Gautham Menon – Ace filmmaker of Tamil cinema with credits of Minnale, Kaakha Kaakha, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa etc

Gautham Menon is one of the top filmmakers of Tamil cinema of new millennium. Mostly known for fresh romantic hits, he has equally handled action thrillers too. He marked his directorial debut with Tamil romantic hit, Minnale (2001) starring Madhavan and Reema Sen, and then directed super hit movies like Kaakha Kaakha (2003), Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu (2006), Vaaranam Aayiram (2008), Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010), Yennai Arindhaal (2015) etc. He has also excelled as an actor, and has directed Hindi and Telugu movies too. He scripted all his movies, and co-produced a few of them. He gives a lot of importance to music & songs, and needless to say, most of his film songs are some of the huge chartbusters of last two decades.

Many of his college mates of early 1990s later became his characters on screen

Gautham Vasudeva Menon was born in Ottapalam of Palakkad district, Kerala in year 1973. His father is a Malayali and mother is a Tamilian. He grew up in Chennai. He completed Mechanical Engineering at Mookambigai College of Engineering, Pudukkottai, before joining film industry. Interestingly many of his college students of 1993 batch later inspired him to write film characters. Lead characters from his popular movies – Minnale, Vaaranam Aayiram, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, Neethaane En Ponvasantham and Enai Noki Paayum Thota were all inspired from his college days.

During his college days he was deeply inspired by movies like Dead Poets Society (1989) and Nayakan (1987), and also expressed his desire to his parents of changing his career line. As suggested by his mother he joined as an assistant under ace ad-maker of 1990s, Rajiv Menon to work in ad films. When Rajiv Menon made his first feature film, Minsara Kanavu, Gautham joined as his assistant and also played a cameo in one of its songs.

Minnale marked his directorial debut in 2001

Vaseegara from Minnale sung by Bombay Jayashri

He made an impressive debut as a filmmaker through musical Minnale in 2001, and following the huge success of Kakka Kakka in 2003, there was no turning back. He went on to become one of the most successful young filmmakers of the decade. He also tasted success with Telugu movies though failed to take off in Bollywood. Most of his films are targeted on youth and he succeeded in this attempt to great extent. Apart from sweet romantic films, police stories also attract him.

Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein in 2001 (remake of Minnale) marked his Bollywood debut and Gharshana in 2004 (remake of Kakka Kakka) marked his Telugu debut. Gharshana was a huge hit, and later he directed hit Telugu movies like Ye Maaya Chesave and Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu (simultaneously shot in Tamil with different cast as Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa and Neethaane En Ponvasantham). Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada and Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo were also bilinguals which received rave reviews from critics.

His Tamil movies like Vaaranam Aayiram starring Suriya in a double role and Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa starring Silambarasan and Trisha were huge hits, which made him one of the top directors of the new millennium. As a director he excelled mostly in romantic films, his films can be tagged as musical hits. Though he succeeded in thriller movies too, all those movies too had romance in backdrop. Among all his movies, Nadunisi Naaygal received only mixed reviews. Rest of his films mostly received favourable reviews. The movie also marked his debut as a producer. Sequels to Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu are on the cards. His production house incurred huge losses in the recent times.

Gautham Menon as an actor

Gautam was first seen in the song sequence of Minsara Kanavu, when he was working as an assistant director under Rajiv Menon. In his first movie, Minnale, he played the brief role of a flower man. Since then he plays brief cameo roles in most of his movies, and has also worked as a dubbing artist for a few actors. In 2020 he played two full-fledged roles for which he earned accolades – DCP Prathap Chakravarthi in Tamil hit – Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal and negative role of a corporate person in Malayalam film, Trance. He has been playing police officer roles in a few of this recent films such as Yennai Arindhaal and Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada (its Telugu version too). In 2019 he made his acting debut in web series. He is a part of Tamil series Queen, where he portrays Sridhar on screen.

Gautham Menon – 20 interesting and less-known facts

1. His movies – Vaaranam Aayiram (2008) as director and Thanga Meengal (2013) as producer received National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil. Thanga Meengal also bagged Filmfare award for best film in Tamil.

2. Ye Maaya Chesave (2010) earned him two Nandi awards – Best screenplay award and Special Jury Award.

3. One of his top romantic hits – Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa was based on his unsuccessful real-life romance. He was in love with a girl older to him, and that Malayali lived in the upper floor. He later recreated the teenager’s love in the movie. In real life too, as shown in climax, they watched the movie together at Chennai. He also told about his cine buzz dreams in the movie.

4. His movie, Vaaranam Aayiram was also semi-biographical in nature. It was a tribute to his deceased father. When his father passed away, he was on a tour. On his return, he travelled through old memories which he spent with his father and wrote it as script in laptop. Similar to father Suriya’s character in the movie, Gautham’s father was a free spirited person, and had a love marriage with a Tamil girl, whom he met while studying at Madras Christian College. His and his wife Preethi’s story is also quite similar. Preethi was his sister’s classmate who expressed her feeling first. It took two years for Gautam to give a ‘yes’ nod.

5. Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa is his most favourite film, and he loves to shoot romantic films most.

6. His movie Minnale, launched in 2000 was initially titled O Lala. He signed Madhavan after the huge success of Alaippayuthey. As the whole team was new, he found it difficult to set initially. But everything worked perfectly for him.

7. He directed Hindi version of his debut flick, Minnale (2001) in 2002. Madhavan reprised his role in the movie titled Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein. Though the movie was a commercial failure, it developed a cult classic status among youth later. Songs of Hindi version were equally popular. It was one of the rare instances (may be for the first time) when the audio has two versions, with some special songs.

8. Model Diya Mirza marked her screen debut through Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein, directed by Menon. She is still known for her debut performance and fine songs filmed on her, though the movie was a flop. Madhavan too marked his Hindi debut through the same movie, and later became one of the rare south Indian actors with pan appeal. Madhavan originally shot a movie, Akeli in 1999, but it had a delayed release only in 2014.

9. Reemma Sen was launched to Tamil cinema by Gautam Menon through Minnale, and later she did a few more Tamil films.

10. Actress Samantha Akkineni marked her screen debut with Menon’s Ye Maaya Chesave in 2010. Later she went on to become a huge star of south Indian cinema, and also married her Ye Maaya Chesave co-star Naga Chaitanya.

11. Menon directed only two movies in Hindi – Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein and Ekk Deewana Tha, and both were remakes of his own Tamil musical hits – Minnale and Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa respectively. Though both remakes were commercial failures, songs of both were huge chartbusters.

12. Among all music composers he is frequently associated with Harris Jayaraj, right from his debut flick – Minnale. He has also worked with Rahman for musical hits like Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa.

Mannipaaya song from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa.

13. Harris debuted as a film composer with Gautham Menon’s Minnale, and they worked together for a series of 6 movies in a row – Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, Kaakha Kaakha, Gharshana, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Pachaikili Muthucharam and Vaaranam Aayiram, in three languages throughout the decade of 2000s. The record was broken when Rahman composed songs for Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, who composed for a series of movies later. The celebrated duo joined hands once again for 2015 movie, Yennai Arindhaal.

14. He worked with A. R. Rahman for the first time in Tamil-Telugu bilingual – Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa/ Ye Maaya Chesave. Following the huge success of its music, the duo later worked together for Nadunisi Naaygal, Ekk Deewana Tha (remake of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa where songs were reused), Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo/ Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada etc.

15. His bilinguals – Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa and Ye Maaya Chesave had two different cast and two different climaxes.

16. Harris Jayaraj created a fresh tune for the song, Dil Ko Tumse for RHTDM. Later he reused the tune for Ondra Renda song of Kakka Kakka. This song became more popular than the original version.

17. He gives film situation and mood to the composer in detail. Till now he has approved all tunes which the composer first. He believes it to be the magic of that particular moment.

18. He appeared in a song sequence, Hoo La La of Minsara Kanavu among spectators, and also the scenes before the song, where he stays close to Arvind Swamy in the camera frames.

Gautam Menon on the left side of Arvind Swamy in this scene

19. While shooting his debut Telugu movie Gharshana, he faced a near-to-death situation. During the climax shooting their boat got damaged and he fell into water. Except he, everyone knew swimming, and all his life moments flashed before him. Actress Saudharya’s face (who recently died in an accident) also came to his mind. But suddenly actress Asin’s father gave his hands and lifted him. It was a life changing moment of his life.

20. His family consists of his wife Preethi and three kids, who love cricket more than filmmaking. His wife has never appeared in any photo shoot, as she loves privacy most. Accidentally once her photo appeared in background for a photo shoot in a Tamil magazine. In response to it, she didn’t even talk to him for a few days.

My favourite Tamil songs from Gautham Menon movies

Nenjukkul Peidhidum from Vaaranam Aayiram

  1. Vaseegara from Minnale (Zara Zara from RHTDM in Hindi version)
  2. Venmathi Venmathiye from Minnale (Sach Keh Raha Hai from RHTDM in Hindi version)
  3. Azhagiya Theeye from Minnale
  4. Ivan Yaaro from Minnale
  5. Ennai Konjam from Kakka Kakka
  6. Uyirin Uyire from Kakka Kakka
  7. Ondra Renda from Kakka Kakka
  8. Thoodhu Varuma from Kakka Kakka
  9. Partha Mudhal from Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu
  10. Neruppae from Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu
  11. Nenjukkul Peidhidum from Vaaranam Aayiram
  12. Mundhinam from Vaaranam Aayiram
  13. Ava Enna from Vaaranam Aayiram
  14. Annal Mele Panithuli from Vaaranam Aayiram
  15. Hosanna from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa
  16. Mannipaaya from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa
  17. Thalli Pogathey from Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada
  18. Maruvaarthai from Enai Noki Paayum Thota
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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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