Arun Vijay tells TNM about working with the large star cast, his rapport with Mani Ratnam and more.

My character Thyagu is a charmer Arun Vijay to TNM on Chekka Chivantha Vaanam
Flix Interview Tuesday, September 25, 2018 - 14:46

This is Arun Vijay’s 23rd year in Tamil cinema, and Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (CCV), releasing this Thursday, is his 25th project. Finally, the actor got an opportunity that he was waiting for -- two decades -- a film with Mani Ratnam. “Good things take time,” he smiles. Excerpts from a conversation follow:

You’ve been a part of multi-starrers, like Yennai Arindhaal, in the past. CCV is also one.

Mani (Ratnam) sir gives equal space to all his characters. He’s not your usual filmmaker. And that’s why his films stand out. Someone of his stature doesn’t have to narrate the entire script to me. But he did. I was quite impressed with my character (Thyagu). Even now, I don’t understand how I bagged the film. It feels like a dream. I think I’ve done my best. When I got a call from Madras Talkies, I had a word with Gautham Menon. He was extremely happy and proud. 

Tell us about your role.

Thyagu is a well-learned guy, who deals with top-notch people in Dubai. He’s a charmer, too. It’s an interesting character that has different dimensions. Mani (Ratnam) sir has kept everything realistic as far as possible in the film -- the characters, dialogues, situations, and the emotional roller coaster each of the characters goes through.

We had a kind of workshop before, and he clearly explained how a character reacts and behaves. The credit goes to him, who writes excellent roles because if he doesn’t, there’s nothing we can do as actors.

Now that you’ve acted in Mani Ratnam’s direction, have you become more confident as an actor?

Naturally. He has an eye for details and is in absolute command of what he wants to say, and how he wants to say it. He’s achieved so much; yet has a childlike curiosity and thirst to learn. In fact, his energy puts an 18-year-old to shame.

While shooting, he makes you believe that the moment is happening, and lets you improvise. The making-wise, he spends so much time understanding a character. It’s the story that always comes to him first. Another interesting thing about him is that he studies you as a person, and structure your character accordingly. When he writes a character, it comes straight from his heart that you know it can’t go wrong. He makes you pull off a performance that you never thought you’d be capable of. As a human being, he’s simply wonderful.

CCV has powerhouse performers including Simbu, Vijay Sethupathi, Arvind Swami, Jyotika, Aishwarya Rajesh and others. Was there pressure to impress Mani Ratnam?

(Laughs) Not at all. I took it easy and got to bond with everyone on the sets. For instance, Simbu has no airs, no hang-ups, no inflated ego. He’s pretty straightforward. Vijay Sethupathi and Arvind Swami are secure actors. They never oversell their performances. Initially, I was nervous to initiate a conversation with Mani sir, Arvind helped me out. They know each other really well. 

Your dad (Vijayakumar) made a comeback with Agni Natchathiram. Did you discuss the film with Mani Ratnam?

I wish I did. (Smiles) But… Enga? Time idhukke seriya irundhadhu (the time was sufficient only for the film).

Also, you’ve Saaho and Thadam in the pipeline.

Saaho marks my foray into Bollywood, and I am thoroughly excited. I've got a few days of shooting left. No, it’s not a negative role, but I've attempted something different I hadn’t explored so far.

I’ve high hopes on Thadam, an investigative thriller set in Chennai. Directed by Magizh Thirumeni, the story is based on true incidents. Watch out for some powerful action sequences that I enjoyed doing. The film is complete, and we’re yet to zero in on the date of release. I play a dual role in it (for the first time) -- one that of a graduate, and another -- a gangster.

You were 17 when you ventured into acting, and you were a struggling actor until Thadaiyara Thaakka (2012) happened. How has the whole journey been to you?

Over the years, I’ve learned to choose films that yank me off my comfort zone. I try not to get slotted into an image and want to do roles that are different from each as possible. That makes me take my own time to sign films.

I played a negative role in Yennai Arindhaal that got an overwhelming response from both the audience and critics alike. Eventually, similar offers started pouring in, and I didn’t accept any. Next, I did a lead role in Kuttram 23. I’ve no qualms about playing the villain if something extraordinary stuff comes my way. In the beginning, I had films that didn’t do well, but I never gave up. Every disappointment was a huge learning curve.

You often keep surprising your followers on social media with intense workout pictures.

I spend a minimum of three hours at the gym. I believe that it’s necessary to sculpt my body to suit the role I am playing in the film. I pay attention to what I eat, and I prefer to stay away from carbs.

Is another film with Gautham Menon in the offing?

Certainly, yes.

What’s more important?

The film or your role in it? Of course, the film.

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