Surya with Mohan Lal in Kaappaan-1568792947377
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Director KV Anand’s new Tamil entertainer, ‘Kaappaan’, closely follows a prime minister and his Special Protection Group (SPG) commandos.

It marks actor Surya’s 37th film in his two-decade-long career, and the return of Malayalam superstar Mohanlal to Tamil films.

While Surya has played a policeman earlier in the three parts of ‘Singam’ (Tamil), this is a role like no other, he says.

“I like stories of human triumphs,” said Surya during a press meet. “If there is an issue that can be highlighted through my film or a story set in a new backdrop or environment that we are not familiar with and stories of unsung heroes, I am game.”

Mohanlal plays the prime minister.

Mohan Lal as Prime Minister in Kaappaan-1568792943827

For his role as an SPG officer, Surya spent three days at a training camp near Delhi.

“Getting to know them and their work affected me much,” he said. “Their job is to stand in front of the VVIP as a human shield and they are aware enough to bring their body in front of bullets during any attack. While there are risks in the police force and the armed services, the work of the SPG commandos is unlike theirs. They don’t have room or time to plan an attack or form a line of defence. When the leader’s life in endangered, their first protocol is to save the leader and take him to a safe zone and not to fire at the assassin. They spend 24 hours in the company of the leader. It’s not just an official relationship but beyond that.”

The actor added that ‘Kaappaan’ is not only the story of an SPG commando, but of other characters who change the course of the story. There are many stories within the film.

The supporting cast includes Arya, Sayeesha, Samuthrakani, Boman Irani and Thalaivasal Vijay.

Surya has earlier worked with Anand on ‘Ayan’ and ‘Maattraan,’ and called the director a task master.

“Being a photo-journalist in the early years of his career, his research is comprehensive and includes real stories into the screenplay. He articulates it in a nice way to make it real while incorporating elements to entertain the audience.”

This is Surya’s first film with Mohanlal and at the end of ‘Kaappaan’ he found a friend for life.

“Mohanlal sir never behaves like a star. He comes down to our level and can talk about everything. And, it’s not just about acting but about so many things including family. He carries a positive air. While I acted in the film, he lived his role,” he said.

For actress Sayeesha, who entered the Tamil industry with ‘Vanamagan’, ‘Kaappaan’ is her sixth Tamil film.

“I play Anjali, a government official working in the prime minister’s Office. It is a significant role. She is not there for the love and song portions of the film,” she said.

“Anjali has grey shades. She takes the story forward. Working opposite Surya sir, we got to do some lovely scenes and songs. It was an honour to share screen with Mohanlal sir. Every moment with him was special. There was so much to learn by observing him. He is an excellent dancer and I love dance. He showed me this dance of his that he performed in a film, a fusion of Kathakali, Bharatanatyam and other dance forms,” she said.

For art director DRK Kiran, who has been in the industry since 1992, ‘Kaappaan’ is his fourth film with director Anand.

The most challenging aspect in ‘Kaappaan’ was erecting sets to represent the prime minister’s office and house, he said.

“Designing something from imagination is easy but when you have to replicate something real, you can’t go wrong. While there are pictures of the prime minister’s office on the internet, there are no references for his house.”

After obtaining permission, Kiran and director Anand visited the PM’s office in Delhi. With their mobile phones taken away, they could not take pictures of the interiors.

“It was quite intimidating entering the premises with security guards all around. We were not allowed to stand for long in any place. We both made a mental note of the measurements of the different areas.”

On his return to Chennai based on his recollections, Kiran arranged for sets to resemble the PM’s office. Kiran was happy when his work was appreciated by two officials from the PM’s office who were guiding them on the sets.

Another compliment came from Mohanlal who had visited the PM earlier.

“On seeing the sets, he asked for the art director and said that it was perfect,” smiled Kiran.

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Don’t miss it!

‘Kaappaan’, produced by Lyca Productions, releases in the UAE on September 19.

FIVE MINUTES WITH DIRECTOR KV ANAND

Cinematographer-turned-director KV Anand won an Indian National Award for Best Cinematography with his debut Malayalam film ‘Thenmavin Kombath’ in 1995.

This Priyadarshan-directed film featured Mohanlal and Shobana in the lead. Anand’s second film as DOP was also a Mohanlal film, ‘Minnaram.’

Moving to other languages for work, the cinematographer got busy in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi.

In 2005, he opened his directorial career with ‘Kana Kandein’. His last was ‘Kavan’. With his seventh directorial, ‘Kaappaan,’ Anand teams up with Mohanlal again.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Anand follow:

The spark for ‘Kaappaan’

“While making ‘Maatrran’ [his fourth Tamil film], I read about the formation of the Special Protection Group [SPG] after [former Prime Minister] Indira Gandhi’s assassination. In any emergency, it is these commandos who first take the bullets of an assassin. They might be wearing a bulletproof jacket, but what about their face? It is not protected. Yet, they have to ensure the safety of the VVIP. The commandos take on this job being well aware that their lives are at stake. And, it’s not the high remuneration which draws them to this career but something more. I was intrigued.”

Writing with Pattukotai Prabakar

“For my earlier films, I worked with writer duo SUBA [Suresh and Balakrishnan]. I had done some work for Pattukotai Prabakar, taken cover photographs for his books. I was keen on working with him someday. We worked on the story together and interacted with retired SPG commandos for inputs. IPS K Vijay Kumar [who headed the Special Task Force to capture dacoit Veerappan] guided us. The story was registered in 2012. Initially, the manuscript was huge. I was wondering how to go about it. Initially, I even thought of casting Amitcji [Amitabh Bachchan] in the PM’s role.”

Surya and Me

“I have worked with Surya in ‘Ayan’ and ‘Maattraan’. I felt he was right for the role of an SPG commando. Surya visited the SPG training Centre for SPG for few days, where he learnt several things required for his role, how to hold a gun, their body language and the like. It is very comfortable working with Surya. A dedicated actor, he is ready for another take and never takes offence when asked.”

Mohanlal and Me

“It was in the 90s when I was assisting PC Sreeram [DOP]. Director Priyadarshan wanted PC to work in his Malayalam film, ‘Thenmaavin Kombathu’, but PC could not take it up. Then the project went to Santosh Sivan, who also could not take it up. Jeeva was the next one Priyan checked with but he could not due to his schedule with another film. So, when Priyadarshan called up PC again for a DOP, I was asked to join the sets of ‘Thenmavin Kombathu’. I remember Mohanlal from those days, as a very candid and one take actor. He won’t stick to the marks we put on the ground for positioning and good lighting. Being a candid actor, I had to be extra careful to get him on his first take. I was new then, but the film turned out well. When Mohanlal saw the preview of ‘Thenmavathu Kombathu’, he called it ‘Anand’s film’. When he decided to do ‘Kaappaan’, it became a bigger responsibility for me. As a director, you are very lucky to be working with Mohanlal. He is cool, saves time and is free from problems. Even if you ask for another take, he will do but it’s the first take which is spontaneous. He has done a fantastic job. It’s more of a realistic and contemporary character.”

Boman Irani makes his Tamil cinema debut

“I am a fan of Boman Irani and like his versatility. When I met him in Mumbai he started talking about my Hindi films, ‘Josh’, ‘Nayak’ and ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ and my camera work and lighting. I was completely taken aback and then learnt that he had been a photographer himself before acting. While he had got offers to work in Tamil earlier, he did not take it up due to the language barrier. But he accepted my film immediately. His role is significant to the story.”