Rediff Logo find

May 9, 1998


Send this story to a friend


Kathir. Click for bigger pic!
Kathir is a die-hard romantic.

He is also a die-hard Net buff.

And together, those two facets of his personality explain his latest directorial outing, Kaadhalar Dinam (Valentine's Day), starring Pune-based debutant Kunal opposite Bollywood belle Sonali Bendre.

It is, on the surface, a thrice-told tale -- young boy meets young girl, young boy flips for young girl, young girl ditto for young boy... The catch being, this time the meeting takes place on the Internet.

Kathir is an inveterate surfer, the cybercafes of Madras and Bangalore being a favourite haunt. And the social chat rooms on the Web are a firm favourite. "When I logged in to those chats, I noticed that most of what goes on is romantic in nature, and that is what sparked off the idea for this film," he says. The Net, of course, forms only a quarter of the story -- the rest happens in real time.

Interestingly, the Net also provides Kathir his best bet for finding stars. Kunal, apparently, had come to Bangalore for an interview to join, of all things, the army when Kathir saw him outside the Bangalore cybercafe, and approached him with the offer of this film. Given the name of Kathir himself in the directorial credits, and that of A M Rathnam (producer of mega-budget hits like Indian), it was little wonder Kunal grabbed at the chance.

"Even Abbas, who starred in my earlier film, Kaadhal Desam, I found the same way, I was in Bangalore, in the cybercafe, and saw Abbas hanging out in Brigade Road, thought he was perfect for the role I had in mind," says Kathir.

Kunal and Sonali Bendre in Kaathalar Dinam. Click for bigger pic!
Kaadhal Desam was a huge hit in Tamil, an even bigger one in Telugu, though the Hindi version, Dilwalon Ka Duniya, didn't match the performance of the vernacular versions at the turnstiles. And talking of the male leads, brings up the question of how Kathir selects his heroines -- Sonali Bendre for the latest outing, Tabu for Kaadhal Desam.

"On the surface," says Kathir, "Kaadhal Desam is a love story but if you take a deeper look, it is really the story of friendships -- between boys, between two boys and a boy and a girl... I thought I'd look for someone who could portray a very mature personality and outlook, someone in fact who would come across as being even more mature than the two male leads. Also, I found Tabu a very friendly, simple person... and I ended up casting her."

And Sonali? "Simple, this time round I wanted someone young and trendy; we are talking the age of the Internet here. I needed someone who suited that ambience, that kind of storyline, so I thought of Sonali. "Besides," says Kathir, "these days, the trend is for films, especially the big budget ones, being bi- or multi-lingual, so it helps to have a face that is widely known outside the boundaries of your own state."

Kunal has reason to smile -- director Kathir has a knack for introducing new faces who go on to make it big. The first such was a certain Prabhu Deva, who first faced the cameras in a dance sequence in Kathir's directorial debut, Idhayam, opposite another debutante, Heera Rajagopal. Both of them went on to make the big time, as did Abbas with Kaadhal Desam (in between, Kathir also made Uzhavan. with established stars Prabhu, son of Sivaji Ganesan, and Bhanupriya).

Kathir is young, but not -- as far as movie-making goes -- your typical young man in a hurry, preferring instead to concentrate on one film, then take a long break before starting his next. "What is the hurry anyway, I would rather make one good film than two ordinary ones," is the rationale.

On the sets. Click for bigger pic!
A graduate of the College of Arts, in Madras, Kathir started out as a poster designer. "I designed posters for Moonram Pirai (Sadma, in Hindi), Mani Rathnam's Pagal Nilavu, Bhagyaraj's Darling Darling Darling and for Andha Ezhu Naatkal (Woh Saat Din), to make pocket money while I was in college," he says, sounding surprisingly wistful.

For now, it is the under-production Kaathalar Dinam that takes up all his energies, with shooting happening on a specially erected cybercafe set. Kathir has assembled an 'A' team, with P C Sriram handling cinematography, A R Rehman providing the music, and Thota Tharani handling art direction.

The film kicked off with a huge bash, for which big time Bombay models like Rani Jeyraj, Lara Dutta et al were flown down. "We wanted to make it an event of some kind, and since I had good contacts with the ad crowd, it was easy to get the models down for the inauguration."

And the film itself?

"Well, obviously it is a love story," Kathir says. And will it have a twist in the tale, similar to Kaadhal Desam where two guys fall in love with the same girl, with the unexpected denouement where the girl decides that rather than link her lot with either of her suitors, she would prefer to be friends with both -- as opposed to the cliched cinematic practise wherein one of the suitors dies in the climax, squaring the equation and resolving the girl's dilemma rather neatly.

Will this film, too, come with a twist in the end? Again, Kathir is not forthcoming -- except to add that while the canvas is love, the brushstrokes of the story deal with social awareness.

And oh yes, there is one other motivation for making this film. "I am enjoying myself hugely," grins the director. And that seems as good a reason as any...

Tell us what you think of this feature