Do you approve of filmmakers lifting secondary material?
I think there’s a very thin line between copying and adapting. I think it’s okay to use material from earlier films. As long as it doesn’t hurt the original creator we can use it.
Can you give me an example?
In so many films of mine I’ve used scenes and shots inspired by earlier films. My Maryada Ramanna (now remade into Son Of Sardar) was inspired by a 1923 Buster Keaton silent film Our Hospitality. One could say I copied the film. I don’t mind. When I saw the original I liked it so much I wanted to re-tell the same story on my own way. I even tried to find the original creators. But no one existed. The original writers died in the 1930s. Technically any material that has existed for more than 75 years can be used without a copyright claim. But if you use material in Hindi film from a contemporary Punjabi, Oriya or Telugu film you need to take permission.
What did you think of Akshay Kumar in Rowdy Rathore?
When I made my film I made Ravi Tejaa pander to Telugu sensibilities. I think Prabhu Deva who directed the Hindi remake, made Akshay Kumar act according to the tastes of North Indian sensibilities. The two performances cannot be compared.
Now your Maryada Ramanna turns your Telugu hero into a Sardarji in Son Of Sardar?
I don’t know what the cultural politics of Punjab is like. But in one area of Andhra Pradesh family feuds that persist for many generations is a reality. That’s what I showed in Maryada Ramanna. I saw families that were perfectly cultured and courteous, killing each other. Now you will have to tell me if such family feuds exist in Punjab. I don’t think this peculiar contradictory culture of the co-existence of violence and hospitality exists in Punjab.
Even your other blockbuster Magadheera is being remade into Hindi? Why don’t you direct it?
No thanks. I’ve already spent two years of my life on it. I’d rather make something else. Magadheera was my toughest film to make. Very tiring. But the most satisfying film I’ve made is Maryada Ramanna. That’s my only film I don’t get bored watching in its entirety. But Eega (Makkhi) is my biggest hit to date.
How did you think of making a film with a fly as a hero?
It was there in my subconscious for a long time. My father was a well-known storywriter. He was a storehouse of stories. He told me a story about a boy who was killed by the villain and was re-born as a fly. I wanted Eega to be like a bedtime story.
The special effects in Eega-Makkhi are being compared with Hollywood films?
I’d like to thank one Mr Kamal Kannan a VFX producer who has worked with me in several films. I was confident about the visual effects because I had done them before. But animation was entirely new to me. All the animation technicians in my film were youngsters in the 25-28 age group. Looking at them you can’t tell they are such high-calibre professionals. What I am proudest of in Eega is the animation.
How did the fly in Eega acquire its human personality?
We had to make sure that the fly behaved the same way as the actor Naani who dies and is born as a fly. The quality in Naani’s personality that had to be transferred to the fly was positivity. Once we got that in place we had to work on the physical appearance of a fly. In close-ups an actual fly is ugly. At the same time if we changed it, it would become a cartoon character. I have to thank the actor Sudeep who plays the fly’s adversary for making the conflict look believable. I can say without any reservation that Sudeep is the best actor I’ve worked with. Shekhar told me the visual effects worked so effectively, because of Sudeep. The fly has no expressions. It is only through Sudeep’s expressions that we know what the fly is up to.
Why and how was the fly designed wearing a mask?
When we sat down to write the script the first question was, why is it so difficult to kill the fly? That’s when we thought the fly should have a protective mechanism. And to make that protective mechanism for the fly we made the heroine a miniature artiste.
Has Ajay Devgn showed you the remake of Maryada Ramanna?
What did your children think of Eega/Makkhi?
They loved it. My son and daughter constantly talk about films. I am getting worried. I feel I am pushing them prematurely into cinema.