As Iru Mugan hits screens today, the actor talks to SRINIVASA RAMANUJAM on playing ‘Love’, the film’s arch-villain and his difficult but memorable journey in Tamil cinema
Vikram, or ‘Chiyaan’, as he prefers to be known as, has always been a difficult actor to slot. That he chooses to be an actor rather than a star comes across in his choice of scripts and essaying characters that, well, only he can.
In the meantime, he’s also done his bit of mass masala flicks — ones in which he beats up a bunch of bad guys with a single blow.
And, every now and then, he treats Kollywood to his dose of ‘intelligent commercial cinema’ — one that offers him scope for creative pursuits, besides bringing in the moolah.
Vikram hopes that the Anand Shankar-directed Iru Mugan , releasing today, is one of them, as he reveals what went into its making in an extensive chat with MetroPlus .
Two characters, an experimental one… surely, Iru Mugan is something that Vikram fans will love.
It’s a very interesting film; all of us found the story very special.
Did the stark contrast between the characters pull you in?
I have always wanted to work in a double role script, in which the two characters are diametrically opposed. So, we planned and designed them — in such a way that everything, both physically and mentally, was different. And, we ensured that they were different from what I am in real life too.
Love, the character you play in the film, is neither gay nor transgender?
(Laughs) Everybody generally thinks that it is a stereotype, since Love is outlandish. Actually, all we wanted to do was to show the difference between the two characters. I know that the trailer has raised questions on the depiction, but you’ll have to wait to watch the film to find the answers. See, Love plays the arch-villain and comes up trumps every time. It’s only when you portray someone as weak or in a bad light that you need to worry if you’re ridiculing them; in Iru Mugan , I had a tough time getting the hero to keep up with Love.
It is interesting that people are actually talking about the villain and not the hero…
Since I had the liberty of playing both roles, we didn’t need to make the villain less potent. Everybody — my fans in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala — has been talking about Love, and it’s positive for the film.
In a video during the making of I, you were getting inside a caravan, looking all lean and dishevelled but still smiling. There’s a ‘wow’ factor that anyone has while looking at someone like that…
There’s this guy who hangs around the set and takes every shot. For I , I always came in a few hours before the shoot and left much after everybody left… and Shankar sir wanted footage of how I actually looked under the make-up.
If you notice, I’m just laughing at the guy who’s shooting me. Shankar sir kept that as a surprise in the ‘making video’; when I saw it, even I was like, ‘Is that me?’
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Beyond all these arduous make-up sessions, you still need to act…
I kept telling myself that it wasn’t about my dieting or prosthetics; it was about knowing that I had to act after all this. There have been times when I’ve waited the whole day, with make-up on, and then they’d take a shot of my hand. But that’s how cinema is. That’s what acting is.
The more difficult it is, the more enticing it is for me. Take Love; the way he walks, talks is one thing, but what he does is beyond that, right?
You’ve said, and I quote, that you are ‘not in a race but in it for the passion of the craft’. This, of course, doesn’t mean you can continue making films like Kasi every year. There has to be a balance, and is that where you hope films like Iru Mugan come in?
When you do something like Kasi , despite all the acclaim, it’s still a small film. It’s rare to get something with balance; films like Anniyan , I, or Iru Mugan , where I get to explore my creative side, and do something that is blockbuster material.
Even with ‘commercial choices’, you could go wrong. What do you think goes awry when you think you have made a ‘safe choice’?
Honestly, it’s not like we have a big story bank and there are a hundred scripts floating around. The director usually comes with one script. Or sometimes, three scripts to choose from. And then there’s three months to finalise the one you like.
Also, I’ve always felt that I need to follow a heavy subject with a lighter one. Like I did Majaa after Anniyan . Or, doing 10 Endrathukulla after I . Perhaps, the audience felt I didn’t do enough, when they saw me in 10 Endrathukulla , after a film like I .
Let’s rewind to the past a little bit — December 10, 1999, to be precise. When did you know that Sethu was the game-changer for your career?
When I saw director Bala first day, first shot… the way he orchestrated things on the sets… I was like ‘Wow’. I liked the story yes, but when we actually started shooting, I got very excited. After the movie got done and didn’t release for a year due to problems, I told myself: ‘If this doesn’t work, I’m not going to do films any more.’
Those were the lowest days of my life. Not the times when I had a major accident. Not the 10 years of struggling to make it to the industry. But I knew that if the film released, it would change my fortunes. I realised that a few days after the film released. I went to the theatre to get my mother tickets. Suddenly, someone spotted me and the crowd mobbed me. The security guys scolded me, saying, ‘Don’t you know? A star should never go to a theatre screening his film.’ I replied, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that. Such things have never happened to me.’
Hypothetical question: Bala, Mani Ratnam and Shankar want your dates at the same time. What will you do?
(Laughs) I can’t answer that. These are three people I hold close to my heart. I think I’ll go mad…. like Sethu!
You’re also well-known for doing mass films. You’re slated to do Saamy 2 soon, the sequel to a film that worked well for you. How does Vikram take to commercial cinema?
I love commercial films; it’s just a matter of getting a good story. Whether it was Dhool , Dhill , Saamy … I think I’ve tried a different performance in each of them. Just like how I enjoy performance-oriented subjects, I like films that form the staple food of Tamil audiences.
I have always wanted to work in a double role script, in which the two characters are diametrically opposed
I love commercial films; it’s just a matter of getting a good story