I'M CRAZY WHEN IT COMES TO ACTING: VIKRAM and I HAVE ALWAYS FANCIED PLAYING A VILLAIN, BUT THAT HASN'T HAPPENED AS OF NOW
Fifteen years and count ing, and actor Vikram is as passionate about cinema as he was when he entered the film industry with En Kadhal Kanmani.The actor says all the films he does are close to his heart, however, when he remembers the firstday-first-show of Sethu, he still gets emotional.He has worked with some of the big daddies of the industry, but he insists he is still constantly on the lookout for out-of-the-box roles. He tells us why , and more, in a conversation with Chennai Times.Excerpts: You keep re-inventing yourself for different roles -both physically and mentally.Do you believe it is worth it?
Of course. There are two things -after I make my first buck, everything is about passion. How much do you need a month? There is only so much money we need. But after that, it all boils down to what gives you that high, what keeps you going. What are you most passionate about? For me, I love getting into the character and I love experimenting. It is like painting.You can't go ask Picasso or MF Husain why they have used dark backgrounds or have used the colour red.When they are painting, they forget the commercial aspect and get completely involved in what they are doing. When you act, you get completely glued to it. I'm crazy that way .Even if I have to prepare myself for three years, I will do it. I will have my regular chicken, egg white, potato, and follow a diet and go to the gym twice a day . No matter when the shoot is, I have to be ready . To keep yourself motivated is difficult. If you are convinced about a role, you will want to give it your 100%.If you see 10 Endrathukulla, you will realise I haven't done this kind of a role before. My performance is different. It is very difficult to do a role such as this. It is different when you struggle for years, get into a character and finish a role, but to do a role like the one in this film is difficult. I always strive to be as different as possible. The day I stop getting that high, I will retire from acting. But I love cinema too much and don't think that will ever happen.
Why did you agree to do 10 Endrathukulla?
It is a fun film. We travelled a lot for the movie from Rajasthan to Sikkim and Nepal. And we had to do it because it is a road film. I cannot equate or compare this film to any other movie because it is a different genre. I am not saying it is a huge film or it is a laugh riot, but it sure is a fun film.The movie has its own charm and you can witness a lot of cute moments. Vijay Milton has tried to break stereotypes with every scene in the film. Both Samantha and I have very natural reaction to situations just like any normal person would react. And I found that to be very enchanting. All the films I do, no matter what the result is, are close to me.
Has age ever been a deterrent, considering you'll be turning 50 next year?
It's a rumour. Wikipedia is lying. I have gone to places where people much younger to me call me by my name, and it takes me a couple of seconds to realise that the person is calling me. You are what you think you are. If you think you are 50, you will feel like a 50-year-old. I don't know, maybe next year, I will start looking 50 or 60. I am a health freak and am careful about my food and exercise routine. I am not a guy who has gone for marathons and I am not part of that kind of fitness. But my fitness is defined by my roles. I am constantly working out. For my next film, if I need to look fit or thin, I will do it. It is not like everybody can look like the character they play . If I am playing James Bond, I should look like James Bond. I can't look unkempt at that point of time. And if I need to be an unkempt guy , you won't find another person as unkempt as me. So, if I am playing a slum dweller, I can't be obese; maybe I can have a pot belly , but I cannot be fat because they can't afford that kind of food. That's how I think of it. More than focusing just on my performance, I think like an actor. I think how a character should or can look like, and work towards it.All my homework is done much in advance. When I am at home or at the gym, I keep mulling over what my character should look like. Then there is a sudden click and I try looking like that. Even when I am not shooting, I try out different looks -I might sport a beard, then shave it off.My folks are like, `God, you are mad!' But though I keep experimenting with my appearance, I do everything the healthy way . I don't even have protein shakes, let alone amino acids and steroids. So, I just work out and eat light. A lot of people these days are more conscious about working out and fitness. I have had several injuries on my shoulder and knees, but all that happens because I am pushing my boundaries.
Do you have a dream role that's remained elusive so far?
I think more than a role, be it that of a mad scientist or a beggar, or a maniac, it is the story that matters. I have always fancied playing a villain, but that hasn't happened as of now. I am waiting for my directors to come up with stories that are engrossing.As for my rapport with directors, I have had great equation with Bala, Vijay Milton, Mani Ratnam, Shankar and Hari. You can never do a film without having good rapport. You have to be on the same pace, be at the same space mentally . I remember this one film where the director and actor didn't get along at all, but that became their advantage and the movie was a hit. I cannot tell you which film, but these are rare cases and don't happen that often.
How have you evolved as an actor?
You must have heard of the dreadful accident I had. The doctor said I will never walk. But I walked because I knew only if I walk, would I become an actor. That took a long time. Then, it took me 10 years to become an actor. After that kind of a journey ,I got whatever I wanted. I worked with the best directors -Mani and Shankar. In fact, when I was in college, I used to say if I work with these guys, I would retire. I worked with all of them. All the dreams have been realised. The acting bug struck me when I played a little black AfroAmerican girl in a play called Banana Boat. I remember I wanted to be part of a play in Class IX, but couldn't because there was no character for me to play . But the main actor got chickenpox and I got to do the role. They loved my performance and I was praised. Same thing hap pened in acting as well -after 10 years, people saw me and asked, `Who is this guy?'
What about your son -is he interested in movies?
That's a long story . He was always going to be part of cinema -either as an actor, director or cinematographer. We always gave him the freedom and asked him to choose what he wanted to do in life. A friend of his clicked some pictures of him and that went viral. Nevertheless, my son is very happy . I am a very private person and my family leads a normal life. If the car is not available, they take the auto. But once everyone knows you, you can't do anything.Everyone has a smartphone and you cannot even go to a mall in peace. So I told him, if you want to act, you cannot just do it. You have to do it the right way . He is getting trained in direction and cinematography as of now. He is inclined toward movies, but we have to wait and see at what capacity he can go ahead. And he understands all of this, too.
How do you select your films?
I hear a story and get this urge, and that's the film I generally sign on. But I believe we don't have enough stories. Malayalam cinema has some brilliant stories and script writers.We don't have story banks. What the director tells you and what you imagine are completely different things.Nobody comes with a bound script these days. There are hundreds of script writers out there, but to get the right script, you need to listen to at least 99 stories. After the third or fourth script, you are like, `Oh crap, let's take whatever comes up.' But recently , I have been getting some good scripts. We have the best and the worst audience. Tamil audience is always a challenge and you can never take them for granted. They know what they want. You have to be different, but at the same time, you cannot be totally out of the box. Kerala has budget restraints, so you cannot make huge films. But they have great stories and they are not hero-centric; the genre matters more. Telugu is all about hero-worship. But Tamil cinema is improving and the audience is making directors work harder.
What are your current projects? Is another Bollywood film on the cards?
I do have some scripts coming in, but nothing till next year. I have more than 10 offers, but I don't want to do just any role. I want to do the role. It doesn't matter which language it is in, but it has to be good. When it comes to Bollywood, we have to start somewhere in between, then climb up the ladder, spend a lot of time there, and be part of the right camps.The film that I am doing now is Anand Shankar's film (tentatively Marma Manithan), and I am looking forward to it.
Credits : Times OF India / Chennai Times