Wearing Rajinikanth fandom on his sleeve, filmmaker Karthik Subbaraj told in an interview to a leading news organisation that he is proud to have directed Petta. As a die-hard superstar Rajinikanth fanboy, directing the Tamil actioner was like a dream come true for Karthik who is credited with films like Pizza, Jigarthanda and Iraivi. This was his first project with Rajinikanth which released today in Tamil and the Hindi version is set to release on January 11.

The promos of Petta are clear indicators that the movie, that has been extensively shot in Uttar Pradesh especially in places like Varanasi and Lucknow, is by a die-hard Rajinikanth fan who attempts to pay a rich tribute to the superstar of 1990s through it.

In the interview with IANS, Karthik shared, “I grew up idolising Rajinikanth and I’ve always wanted to see him in a certain way. When I knew I was going to write for Rajini sir, I wanted to show him in the most stylish way and bring back his mannerisms and machismo.” Though Petta will now be tagged as Karthik’s love letter to his matinee idol, he clarifies that it will be a healthy amalgamation of Rajinikanth’s popular tropes and Karthik’s vision as a director.

In addition to the fact that the film has everything a Rajinikanth fan wants to see, Karthik revealed, “The film has a mix of both our sensibilities. Rajini sir gave me an opportunity to work with him because he liked my work, especially my style of narration and dialogues. Now, I can’t go out and make something very different just to please him. He wanted me to make ‘Petta’ the way I want it and with my sensibilities intact.” Backing this statement by Karthik are the promos of the film which act as enough assurance that Rajinikanth’s fans are in for a treat.

As expected, Karthik feels he will always treasure the time he spent with his idol on the sets and said, “Personally, the biggest takeaway for me from the project is the time I spent with Rajini sir. It was fascinating to see him in action. He still works with the kind of passion we see in up-and-coming actors who have to prove themselves. Importantly, Rajini sir doesn’t take his fans and audiences for granted.”

According to the director, the audiences will see a merrier version of Rajinikanth in the role of a hostel warden- Kaali. On being asked whether this was his conscious attempt to break the megastar’s recent stint of dark characters, Karthik said, “As stories, Rajini sir’s recent films such as ‘Kabali’ and ‘Kaala’ were dark. Therefore, his characters were also dark. The story decides the nature of a character.”

He added, “When I thought of writing for Rajini sir, I told myself it will be a really cool character with a very happy-go-lucky attitude. We took such a character and placed him in a strong story and I believe, as a combination, it has worked wonders. Rajini sir thoroughly enjoyed doing comedy and romance.”

Starring an ensemble cast of Trisha, Simran Bagga, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vijay Sethupathi, Sasikumar, Bobby Simhaa, Malavika Mohanan and Megha Akash, among others, Petta’s director is of the opinion that casting was not as big a challenge as was shooting with them within the restricted time frame. He elaborated, “Ever since the project was announced, time was our biggest constraint. When the project was announced in March 2018, it was already decided by the makers that the film will release for Pongal 2019. This meant that we had only 10 months of time and out of which we also had to allocate time for post-production.”

About the star cast line-up, Karthik said, “I was very certain that I wanted to work with these actors. The fact that we had just 10 months to shoot did make me wonder if we could pull it off. Thankfully, the Rajinikanth factor attracted all the actors and they didn’t want to miss the opportunity to work with him.”

Not is the star cast huge but also playing pivotal roles individually according to Karthik who revealed, “The script demanded very strong characters. That’s the reason why I approached actors like Vijay Sethupathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who can literally play any character convincingly. Even when it comes to the women in the film, you will see them in very strong roles.”