How do you profile ‘Chiyaan’ Vikram?
The actor, in his fifties, has had plenty of superlatives written about him in the past. He is a star, one with few parallels across film industries. And he’s the man who made method acting cool in Tamil cinema. But all of this information is well-documented, leaving very little mystery to decode.
Sometimes, life’s greatest challenges are unlocked by a simple solution. Perhaps, a simple query will help in this situation — describe yourself in one word or a sentence. And Vikram laughs.
“It is a trick question. I don’t want to sound ostentatious. Let me think…”, he says. Then, after a long pause, he resumes, “I’d like to be a mystery. But I think I’m not (smiles). If you’re going to say you’re a mystery, then you’re no longer one.”
Shades of grey
Without getting into semantics, Vikram’s response could be better understood if one were to equate it with the role he essays in his latest, ‘Kadaram Kondan’, a film which he describes as a “milestone in my journey”.
Scheduled for release on July 19, Vikram plays a weapons and combat-trained mercenary, who goes by the name KK (not an abbreviation of the film). “The character is grey. He is unpredictable, very menacing, stylish and cool. He is always in control of what he is doing,” he says.
The film, produced by actor Kamal Haasan, is a two-hour action spectacle, and Vikram admits to doing his stunts himself.
“I try and avoid using a dupe because my look and body language change with every character I play. If I were to use one, I’d need someone who is like me. Who eats and works out like me, and changes himself for every role. But it is not possible. His style of fighting will be different,” he states.
Hence, even when he takes a fall during a stunt sequence, Vikram does it in character. “I take a fall in a wild kind of fashion. It will be very real. I don’t trust anyone (else) to do it that way,” he says.
But with age, isn’t the risk of injury exponentially higher?
Vikram’s upcoming films
- Gautham Menon’s Dhruva Natchathiram
- RS Vimal’s Mahavir Karna
- Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan (for which he begins shoot next)
- Untitled film with Ajay Gnanamuthu
“It’s not about age. Stunts will hurt. There will always be bruises. Your whole body will be sore and you can’t move for a couple of days. I know that the chances of getting injured are more as you grow older. But it is a risk I’m willing to take. Else, I should stop doing such kind of roles. But this film is all about stunts and I enjoyed doing it.”
While there was an emphasis, during the trailer launch, on how ‘Kadaram Kondan’ has been shot on a par with international standards of film-making, the director, Rajesh M Selva, does not hide the fact that he was apprehensive about showing the final product to Kamal Haasan.
A comment he made on how Vikram, the actor, “loves playing to the gallery” stood out. Because it followed Rajesh’s observation on how Kamal Haasan prefers to keep it “realistic”.
In response, Vikram says, “Look, the film is too international. I suggested little tweaks so that we don’t lose connectivity. You have me play a guy who is uber cool, dressed very stylishly with salt-and-pepper hairdo, and he has tattoos. You shoot something in Malaysia and they (audience) won’t connect with it. Those little tweaks were necessary for them to understand.”
While it is unclear as to what the issue pertains to, and Vikram isn’t too keen on clarifying, circumstantial evidence indicates that the use of high speed shots in the film could be one of the reasons.
In an earlier interview, Rajesh Selva had expressed how it is not in his style book to incorporate high speed shots in films. Says Vikram, “There is a shot in the trailer where I come out with a syringe. I asked Rajesh to place a high speed shot there because it will look better. He was like ‘No, Kamal sir wouldn’t like it but if you want we’ll chumma try’. And Kamal sir loved that shot in the end. So, there are these little things that will get you closer to your audience. That is me playing to the gallery.”
Riding a wave
The response shows a calculative mind at work. It is not surprising considering his three decades of experience in the Tamil film industry, something he intends to put to use when turning director down the line. For now, it is still an aspiration.
“I’m not very good at writing. I’d rather get a nice script and direct a film. But I don’t have the time to do it now because you’ll need to put away at least six months to a year for a film.”
While Vikram says he hopes ‘Kadaram Kondan’ turns out to be the biggest blockbuster in his career, the actor knows that all’s not too well with his recent choice of films.
About 20 years ago when the film Sethu turned the actor into a star, anything that Vikram touched turned to gold. “Those seven-10 years where I had Dhill, Dhool, Saamy, Pithamagan; there was no one else with a hit during that period. The press used to ask me what my formula for success was,” he says.
He recalls spotting a cartoon in a Tamil magazine. “There was me… running… and this whole flock of actors trying to catch up. But I never could say, then, why my films did well. Like how, now, I can’t say why I have a flop. But my performances have been consistent,” he adds.
And that is his strength: Performance. It is also why he is always on the lookout for roles that challenge him. “It is very easy to sit back and do normal roles,” he says, pointing out to his masala films like ‘Dhool’, ‘Gemini’ and ‘Saamy’, where, even though the films were in the same genre, the actor’s performances were markedly different.
“I feel it charges me when I do that. So, why forsake it and become ordinary?”