elder one is gentle when it comes to passing comments about my work while the younger one is plain and frank,” said Aishwarya.
“I never wanted to direct my Appa”
“Everyone thought I had dreams of directing my Appa, but truth be told, I never wanted to direct ‘superstar Rajinikanth’. But there is a saying in filmmaking: ‘Sometimes, a film gets what is required by itself.’ I showed him the film’s showreel just like that and he himself expressed his interest in playing Moideen Bhai. Appa’s presence in Lal Salaam was essential because the message the character imparts in the film demands a superstar of his stature. I believe that the lines uttered by him will have a big impact on our society.
“I have never tried to use my father’s name for opportunities because both my parents wanted me to grow only through my skills. They taught us to be independent.
“I had approached many producers before Lyca for Lal Salaam but didn’t tell them that I would rope in my dad for the film,” narrated Aishwarya.
“Every day is a mini masterclass”
According to Aishwarya, Rajinikanth’s discipline and his behaviour on the sets was a mini masterclass, not only for her but the entire team, every single day. “It may sound like an exaggeration, but his discipline and the way he approaches each scene are something every actor should learn. He brings meaningful things to the table with his expertise and wisdom. His presence will be felt throughout the film, even in the scenes where he won’t be seen,” she said.
On “Sanghi” taunts
“It (Rajinikanth being “taunted” as a “Sanghi” or RSS supporter) had been bothering me for a long time and I wanted to clear the air at the audio launch of Lal Salaam. Appa has also responded to the media’s questions on the topic. I don’t want to talk about it any further,” said Aishwarya.
“But what hurt me is that someone asked him whether my speech was a strategy to bring in the crowds for Lal Salaam. Jailer had no politics but it went on to become a blockbuster. Superstar Rajinikanth’s films do not need any controversy to run in theatres. His name is enough,” she asserted.
“Lal Salaam is a sports drama uniting people”
According to Aishwarya, Lal Salaam talks about sports and politics. It also highlights how a few are dividing people using power. The filmmaker said the honesty in the script writing of Vishnu Rangasamy pushed her to take up the film.
“Vishnu, who is also the cinematographer of Lal Salaam, narrated two stories. One was Lal Salaam and the other, a love story. The content of Lal Salaam was riveting, original, and had an authenticity,” she said.
She explained that the film’s gist is “what happens when a Ther Thiruvizha (chariot festival) and sports go wrong”. “Competition is fine in any sport, but when money comes in, the game becomes a business, which becomes an obsession,” she added, without giving much away.
‘Yes, Lal Salaam talks about politics. I think everyone who holds an Aadhaar Card is associated with today’s politics,” she added on a lighter note.
Was Ilaiyaraaja the first choice for Lal Salaam?
“I’m someone who likes to visit Raja Sir’s studio once in a while and get an earful so that things return to normalcy! Visiting Raja Sir is quite a normal thing for me, but no, (AR) Rahman Sir was the first choice for Lal Salaam,” she clarified. Aishwarya said it was a wonderful experience working with Rahman, “who delivered what was required for the film”.
“His presence is another ‘visiting card’ for Lal Salam besides Rajinikanth’s presence,” she joked. “Even today, I tortured Rahman Sir, as he is not here due to the Grammy Awards. But he has been on Zoom calls and helped me till the last moment of making the film. After a long time, Nineties’ kids will enjoy the original soundtrack of Rahman Sir; it will be his ‘comeback’. However, he doesn’t like the term ‘comeback’,” she added.
“Senthil Sir’s presence was a blessing”
“I feel that writing a solid character for Senthil Sir is a blessing. His character is the heart of Lal Salaam. I’m glad that he was on board and played such a pivotal role. He was the spirit of the film. The way he understood the character is amazing and his punctuality is impeccable,” said Aishwarya.
Talking about the lead actors Vishnu Vishal and Vikranth, Aishwarya said, “Vishnu has a sharp script sense and he would ask thousands of sensible questions before the shoot. But on the sets, he is such an obedient actor. Vikranth is also thoroughly cooperative and has justified the role given to him.”
“Our entire team was like the Lagaan cricket team, with technicians who are not famous, but the presence of names like Rajinikanth and Rahman have given us enough mileage. But when the film releases, I’m sure you will all talk about the content, which I feel is the biggest star of Lal Salaam.”
About the Sourav Ganguly biopic
“Yes, I was supposed to do a biopic on (former cricketer) Sourav Ganguly but now, I don’t think I will immediately helm the project as Lal Salaam also talks about cricket,” Aishwarya signed off.