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Vikram : Madness in his method - The Week Interview

Written By Chiyaan Vikram on Monday, June 24, 2013 | 12:40 PM

Madness in his method- The Week Interview
A grey T-shirt stretched over rippling muscles. Voice as smooth as whisky. Dimples accompanying a smile. 

Nope, it's not the description of a Greek business tycoon in a Mills & Boon book. That's how Vikram looked when we met him in his newly-constructed, self-designed home in Chennai. The 46-year-old actor of the Tamil film industry has been on an unrealistic weight loss regime for his next film, I. Directed by Shankar, I is touted to be India's costliest film ever. 

Vikram has always managed to shock his audience. He goes into exile, locks himself up and does funny, scary things to himself to get under the skin of a character. 

Fame did not come his way easily, though. After a decade-long struggle, Vikram got his big break in the 1999 movie, Sethu, which was later remade in Hindi as Tere Naam. For five months, Vikram's daily meal consisted of one chapati, a glass of beetroot or carrot juice and an egg. To top it all, he used to walk to the set, which was 8km from his home. For Deiva Thirumagal, in which he played a mentally-challenged person, he shaved his head a little to make his forehead look bigger. To see himself talk, walk and act like the character, he locked himself in a room with just a mirror for 10 days. 

And this time, he is pushing the limits even more for I. “I am just so excited that I can't help myself,” says Vikram. “I have to do this and do this right. When Shankar sir came to me for this role, I said that nobody has done such a thing before and he replied, ‘No one can do it, but you'. It scared me that he had so much confidence in me. When a filmmaker like Shankar says a thing like that, you trust him and try to do justice. Right now, this character is driving me.” I, which has Amy Jackson in the lead, is Vikram's second film with Shankar after the 2004 blockbuster, Anniyan.

The actor has given a whole year to the filming of I, which he claims is his most challenging role ever, both mentally and physically. He has lost almost 14kg since the filming and after every seven days, he takes time off to recuperate mentally. 

Won't all this weight loss hurt his health? “Initially, I wasn't very scientific about it. I did the GM diet seven times to lose weight for Sethu, but now I have started to put a method to it. After every role, I promise myself that I will play safe, but then I go crazy. My family was okay all this while, but now they are a little worried. I lost about 15kg for Sethu, but this time, I want to push myself and lose 20kg to 22kg. I think it will be quite shocking for the audience to see me in I,” says Vikram. After Sethu, the title role of a blind person in Kasi won him Filmfare's Best Tamil Actor Award. He received the national award in 2003 for Pithamagan, in which he played Chithan, a graveyard caretaker. 

Vikram made his Bollywood debut in Mani Ratnam's Raavan and was recently seen in Bejoy Nambiar's David. “I am always on the lookout for interesting roles. When I did David, people asked me why I was doing a smaller role, but it was such a nice story. It is one of the best roles I have ever done. I have never let myself go like that in any film, that, too, in Hindi, a language I hardly know. I didn't know what I was speaking—I am sure it sounded like a mix of Tamil and Greek—but I was working with such seasoned artistes like Tabu and Saurabh Shukla that I literally just let go. And I got such good feedback. So now I know when there is a good role, people will let me know,” he says.

After spending about three decades in Tamil cinema, Vikram feels there is still a long way to go, but it is not easy as there are no scripts to choose from. Says Vikram: “I realise there are so many films to be done, so many stories to be told. However, we don't have good scripts in Tamil cinema today, which bothers me quite a bit. We don't have scriptwriters at all. At all... I mean, it is not even a joke. Every scriptwriter worth half his salt becomes a director. And if you say no to one, he will go ahead and make the film with another actor. So you are stuck because it is the same kind of pattern and stories. I would really want to direct. I would like to get a good script and work on it for a year and then do a film. Friends tell me to be a little gutsy and go for it, but for me, that is not the main thing. I am really doing well as an actor and I don't want to dilute that right now.”
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