Son of the soil
By Monisha Mohandas
Some years ago, a class X student from Sethur village in Rajapalayam, Virudhunagar ran away from home with dreams of making big in tinsel town, only to return empty handed. But he was not a quitter.
Samuthirakani, actor-director, is one of the many youths in Tamil Nadu who stepped out of his village in search of the tinsel dream in Kodambakkam. But he is also one of the few to be dogged enough to make that dream come true.
“Try, try till you succeed,” is his mantra. We caught up with him at the AVM studio, where he was completing the post-production work on his upcoming flick Naadodigal, which is slated for a June release.
First Movie Experience
Samuthirakani, who is from an orthodox agricultural family, had never watched movies until he was 12 years of age. Compelled to watch Alaigal Oivadillai by his friends, the director admits that from that day on he had never slept without watching second shows.
“I was drawn by the sound effects and acting styles of various heroes and decided that one day I should direct a movie,” he remembers. Finishing intermediate exams he left for Chennai with Rs. 120 in his pockets and eyes full of dreams. Since the bus fare from his hometown to Chennai was Rs.70, he knew it was a one-way ticket and was not keen to return till he succeeded.
“New to Chennai and nowhere to go, I remember sleeping under the Anna flyover. I was woken up by a police constable who took me to the station, offered me food and also advised to go back home.”
But Samuthirakani followed what seemed logical: getting the addresses of directors T.Rajendar and K. Balachander. But the stalwarts could not meet him. And he was left with no other option but to head back home. “As I was short of money to return, I had to work in a hotel for seven days and got my first salary of Rs. 35.”
He went back home and stayed there till his graduation. “During each semester vacation, I came to Chennai only to develop contacts. After graduation, I was back in Chennai to join Ambedkar Law College”. But his search for entering the industry never stopped.
In 1997, he joined as an assistant director under K.Vijayan. Samuthirakani who always used to keep himself busy with work was noticed by Iyakkunar Sigaram K.Balachander and was roped in as assistant director for his 100th movie Parthaale Paravasam.
He also got the chance to work as Balachander’s assistant in mega serial Anni telecasted by Jaya TV. The director recalls that the work experience he gained under his mentor Balachander helped him in many ways while shooting Arasi and Selvi, the mega serial telecasted in Sun TV, which were massive hits among house wives.
The director made his debut in Kollywood with Unnai Saranadainthen, with S.P.B Charan in the lead. It was followed by Vijayakanth starrer Niranja Manasu. Though both the movies didn’t do well at the box office Unnai Saranadainthen managed to bag four state awards.
Meanwhile he continued working as co-director for movies Paruthiveeran and Poi. His game show Thangavettai and mega serials gave him huge recognition among Tamil audience. He also won best small screen director awards for his serial Selvi in the year 2006.
The director recently donned grease paint in Subramaniyapuram directed by Sasi Kumar. He played the scheming Kanagu (the heroine’s uncle) in the movie.
Naadodigal is Samuthirakani’s self-confessed magnum opus. The trio Samuthirakani, Sasi Kumar and Kathir are happy be together again after Subramaniyapuram.. “Naadodigal is my dream project. I am eagerly waiting for the movie’s release. I had to drop this project twice due to unavoidable reasons.
But finally it’s on the verge of hitting the big screens and I am happy that Sasi Kumar is doing the lead role. The movie is named Naadodigal because, the story moves from Rajapalayam, Nammakal, Erode, Sivanmalai, again to Rajapalayam, then to Kanyakumari, Nagercoil and finally to Thiruchendur where the climax takes place,” he adds.
While the theme ‘En Nanbanin Nanban Enakum Nanbane’ (my friend’s friend is also my friend) is not something new, the director promises that his treatment would be. He has not started any new project as he wants to see the audiences’ reaction towards Naadodigal.
Samuthirakani dedicates his success to his mother though he wonders if she will ever see his movie. “My mother P.Kamalammal is everything for me after the sudden demise of my father when I was 15 years of age.
We don’t even have a television at home and my mom has not seen a movie so far,” says the director who feels that his mom won’t be interested even if he shows his movies. “She might search for me on screen as she doesn’t know as my job is behind the camera.”