When Archana Kalpathi accompanied her father and uncle to meet actor Vijay, she had no idea how she would be associated with the project.
My involvement is usually after films are complete. The office takes my opinion very seriously on how to pitch a film and promote it since I watch almost every Tamil film that releases, and know the pulse of the audience, she says.
But Bigil was going to be different as it is the biggest film for her fathers production house AGS Entertainment.
And so, for a movie that ended up costing them 180 crore, they needed someone to act as a bridge between the cast, crew, and the production house. That someone was Archana.
It was Vijay sir who wanted me to work on the floor, and be the creative producer. My role was decided during that first meeting, she recalls.
No ground for errors
The plan to do a film with Vijay was always on the cards but it was taking time to fall in place.
We were trying for six years, and we were always in touch with him. With Bigil, it fell in place perfectly. We had his dates, and we liked Atlees script. It fit into the AGS style of films, as we prefer not doing run-of-the-mill entertainers.
As a production house, AGS is known to have backed films such as Thani Oruvan, Kavan, and Thiruttu Payale 2, yet, despite their experience, Bigil was a challenge. For starters, it is a sports-themed script, which was new for the production house.
The pressure was huge, she admits, adding, Managing the budget was the first challenge. We had to pre-plan as much as possible. There were still stumbling blocks. Like the football stadium, which was an integral part of Atlees script. Initially, the plan was to shoot in football fields in various parts of the country. They even zeroed in on one in the North East. It was only later that they discovered the challenges in doing so.
We became aware that most of these stadiums had rules, timings for shoot and specific areas for cameras.
All this left them with no choice but to build their own stadium. But then, they couldnt shoot all the matches in the same space, and thats when the CGI guys came into the picture, she says.
The team then had to source special lights (nine lakh watts) from China. For every match, the structure had to change and spectators had to wear the teams jerseys. All these were big challenges. Filming Bigil was like building ten theatres, she adds.
Fan versus producer
Archana Kalpathi has no qualms in admitting that she is an ardent Vijay fan; she has been one since watching Kadhalukku Mariyadhai in school.
You know how in school and college we usually have battles about our favourite hero... I always defended Vijay in those fights, smiles Archana, for whom Sachein tops her list of favourite Vijay films.
Did the fan in her come in the way of the creative producer while shooting Bigil?
See, to put in 180 crore for a film is no joke. So, its first and foremost a job and a responsibility, she says. But the fan did take over at times when Vijay was at the shooting spot. Especially when he was shooting the intro song. There was a lot of excitement then, she gushes.
Such fangirl moments have also gotten Archana a lot of attention on social media from diehard Vijay fans, who badger her for updates on the film.
I knew what sequence was being shot when and what Vijay sir was doing in it. But I obviously cant reveal them because then there is no fun during the release, she remarks. Apart from shielding the film from inquisitive eyes of fans and media, she also took it upon herself to, as she puts it, protect the cast, crew and the direction team.
Clearly, people thought that I was the one who would give updates. So, I let them think that way. I took this as a responsibility to shield the rest of the team, who would concentrate on work, she says.
This weekend will be a big one for Archana as the trailer for Bigil will be released. She promises that it will be great.
[The trailer] will tell the films flavour. Fans are expecting a pure sports film but once they watch it, they will be like: Edho pannirkanga (they have done something different), she smiles.
Even as she awaits what is probably her biggest Deepavali, Archana is already looking ahead. She has more plans for Bigil a grand release in China in a few months.
That is our next big step... to take Bigil to China. It is a market that has welcomed sports films (Dangal) and women-centric subjects (Mom). We are sure they will like Bigil as it has a bit of both.