Two men with nothing in common — one, a billionaire who is confined to a wheelchair, and the other a poor man with a criminal record — found an unlikely camaraderie in the French blockbuster, The Intouchables.
Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Tolendano, the drama was based on a true story of French aristocrat Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his Algerian caregiver, Abdel Sellou. In the film, Francois Cluzet played Philippe and Omar Sy played Driss, the caregiver.
Besides shattering records in France, The Intouchables won awards including the best actor Cesar for Sy.
Now, The Intouchables is getting a desi adaptation with a bilingual film, called Thozha in Tamil and Oopiri in Telugu. Telugu director Vamsi, who proved himself with Brindavanam and Yevadu, has directed the movie.
Veteran actor Nagarjuna plays the lead role of Vikramadityan, the billionaire, while Tamil actor Karthi plays Seenu, an underdog who becomes Vikramadityan’s caregiver. Tamannah plays Vikramadityan’s secretary, Keerthi.
tabloid! caught up with Vamsi in an exclusive chat.
“The biggest challenge was adapting this French story for an Indian audience,” says Vamsi, who earlier directed his own scripts.
“Despite the morbid situation in the story, there was a chord of hope running through. That was a great blend. It offered scope for humour, too. Since our culture is more about emotions, I have included emotions that celebrate life but have retained the soul of the original film.”
Vamsi’s biggest fear was “Nag sir’s trust in the film.”
Nagarjuna’s character, Vikramadityan, has seen two lives: one before he becomes a quadriplegic and the other after he is confined to a wheelchair.
“However, Vikramadityan does not look for sympathy, he wants to be treated like a normal person. He finds that in his caregiver Seenu,” Vamsi says.
Vamsi says the role was a daring experiment by the veteran actor of thirty years.
“It must have been tough for Nag sir to [play] the wheelchair-bound Vikramadityan’s emotions. Nag sir relied on his instincts to portray that,” he added.
At a press event in Chennai, Nagarjuna revealed that his family was not keen that he work in Thozha.
“My sons were adamant, as they could not relate to me sitting in a wheelchair,” the actor said.
Having watched the original French film, he found working on Thozha a life-changing experience.
Oopiri in Telugu means breath; here it refers to the breath of life that Vikramadityan finds in his friendship with Seenu. In Tamil, Thozha means a companion.
This is Tamil actor Karthi’s Telugu cinema debut.
Vamsi says that besides delivering a wonderful performance, Karthi assisted him on the set, especially with clarifications over the Tamil version.
“Viewers will enjoy the scenes between Karthi and Tamannah, which are laden with humour.”
While the screenplay is by Vamsi, Abburi Ravi has written the Telugu dialogues while Raju Murugan (director of Tamil film Cuckoo) has written the Tamil lines.
The supporting cast includes Telugu actress Jayasudha (as Seenu’s mother), Vivek (as Seenu’s buddy), Prakash Raj and late Malayalam actress Kalpana (as Vikramadityan’s nanny).
Vamsi remembers Kalpana as a dedicated actress who used to fondly call him mone (son). “She was a beautiful person.”
Ooppiri was her first Telugu film.
The PVP Cinemas film was shot in Paris as well as in Switzerland, Bulgaria and Serbia, on a budget of Rs600 million (Dh33 million).