‘I’m not leaving Tamil cinema for Hindi’
Apr 19, 2010, 12.00am IST
Since making his acting debut two decades ago, Tamil superstar Vikram has done more path-breaking work than any of his colleagues. After doing blockbusters including Sethu, Dhill, Gemini and Dhool and winning a national award for the role in Pithamagan, Vikram is all set to make his Hindi film debut with Mani Ratnam’s Raavan. He spoke to Subhash K Jha:
Are you looking forward to your entry into Hindi cinema?
The work in Mumbai is so exciting. When i saw Rang De Basanti, Lagaan, 3 Idiots and My Name Is Khan, i wanted to be part of them. I wish we could make films like that in Tamil. Most Tamil films are rustic, rural, rugged and violent. Many of them are set in Madurai, which is known to be an aggressive city.
How does it feel to be at the top in Tamil cinema for so long?
I always behave as though every film of mine is the first. And i try doing something different each time. It’s like chess for me. I’ve done very few films. By the time i release one film, my contemporaries complete and release four films. In the year that i had Aparachit, Vijay had six films and Ajith had four.
Tell us about your family life?
My wife Shailaja is a teacher in psychology. She’s recently started teaching in a very well known school in Chennai. I discuss my career with her, bounce off ideas. I’ve also become half a psychologist. My daughter is 12 and my son is eight. My son is totally hooked to cinema. He wants to be an actor. But i’d rather he concentrated on his studies. I’m sure he’ll do great in movies some day. I’m also moving towards direction with every movie. It’s subliminal. But i am learning on the sets all the time.
Many of your Tamil films have been remade into Hindi, for example Sethu which was Tere Naam in Hindi?
Salman Khan is a good friend and he did a good job. It was based on the Tamil director Bala’s own experiences. So i guess the creator’s influence was stronger in Tamil. I lost about 16 kg for my character in the second-half when he goes into the mental asylum. I had one chapatti, one egg white and a glass of beetroot juice as my meal for the day every day. I used to walk to the location, which was 16 km away.
Which version of Raavan will you and your family watch first?
That’s a domestic dispute right now. Tamil or Hindi is a toss-up. I’m not leaving Tamil cinema for Hindi. I’ve four films to shoot in Tamil. I’ve already started my next Tamil film, a psycho-thriller directed by Selvaraghavan where i’ve three roles. I’ve a film about a stage actor from the 1930s. I can’t do routine films. The acting bug bit me when i was in class 3. My audience has been growing since then. When we were shooting in Orchha no one recognised me and then suddenly my driver asked me if i was the actor from Aparachit. It gives me a kick to be recognised.
How’s your Hindi?
Not too good. My co-star Abhishek Bachchan has been helping me with my Hindi lines in Raavan. Abhishek is one of my best friends. I am known to be the prankster. But with Abhishek around i had to withdraw from the brat race.
Posted 28th Sep 2009
Cheeyan Vikram needs no introduction. His impending films always evoke a sense of curiosity among audience. Many aspiring starlets are ambitious to be featured alongside him. He is one of the favorites of many producers and directors. He has scaled great heights but remains grounded firmly. Having completed Kandaswamy, he is ready for his next project- Mani Rathnam’s Ravan.
Experience working with Mani Rathnam’s Ravan?
I would like to work with people who are sticklers for perfection. Bala is one such director. If he is involved in something, he would go to the deepest level possible to explore the subject unmindful of the time involved or any other factor. I have no problems with it as I am also of that type. That’s why Bala-Vikram combinations could render soulful, intense films.
Coming to Mani Sir’s Ravan, shooting was held in the dense jungles of Chalakudy in Kerala. When we went to Kolkata, the dust in the place gave all of us sneeze and cough. Then we moved to Madhya Pradesh where we had lovely climate. So we had a mix of different weather conditions just like Mani Sir’s works.
How did you prepare yourself to act in Mani Rathnam’s film?
When I like a character, I would like to completely imbibe it in me. That’s my style. Mani sir always tries something different. That is his style. He is keen to make every frame of his a different and a special one. That film may not be a successful one which is entirely a different issue. However it would be a special experience for everyone. Whenever he is filming a scene, Mani sir will appear like a soldier, very aggressive and ready to face the battlefield.
Why do you say that?
His involvement cannot be described in words. When I am struggling in water or standing under waterfalls, he expects me to abide by his instructions. He will just push me into waterfalls and I will be completely astonished and give a bewildered look. He would not be satisfied with that look but would somehow extract what he wanted. I would give the deepest sigh that the scene is somehow over. When it comes to extorting his expectations from the artists, Mani sir is a task master and totally ruthless. This might sound exaggerated but you will realize it when you see the film.
