With TNPC, even though Prabhudeva’s Mercury couldn’t release in TN, says Karthik Subbaraj
Filmmaker Karthik Subbaraj has left a mark in the Tamil film industry with films such as Pizza, Jigarthanda and Iraivi. All three belong to different genres of filmmaking and received a good response from the audience. As he gears up for the release of his next film Mercury, a silent thriller featuring Prabhudeva in a titular role, he spoke at length about the inspiration behind making a film with no dialogues, convincing Prabhudeva to play a negative role and joining hands with superstar Rajinikanth for his next.
Excerpts from a group interaction:
Mercury is the first Indian silent film since Kamal Haasan’s Pushpak. How much did the latter inspire you to make your film?
I’ve always been a fan of the silent era. The work of Charlie Chaplin and his contemporaries have had a very strong influence on me. Ever since I started making films, I’ve always toyed with the idea of making one without dialogues. When I struck upon the idea of Mercury, I believed that it could be made sans any dialogues and that’s how everything started. The experience is going to be very unique and I’m confident audiences will love the film.
Prabhudeva plays a very unconventional role in Mercury, in fact, it is said to be a negative character?
Prabhudeva had no inhibitions to play a negative character, but he asked me if we could really pull off a silent film. He asked me if I was sure because making a silent film is no joke. I told him I’d do it because I found the idea very challenging and I’ve always wished to do the kind of work that challenges and pushes me out of my comfort zone. I chose him because I feel he’s a terrific actor who has been mostly used to work in comedies and rom-coms. I believe Mercury has tapped his hidden potential. Audiences are in for a huge surprise.
Going by the promos, Mercury looks like a zombie thriller. Apart from the fact that it’s a silent film, what makes it different from your previous films?
All my films so far have been dark comedies. Iraivi was more of a drama with a strong undercurrent about feminism. Mercury is essentially a thriller and the way we’ve made it will make it a unique experience for the audiences. Apart from the fact that it’s a thriller, the story shines the spotlight on how corporates have exploited small towns. The inspiration behind the idea has been incidents such as Bhopal gas leak and Mercury poisoning in Japan.
Considering this is a silent film, sound must have played a very pivotal role in enhancing the overall viewer experience. Could you talk about the role of sound in the film?
I approached (music director) Santhosh (Narayanan) with the first cut of the film. The kind of effort that has gone into the music and sound design (by Kunal Rajan) is unprecedented. A generation of audiences has not experienced a silent film in cinemas and, I believe, this is going to be an experience worth their buck. When Tirru sir read the script and agreed to come on board, half of my burden was already taken care of. His visuals have taken Mercury to the next level in terms of viewing experience.
Are you disappointed with the fact that the film is releasing everywhere except Tami Nadu?
It is unfortunate that we’re not able to release in Tamil Nadu. But, we’re with the industry in this strike and we will respect their decision to not release any new Tamil films. On the bright side, since this is a no-language film, we’re able to release all over India and even overseas. I hope the film leaves a mark in other industries.
More than Mercury, your next film with Rajinikanth has garnered attention in recent times. How did this project materialise?
Rajinikanth really loved Jigarthanda and invited me home. We spoke about the film and he told me that he really loved Bobby Simha’s negative character. Rajini sir said the character reminded him of his character from 16 Vayadhinile. I told him that I wrote the character keeping him in mind. He joked that if I had him in mind for the character, I should have approached him. It was Pa Ranjith’s Kabali that gave me the confidence to approach him. After Kabali, I decided to go and meet him with a story idea. Since he worked with Ranjith, I was confident he will work with me too if he likes my story. He liked what I pitched and asked me to develop the idea.
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