Produced by Nagavamsi S – Sai Soujanya under Sithara Entertainments & Fortune Four Cinemas, ‘Vaathi/ SIR’ is a bilingual Tamil and Telugu film starring Dhanush. The film is directed by the young and successful director of Telugu film industry, Venky Atluri and has Samyukta debuting as the female lead. The film also stars Bharathiraja, Saikumar, Tanikella Bharani, Samuthirakani, Thodapalli Madhu, Nara Srinivas, Bhammi Sai, Hyper Adi, Sha Ra, Ken Karunaas, Aadukalam Naren, Ilavasasu, Motta Rajendran, Hareesh Peradi, Praveena and others. The music of the film has been composed by GV Prakash. Director Venky Atluri and heroine Samyuktha have shared their experiences of working in the film post the audio launch of this film that was held recently.
Director Venki Atluri says, “I started thinking about some ideas for the next film during the Covid 19 lockdown that started in 2020. At that time, students could not conduct Live classes, so they started online classes. But instead of halving the fare, they hiked it higher than before. They collected bus fares without running the school buses. In the late nineties, when IT companies and multi-specialty hospitals started to emerge, the government increased the number of engineering and medical colleges. Some people started taking advantage of this as coaching center and private coaching classes. Subsequently, the fees of schools and colleges also increased tremendously.
Education is always an emotional subject for people. Parents want to give quality education to their children. So even middle-class parents, relying on the advertisements of educational institutions, showed enthusiasm to enroll their children in private schools. But it is not because the government school teachers are not competent, the main reason is that they are not paid properly. They say that education is a non-profit service. But they have made it a business. On the other hand, they created an image of helping education by starting a foundation. They have exploited the loopholes in education and turned it into a professional business. It is easy to reach people by telling it as an entertaining film without telling it as a full movie but adding some messages to tell the people. I always like entertaining movies. Should the education system change? Or should the parents change? We have given a better solution to that in our film.
It started as a bilingual film from the beginning. My film ‘Rang De’ was released in 2021 when the first wave of Corona was over. Then the second wave started. At that time I had no intention of approaching a big hero for this story I had created. But producer Vamsi was very confident about this story. He encouraged Dhanush to meet and tell the story and created an opportunity for it. I never expected such a huge opportunity. At the same time, Dhanush was busy shooting for ‘Jagame Thandiram’, ‘Atrangi Re’ and a Hollywood project. Even though he agreed to act, there was also the question of how long it would take to start this film. But we were going to meet a great hero and tell a story.
After meeting him and narrating the story, he told me that he liked the story and when he asked me when do you want my dates, I couldn’t believe it. Dhanush is also a director so it was very easy for us to work with him. He clearly said, “Time is precious. Let’s not waste your time or mine.” He never went to the caravan even though his scene was completed during the days he attended the shoot. He stayed with us and concentrated only on the work for the next scene. Since Tamil is new to us, Dhanush paid great attention to the dialogues of the film. Even if he had to change some verses in Tamil, he would write them in Telugu and finalize them and then speak those verses in Tamil.
Though the plot and screenplay of the film are same in both Tamil and Telugu languages, we have made changes in some aspects. In that way, the length of the Tamil version will be two minutes more than the Telugu version.
Samuthirakani plays a negative role in the film as a manager of schools and coaching institutes. When he was told about this story, he initially hesitated whether he would be able to do this negative character as he has always questioned this education system in many films. However, he liked this story very much. There is a good understanding between him and Dhanush. Although they have already acted in father and son roles, it will definitely be different to have them opposite each other in this film.
Samyukta plays a biology teacher working in a government school. She plays a character who wants to help this school but can’t do anything because of some boundary restrictions. The story takes place between 1997 and 2000. At the time of the film’s launch, Tamil Nadu didn’t have a lot of leeway, so we mostly shot in Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad to create a 90s feel for the film. Bharathiraja played one of the most important characters in this film. Among the films directed by him, ‘Vedham Pudhidhu’ is my favorite film.
