Udhayanidhi Stalin, who was last seen in Seenu Ramasamy’s Kanne Kalaimaane, is awaiting the release of Psycho that will hit the screens on January 24. This is the actor’s first time collaboration with director Mysskin, who is known for his dark themes and unique filmmaking style. While Udhayanidhi was supposed to make his acting debut with Mysskin’s Yuddham Sei, which in retrospect he considers a missed opportunity, Psycho came to him almost two years ago.
At a press meet in Chennai, the actor spoke about how he signed Psycho, what we can expect from the film, and balancing politics with cinema.
“I went over to his office to listen to a script and after almost an hour, I told him I did not understand the story. It involved aliens,” he chuckles.
Then on his way back home, he continues, Mysskin came up with a two-minute brief about a story between a visually challenged hero and a psychopath. “I immediately told him I’ll play the visually challenged character,” he reveals.
Udhayanidhi, who has been making sure he chooses challenging roles ever since he made Manithan, says that Psycho was a unique experience. “This is entirely a Mysskin film. Given that he is a perfectionist, he was entirely thorough. All I had to do was follow his instructions,” he says. Explaining that the learning experience from each director has been different, he admits that as an actor, he has a lot to improve.
When the story came to him, it was around the time Udhayanidhi watched the Hindi language thriller Andhadhun, starring Ayushmann Khurrana. He was therefore inspired to try the special lenses the main character used in the film. “I was quite excited, got it after much difficulty and sent him (Mysskin) videos to discuss my look in this film only to hear him tell me that I’ll be wearing dark glasses,” he laughs.
Yet, in order to deliver an authentic performance, he says that he used the lenses on the sets without Mysskin finding out.
“I did use them in the film without his knowledge. I’d use it on one eye, to make sure it wasn’t seen on camera. When he found out, he was quite appreciative of my efforts,” he says.
Udhayanidhi plays a visually challenged character named Gautham in this film. “He comes from a wealthy family but grows up without parents. Actor Singampuli plays my guardian named Rajanayakam,” he says. The actor also shares that he spent two days with a visually challenged person to prepare for this role.
From the trailer, it is evident that Aditi Rao Hydari’s character is taken captive. Udhayanidhi adds that Gautham, who goes looking for her, is joined by Kamala Das played by Nithya Menen. Talking about working with the two stars, Udhayanidhi tells us that while his portions with Aditi required only two days of shoot - “She has worked hard physically for this film” - his journey was with Nithya Menen. “Nithya is a bundle of energy. I had this competitive urge while working with her,” he reveals.
Talking about Nithya’s character, he says, “When Mysskin narrated the story to her, she specifically asked to do Kamala Das’s character. I don’t think such a character has been done before in Tamil cinema. She’s swearing through the film and there’s a reason why she’s angry all the time.”
Actor Raj Kumar, who acted in a small portion in Mysskin’s Pisasu, is this film’s villain. “Towards the end of the film, I think people will have a small confusion as to who really is the psycho. I’m sure he’ll have a good reach after this film,” he adds.
Politics and future
Ever since Udhayanidhi’s appointment as DMK’s youth wing state secretary in July last year, the actor has been balancing his time between cinema and politics. “I have two different teams handling my schedule. It has been hectic but not unmanageable,” he tells us.
His portions in Psycho, in fact, were shot while he was campaigning during the day for the bye-elections. The actor also has his upcoming Kannai Nambathe with director Mu Maran, the shoot for which is going on.
While he says that he would not hesitate to contest in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections “if party orders” him to do so, Udhayanidhi has no plans of using his films as a launchpad for politics. He believes cinema today is different from what it was during MGR’s period, when the Dravidar Kazhagam used films to spread their message.
“I haven't done it so far and I don’t intend to either. I make sure my films are not preachy. Cinema is not like how it was. The commercial cinema today is different and I don't think the format will work in today’s scenario. My idea is to keep the audience entertained,” he says. Later during the interview, he shares that he is better known as ‘Kalaignar’s peran’ (grandson) among many, something he came to know during his election campaigns, and not as an actor.
On the current state of the Tamil cinema industry, with the state government taking control over two of its important bodies, the Nadigar Sangam and the Producers’ Council, Udhayanidhi is quick to answer that the AIADMK government’s intent is to keep the industry under a tight leash and to prevent Vishal’s entry into politics.
“The bye-election election results have come but not the Nadigar Sangam’s. It is true that they had questioned Vishal why he visited appa (Stalin) after the elections. This, after him telling them that it was only a friendly visit, I know him from my school days. They don't want Vishal to enter into politics,” he claims.
While Tamil Nadu will see two biopics on late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, will he take up a role in Thalaivi or The Iron Lady, if offered? “I don’t think I will get an offer,” he replies.
But a biopic on his grandfather K Karunanidhi is definitely on the cards. “It was my dream to make one and I had thought about it even when he was alive. This, however, is not an easy task. When news emerged of Jayalalithaa’s biopics, many had approached me to do one for my grandfather. MX player too has approached us. I think with the right team it can be done. I will have to consult with appa before we begin anything,” he says.