When we caught up with Kangana Ranaut, she was wearing a pink saree, and Raghava Lawrence stuck to his usual white shirt and veshti. Even though they looked like the desi versions of Barbie and Ken, they were in town for their part in a lore that’s more famous in Tamil Nadu than the Mattel brand of toys. After Thalaivii, Kangana is back to the Tamil film industry and this time, it’s to play the titular role in Chandramukhi 2. Alongside is Raghava Lawrence, who has taken over the franchise’s mantle from his “mentor” Rajinikanth.
Excerpts from a group interaction:
How was it to fit into the characters of Chandramukhi and Vettaiyan which are already well-established ones?
Raghava Lawrence: After my guru Rajini sir’s role in Chandramukhi, I found myself very lucky to do Chandramukhi 2. I’ve been a group dancer, dance assistant and dance master in P Vasu sir’s films and I even tried to produce a film of his. Now, it’s such a blessing to become a hero in his film. Vadivelu sir is the link between the first and second films. MM Keeravani sir was the first person to see the entire film and he appreciated it; an Oscar winner composing music for our film is unbelievable. I was glad when Kangana got on board as our Chandramukhi. I’m her fan and as a National Award winner, I’ve been fascinated by her acting too. I’m so happy that she agreed to star in a film with me and it increased the film’s value multifold.
Kangana Ranaut: This is my third Tamil film after Dhaam Dhoom and Thalaivii, and all of them have been marvellous experiences. I’ve seen the first film and I understand why Chandramukhi is such a known brand. I’ve never been a part of such a colourful film with dance, fight, music and beautiful clothes! Lawrence master has been generous and kind in accommodating me in the sets and my scenes are only with him and Lakshmi (Menon).
Jyotika’s character was the major highlight of ‘Chandramukhi’ as well as its remakes…
Kangana Ranaut: Even I thought about the inevitable comparisons my character might draw with that done by Jyotika-ji. What Lakshmi does in our film is similar to Jyotika’s character from the first film. But while she was possessed by Chandramukhi, my character doesn’t have such an arc… as I’m the original Chandramukhi. It’s an origin story which delves into who she is, and why she turned into a ghost.
I’m a huge fan of Jyotika and it’s an honour to be a part of a franchise she belongs to. A while ago, in an interview when she was asked about her favourite actress, Jyotika took my name; this was long before I signed this film. She’s such a generous person and an inspiration to me. All of us have inspirational characters as we grow up, and her role in Chandramukhi was one such iconic role.
Lawrence, from being a Rajinikanth fanboy to taking up his franchise, how has this journey been?
Raghava Lawrence: When Chandramukhi’s posters came out, they didn’t give us the vibe of a Thalaivar film; I remember how during the film’s intermission, we felt that his portions weren’t as much as we would’ve liked. But in the second half, when he got into the role of Vettaiyan, we realised the reason he selected the film. From watching it in a theatre, clapping and whistling to that character, to actually acting in that role now, is a blessing.
The biggest challenge Vasu sir and I had was to remove Thalaivar’s mannerisms from my body. When I got into the Vettaiyan costume, it was difficult to shake away that style which is unique to him. I realised this when Vasu sir, in between takes, would stop the shoot and say, “Master, Thalaivar light ah theriyaraaru!” We had to make sure that my walk, the talk and the laugh didn’t resemble him. Unlike the first film, the sequel has a lot to live up to and we’re sure that the pre-interval scene and the second half will really do that.
What was Rajinikanth’s reaction when you told him you were doing the sequel?
Raghava Lawrence: I informed Rajini sir the moment Vasu sir approached me for Chandramukhi 2. He wished me and said he’d pray for his guru to bless me. Then I met him to receive his blessings a day before the first day of shoot. I also called him the day I got into the costume of Vettaiyan and got tensed. He advised me to stick to the meter by not overdoing it and at the same time, not underplay it either. That really helped.
To even try beating what Rajini sir did in his film would be arrogance and I don’t think it’s even possible. I just wanted to do a good job with the role I was offered. I’m used to mouthing lines like “Hey Chandramukhi, va inge.” But I had to get myself used to saying lines like, “Un viralgalil en kaiyil pattu, kaamam kalandhu….” That was tough, and I had to practise a lot.
Kangana, after an intense film like ‘Thalaivii’, how was it to work on a Tamil film with such a star cast?
Kangana Ranaut: The culture in south India is very warm and even on the sets, people sit and chat together without drowning in their phones. In Bollywood though, after their shot, the actors return to their vans and don’t speak to each other. In my upcoming film Emergency (which she also directed), I asked my actors to stay back after the shots as it’s nice to have them all indulge in conversations. In the sets of Chandramukhi, it was a daily occurrence. They make a huge difference as the journey matters as much as the end result.
I’ve not been a commericial heroine and I usually stuck to art films or women-centric films on our fights and struggles. But there comes a point in time where you want to try something new, and it’s wonderful to do a film with songs and dance sequences. The film’s climax is something you should look forward to. When you’re a part of an ensemble cast, in projects such as Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, Life in a… Metro, or Fashion, I have to approach it from the director’s point of view; all the more so in this film where events happen in an episodic manner and not linearly.
Do you feel your political takes affect the reception to your films?
Kangana Ranaut: I’m an aware, responsible person, and people think I speak the way I speak because I want to get into politics. But that’s not true. I have no ulterior motive and I’m very happy with my life and career. I’ve been working from the age of 16 to where I am, so starting another career from scratch seems like such a tiring job. But I’m not ruling it out either.
Chandramukhi 2 is scheduled to hit theatres on September 15