Lately, Telugu directors want to make films in Tamil. This is a change brought about by the covid period. Covid has united all film industries.‘Asuran’, ‘Karnan’ and ‘Thiruchirambalam’ released during this period were very popular in Tollywood.. Even though I made this film focusing on some things that happened in the education system of the 90s, I would say that there is definitely no change in those aspects till date.
“This is the pride I take with Vaathi” ; says a confident Samyuktha, sharing her experience of acting in the film.
“Please don’t call me Samyukta Menon. I don’t want to include any caste name. My name in the title card of this film is mentioned as ‘Samyuktha’. We can’t do anything about what the adults have done when we enrol in school. Now it’s our choice to change it. I can’t say anything about other stars adding caste names to their names like this. This is my personal opinion. Tamil has been my favourite language since my youth. Especially at a young age, I became very interested in Tamil through ‘Mustafa Mustafa’ song. After that I started listening to more Tamil songs. So far I have never heard lyrics in any other language as sweet as Tamil. Tamil is the only language with the most melodious lyrics. Even for this film I wanted to dub in Tamil myself. Though I tried really hard, due to some reasons including shooting, I could not proceed with dubbing.
Although my first language is Malayalam, I know both Tamil and Telugu languages. During the shoot, I would first prepare myself for speaking Tamil dialogues for my character, and after the scene was finished, I would prepare myself again for Telugu dialogues. There was some tension when acting with a great actor like Dhanush because he does OK in a single take. I was careful not to disturb him. Even if there were some mistakes, Dhanush encouraged them without exaggerating them. I acted in a few films in Tamil a few years ago, which was a childish decision. I thought that I should return to Tamil only through a good character. It has been fulfilled with ‘Vaathi’. In this film, I play the role of a biology teacher named Meenakshi, who has a lot of fun with the students. For this, I took Deepa, a teacher who taught me with similar characteristics when I was in school, as a role model and expressed the same in acting.
In this film we have addressed some problems in the education system. In my personal life my school period was a bad experience. I could see that people who studied with me were very skilful in different subjects but they were stumbling in their studies. Even the girl who studied engineering completed it and joined her field of dance. I have also studied only plus two. I came here because I was interested in cinema. Personally, I don’t believe in being told that having a degree means we can find the job we want. While acting in this film, I was very surprised to realize how much education brings a big change in the lives of children in the village. When I started acting in this film, there were some reports that I walked away from this film. It is a message that someone has beautifully imagined. So I got more expectations, publicity and more fans than before. There is no need to compare acting in Malayalam and acting in Tamil films. In Tamil cinema, they are clear about which films should be made commercially and which films should be made realistically.
Even in Malayalam, the reception for Tamil films is high. For the first time in this film I have danced to the moves taught by a choreographer. I have acted in two Telugu films like ‘Virupakshi’ and ‘Devil’. All of them are period films. Whenever I hear a story, I immediately say that I will act. Those films are good for me. Although I want to act as the heroine of the story, I would like to act in a few more films before then. On the other hand, I am enjoying the environment in which I am acting now. When I went to Tenkasi for another film after completing the shooting of ‘Vaathi’, I went to a hotel with a mask on my face to eat Madurai Bun Prota, which I had already heard about on YouTube after having Darshan at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. That was the time when the song ‘Vaa Vaathi’ had released. As soon as I took off my mask, some people who saw me from there shouted in surprise, ‘Ey Namma Teacher Amma’. This is the magic that song creates. It is this pride that I am taking with me through this film,” he said.
The film is slated to release simultaneously in Tamil and Telugu on 17th February, 2023
Writing- Direction: Venky Atluri
Production Company: Sithara Entertainments & Fortune 4 Cinemas
Music: G.V. Prakash Kumar
Cinematography: J Yuvraj
Editing: Navin Nooli
Production Design: Avinash Kolla
Producers: Nagavamsi S – Sai Chaujanya
Presenter: Srikara Studios
PRO: Riaz K Ahmed