Saturday, July 07, 2007

Daring and dashing

The Hindu - Friday Review


Vijay squeezes in some moments between shots to share his thoughts about ‘Azhagiya Tamizh Magan.

There was a time when I took others’ opinions before I accepted or rejected an assignment. Now, good or bad, the decision is mine. And the choice is more by instinct...


For an action hero who gives screen villains a solid run for their money, and whose strident and challenging dialogue makes his fans go dizzy with delight, Vijay’s reserved off-screen persona could catch one meeting him for the first time, off- guard. You can talk to him for hours and still not get even remotely close to guessing what’s going on beyond those serious expressions and sedate behaviour.

So this time you are prepared for a quiet reception but he stumps you with a big smile as he welcomes you into the air conditioned comfort of his caravan. “Sorry to have made you travel all the way here!” he says.

Is the friendliness because you are a known face? “That’s unfair,” he laughs. (It’s not often that you can see Vijay actually laugh aloud, off screen.)

“But I’m a very friendly person. Probably it isn’t very perceptible. Even my mom keeps saying I don’t react much to situations around me. I enjoy myself to the hilt when I’m with my group of friends. Yet actually at the end of it I wouldn’t have spoken much,” he smiles.

Being in the limelight he has to constantly sport a friendly visage, and so his reticence is almost a paradox. But that’s probably why he’s able to identify himself very well with the character he plays in ‘Azhagiya Tamizh Magan,’ the film he’s working on at the moment. “Yes,” he begins with a measured smile. “The hero is a man who is least perturbed even if there’s a volcano erupting in front of him. I’m like that. Success or failure doesn’t affect me much. Of course, when an entire team works for six to seven months on a project, only to see it bomb at the box office it is depressing, no doubt. But I move on.”

Scene of action

The place is the old thermal power station at Ennore, near Chennai, where shooting for, ‘Azhagiya …’ is going on. It’s filled with grime and dust, the sweltering heat outside further increased by the asbestos roofing and strobes strewn around.

A fight sequence is being canned with ‘Fefsi’ Vijayan choreographing the action. “He’s astounding! I walk into the set thinking he would have conceived the sequence in a particular way, but he would come up with something entirely different. Vijayan is a big plus to ‘Azhagiya Tamizh Magan.’” Vijay is all praise for the unit’s stunt head. The two are teaming up again after ‘Pokkiri.’ It must be really tough to shoot fights on a warm afternoon. “Yeah! But I’m used to it. Most of my stunts have been shot here.”

How does it feel to have a film title that describes the hero as handsome? “I know I don’t fully qualify for the epithet,” he laughs self consciously. He should tell his fans that — they’d be wild with him for saying so. “No. I mean it. But the crew is doing its best to make me suitable for the title. Nalini Sriram and Rajendran are working on my costume, and cameraman Balu [Balasubramaniam who did ‘Pithamagan’ and ‘M. Kumaran …] is trying out various angles to make me look my best,” he chuckles with a glint in his eyes.

When many of the heroes are toeing Kamal’s line, trying to effect changes in their looks for every film, Vijay doesn’t give much thought to it. “It’s not so. The roles I choose do not warrant such changes. After ‘Pokkiri’ I began looking for something novel when first time director Bharathan came to me with ‘Azhagiya Tamizh Magan.’ I’ve known Bharathan from my ‘Gilli’ days. He was Dharani’s assistant and also the dialogue writer of ‘Gilli.’ So I thought, ‘Why not?’ And when I say novel don’t think it’s something nobody’s done before. This will be different from the 45 films I’ve done so far. That’s all,” he cautions.

The unit has quite a few who are working with Vijay for the first time. The director, the cinematographer … “Shriya,” he volunteers with a smile. “What I like about her is her commitment. As she doesn’t know the language, she asks for her dialogue the previous day, learns the meaning and pronunciation and comes prepared for the scenes the next morning,” he compliments. And A.R.Rahman is also fairly new to a Vijay film. “He’d done music for my ‘Udaya’ earlier. [The film with Simran had faced problems and the delay cost dearly.] He’s already given us three songs, out of which we’ve canned one at Karaikkudi — a family song that has a group dance, with Shriya and me.” For the duets, the unit will travel to Russia and Mauritius.

What makes him decide on a film? “My character and the scope it offers. Also the director has to narrate the entire story in screenplay format so that I can visualise it completely. Only then can I make a decision. There was a time when I took others’ opinions before I accepted or rejected an assignment. Now, good or bad, the decision is mine. And the choice is more by instinct. ‘Thirupaachi,’ for example. Many dissuaded me from taking it up. But it became the biggest grosser of my career. There’s the other side too. I’ve rejected films which have eventually gone on to become major hits. ‘Dhool,’ ‘Kaakha Kaakha,’ to name some,” he ruminates. After ‘Azhagiya …’ Vijay will be doing a Dharani directed project again.

Among the recent releases he likes ‘Paruththi Veeran.’ “Ameer has done a great job. Karthi too, and you can’t forget Priya Mani either,” he says.

The last time you had met Vijay, was just after the release of ‘Pokkiri.’ He had said it was his most favourite film. With 70 per cent of the shoot of ‘Azhagiya Tamizh …’ over (It will be an August release.) is he still singing the same tune? “I’ll be able to tell you only after I’ve watched ‘Azhagiya …’ in totality. So as of now, it’s still ‘Pokkiri,’” he smiles.

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