Aishwarya Rajinikanth interview: ‘Working with Appa in Lal Salaam was a masterclass’

In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, Aishwarya opens up about working with her father Rajinikanth and music composer AR Rahman in Lal Salaam.

The Tamil audience is excited for February 9 when Lal Salaam, directed by Aishwarya Rajinikanth and featuring Superstar Rajinikanth, Vishnu Vishal and Vikranth, hits theatres. This movie sees Rajinikanth play Moideen Bhai, and the recently released trailer has created a powerful buzz with high audience expectations. (Also Read: Lal Salaam trailer: 5 things we can gather about Rajinikanth’s release this week)

Aishwarya Rajinikanth is helming this film after an eight-year break, produced by Lyca Productions and with music by Oscar winner AR Rahman. She is still at ease in the captain’s chair and directing the Superstar to boot. In this exclusive chat with HT, Aishwarya talks about working with her father, Lal Salaam, AR Rahman and more. Excerpts:

How was the experience directing your father, Superstar Rajinikanth, for Lal Salaam?

Directing Appa (father) was something I never expected in my life to start with, it was a blessing. To put it shortly, every single day of working with him was a mini masterclass – how he handles himself on set and as a professional, an artist in the industry. His dedication, devotion and seriousness about work, even at this age and time of his life, is something I think everyone in the industry should learn. I think everyone around him is constantly learning from him all the time. He still feels he has so much to learn, and that, I think, is the beauty of the situation we were in. I cherish every moment like every other filmmaker who has worked with him. Appa etches his stamp on us as an artist and particularly in Lal Salaam, as an actor and performer, not just as an entertainer.

And ⁠how did it feel to be back on sets after nearly eight years? Your last film was Vai Raja Vai in 2015.

Getting back on sets after eight years is like getting back together with an old friend – you don’t need to be in touch every day, but you talk; you can just catch up from where you dropped off. It feels like fish being in water – the difference being whether it’s about being in a fish tank or the ocean. That’s the way I see it. I had eight beautiful years with my sons – I didn’t want to miss out on their growing-up years. I realised they were growing up too fast! Now, they can understand and be happy that I’m standing up as an individual and doing what I love to do. They are spreading their wings and have so much to do and are soaring higher, I also have more time to myself.

Lal Salaam is a sports drama. What attracted you to this story?

What attracted me was the genuineness of the content, the kind of message that the whole film conveys to society and the emotions that the film carries throughout through various characters living through the film. I think that is what attracted me the most, the content and the strong writing.

There are high expectations from this film. Are you nervous?

Of course. I am happy to hear that there are a lot of expectations from the film. Living up to expectations is the challenge in life, and when you live up to it, you feel self-satisfaction and self-achievement – and nothing else can give that kind of contentment. Yes, I am nervous – I haven’t been able to eat or sleep. I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach and so much pressure in my head. But this is good pressure because I know people will love what we have made. As a team, we have been very accurate, and there’s so much hard work put in genuinely by every single artist and technician because of their faith and love for the ideology I was trying to portray in the film.

What is the key thing you want the audience to take away from Lal Salaam?

The one thing that I would like the audience to take away when they walk out of the theatre is the strong emotions portrayed by the characters in the film. It’s very rooted content and a message, and there’s bold humanism we have touched upon – I’m very sure this is what the audience will take back.

Finally, tell us about working with AR Rahman on the music for this film.

It was an incredibly surreal experience. He’s as much a fun person as a fakir, I would say. There’s so much truth in him, and he stands by truth. He is an example of the power of living in the present. I learnt a lot from him through the film’s making. He has been a great support, both for the film and personally. I think our relationship is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

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