Appa and I: Arun Vijay
The actor and his dad, Vijayakumar, open up on the occasion of Father's day
Arun Vijay and dad Vijayakumar naturally have plenty in common, and yet, they’re quite different. Vijayakumar is emotional and philosophical. Arun Vijay is fierce and ambitious. Unlike most star kids, Arun didn’t have it easy getting into films. He didn’t tag along with his father, and preferred to learn things the hard way. Vijayakumar, for his part, has navigated the highs and lows of stardom with a practical approach to life.
“For me, everything about Arun is special,” says Vijaykumar. “When he told me he was keen about becoming an actor, I motivated him. But he was keen that he do it all himself.”
Vijayakumar thinks Arun perhaps started off a bit too early. “Twenty years ago, he was a tad too young. I don’t think he had the ability to pick good scripts, though he had all the qualities necessary to be in cinema,” says the veteran actor, and adds that he is “happy that Arun became secure enough to tread carefully and select projects well.”
Vijayakumar has always tried not to be overprotective of his son and is a believer in letting him learn from his mistakes and experiences. “I encourage him to take risks.”
Arun agrees, and says he has learned that to there is a “need to be extraordinary” to survive in Tamil cinema. “Back when I first entered the industry, I took whatever was available, believing them to be my best options. While I don’t regret those decisions, I do believe that my statue today is the consequence of those choices. My dad has always told me to follow my dreams, and here I am today. He’s always been my go-to person whenever I need guidance or help.”
Vijayakumar introduced Arun to quality cinema when he was growing up, and “this is something we still enjoy together,” says Arun Vijay. Agni Natchathiram is their favourite film.
Vijayakumar smiles. “I started as a hero in the film industry, but couldn’t sustain as a top actor. I was offered negative characters, but I didn’t like doing them. The years went by!” And that’s when he considered quitting acting. “But Mani Ratnam approached me with Agni Natchathiram. I wasn’t willing to act, but he convinced me. He came home with PC Sreeram and did a test shoot. That changed my career. The actor in me got a new dimension. I realised I could be a good character artiste.”
For Arun, the film means a lot more. “Agni Natchathiram is very personal because Appa is exactly like that in real life. He treats all his children (five daughters and one son) equally, just like his character Vishwanath in the film.” Vijayakumar shakes his head vehemently. “It’s about being impartial to our kids, even if we have more than one wife. Kadavulukke rendu pondaati ma,” he jokes. The duo says that their relationship has evolved over the years. “We laugh a lot, fight a lot and love each other so much. I think Appa is a greater dad than I am to my son,” says Arun. Why haven’t the done more films together? “I didn’t want to take advantage of our popularity,” says Vijaykumar. “But I cherish the ones we have worked on.”