How was it working with Abhishek and Aishwarya?
I know Abhishek for a long time and we are good friends. The moment he enters the set, his chirpy waves would spread all over the place. He is such a friendly person. He does not leave the set even if his shot is over and would wait for mine to complete. When I am shooting on rocks and hills, he used to be very caring and would always caution me to be extra alert. His sense of humor is amazing. When a shot is very long, he would jocularly say that I don’t need glycerin to make me cry as waiting for the shot to get over would automatically bring tears to my eyes. We used to have lengthy conversations about film making.
As regards Aishwarya Rai, she is completely a different person. I found it difficult to work with Aishwarya Rai because she is not only Miss World but also a person who is very keenly observed by the people. Hence I was not able to move with her freely and was even hesitant to talk to her. But on the professional front, she is very encouraging.
What are your attempts to change completely into a character?
I will very easily get into skin of any role that I play. Firstly I will bring the looks of the character into me. Then when I am shooting continuously for a long time, the involvement increases and at one point, I start loving my role so much and totally transform into it. When I am required to play an animal, I will also become an animal, with no emotions and no feelings just like a wooden board. I was like this while doing Pithamagan.
You have an action hero image. But what is your real face?
I like to fight, go for battles. But the reason is also important. I don’t like to act in soft romantic films. If running behind the heroine is the prime job, I am sorry, I am not for it. However it is surprising that I often see such movies.
I want to take each step of mine very diligently in my career. When I am doing a film, I would like to trek in two important aspects. One is that the role should satiate my acting thirst. Second, my character should be strikingly different. The character should be understood just by looking at me. I would like to do films where there is strong character portrayal.
Are you interested in doing Bollywood films?
No, I am very happy working here. It is comfortable in Tamil and I consider this as my favorable ground. I believe that understanding the director is very important. I cannot work in places where I don’t understand the language. I am happy in Tamil films. Not only in Tamil, but I am also happy doing films in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. If at all I have to get out of these languages, then it would be for a Mani Rathnam film or a Rakesh Mehra project or Sanjay Leela Bansali’s venture. Something like Dil Chahta Hai.
Every actor and actress, at some point, would have felt like directing or writing a script. Perhaps, in another five to ten years, I would venture into this. If seen in a different vein, every one of us is an assistant director. When I am working with Shankar or Bala or Mani sir, psychologically, I will be an assistant director. I always nurture the idea of direction.
Do you have any particular character that you are keen to essay?
Currently I am head over heels in love with a character from Selvaraghavan’s film. From the moment I heard about it, it has started disturbing me. It has affected me to such an extent that waiting for the film to commence has become an ordeal. I am restless.
Tamil cinema has been growing steadily but for the past four years, Hindi cinema appears to have surpassed us. This change could be attributed to NRIs investing in films. As a result many laurels that are due to us are going to Bollywood and they are doing what we should be doing. We are still showing violence in films. If it is a soft romantic subject, it is only small budget films. This trend should change.
Film for actor or actor for film- Which is your choice?
I like to feature in a sincere film. Of course, such films do come occasionally. Cinema is a director’s medium. I would like to be an actor liked by a director. Beyond this, accepting to act differently and to make some one act is a difficult task. I am a director’s actor. He should feel that no one but Vikram would suit for a particular role. I am keen to feature in such projects.
You are on a success journey. Do you look back sometimes?
Definitely! I have dreamt a lot and have accomplished beyond my dreams. But the path has not been a bed of roses. I have suffered many insults, injuries, disappointments and pains and eventually my dreams have come true. God has taken me to a place beyond my expectations.
Cinema, stardom, shooting- How is Vikram beyond all this?
I am very clear about who I am –in front and behind the camera. There are two persons in me- one is within cinema and the other outside. I have a small nest where I, my wife and kids dwell. When I go home, I switch off my mobile. When I am at the shooting spot, my folks cannot reach me. I have a small house in Besant Nagar. When I am in Besant Nagar, I would like to go around walking. I don’t like people making a hue and cry when they spot me. Although there are five security persons around me, I would like to be left alone when I go to the grocers or to the gym or to the video shop. That’s what I like. My space belongs only to me.
What about your belief in God?
I believe in God completely. If He decides to give me three boons, I would ask for the following. 1. I would like to be born as actor Vikram again. 2. I want my family and friends with me again. 3. The success I got after a long list of trials and tribulations should be got earlier.