My amma, who used to take care of my dates, told me that I was approached for a Rajini sir movie with Kavithalaya and KS Ravikumar sir. The next thing I knew, I was in Mysore, shooting for the film. At that time, I was working continuously in over four languages and I would know I was part of a film only when I reached the set. Once Muthu was confirmed, Rajini sir had called me. He usually calls if he is doing a film with me and says, ‘Hey, congratulations, we are doing a movie together.’ That’s a very nice gesture.
In the first schedule, I had no clue what was happening. They shot the climax first and I didn’t know what had happened before that. I knew the story had traces of Thenmavin Kombath, but I hadn’t seen that Malayalm film either. It was only while shooting that I listened to the script in detail. I used to be so blank on the first few days. In fact, when we shot the scene in which we pass messages in a piece of paper, I was complaining to Ravikumar sir, saying I had no importance in the scene at all. We hadn’t shot Thillana Thillana then. So, I didn’t know what was happening then. But he asked me to trust him and wait for the final product. I did, because I knew he always gives amazing characters to his artiste. I had this blind faith in him and when we saw the film, that scene had such a huge impact.
As an actor, I get satisfaction only when I know I have done something different in each film. It could be as small as my look or body language. So, when I knew that my character was a drama artiste, I used bright shades for eyes, dark lip colours and did my hair a certain way. In the first half, we were constantly on a horse carriage and were shooting in the scorching hot sun. Okkandu okkandu, the blue skirt I was wearing had faded. That skirt had to be used in the song (Kuluvalilae) as well and so, I got another one made. I found my name, Ranganayaki, quite different. I didn’t expect they’d use the name in the song. That was a sweet surprise.
One of the most difficult scenes that I shot for was the action block just before Rajini sir and I lose our way and end up in Kerala. The stunt sequence was shot very fast. It was also very hot and the costume I was wearing was adding to my woes. Plus, I was also part of that action scene and that physical struggle was very annoying. I had to be comical, and also show my irritation in that scene. Looking back, it’s quite a wonder I did that scene!
The second half of the film had a lot of artistes, and it was fun sitting with them, laughing and cracking jokes. Senthil sir and Vadivelu would keep us in splits. At that time, we didn’t have bouncers or security. So, when we were shooting in Kerala, the crowd went berserk seeing Rajini sir. It was difficult for the unit people to control them.
KB sir (K Balachander) used to come to the sets. Avar vandha, Rajini sir-e orama dhaan nipparu. So, I didn’t even go near him! I’ve always wanted to work with KB sir, but that never happened. It will remain one of my biggest regrets.
When I was told that the film was releasing in Japan, I didn’t know what to expect. Initially, I heard it was going to be released with Japanese subtitles, and was thinking the audience there won’t accept it as we did here. We went to Tokyo for promotions, and we had an interpreter to translate our interviews. I was thinking, ‘Language-e theriyalaye, this is such a waste of time’. But when we saw the film FDFS there, I was surprised. Unbelievable would be an understatement. They laughed and cried and whistled, and went crazy when the colour changes happen in Thillana Thillana song. That was an amazing experience.