Yogi Babu: What we do is more important than how we look
The toast of Tamil cinema at the moment, the actor shares that he’s getting plenty of offers to turn hero
It's not easy to get hold of Yogi Babu at all, given that he’s busier than ever this year. Ask him about his journey and the comedian gets philosophical. "I've worked hard to get here. I started with Rs 50 in Lollu Sabha and I'm here now thanks to my gurus such as Ram Bhala and Sundar C. Only my footwear knows what I've gone through in my 16-year career as they have walked many a mile with me," says Yogi Babu, whose recent release, the Nayanthara-starrer Kolamavu Kokila, has opened to generally positive reviews:
Your role is substantial in Kolamavu Kokila.
Nayanthara is the lead, and I play a character role. This was always clear to me. My character is someone who loves her unconditionally. However, it’s a one-sided relationship. That Nayanthara agreed to do this role alongside me is truly surprising for me. There was another film in which the heroine had to lean on my shoulder for a comedy scene, but she was worried about what implications it would have on her career. Nayanthara is on the other side of the spectrum, and I feel profound respect for her.
Do incidents like that heroine refusing to act with you, offend you?
We can't really get offended. After seeing the film, I'm sure she would have realised how I’ve scored with my role. What matters is what we do, not how we look. I don't take such things to heart. Nayanthara and Trisha odave nadichaachu, appram enna. (laughs)
How did you react to Kalyana Vayasu going viral?
I still remember the night when Nelson called and told me to listen to the song he had sent via WhatsApp. I got the shock of my life when he said the song would feature Nayanthara and me. We shot it in a day and a half. I hear now that that the song has garnered close to five crore views on YouTube. I have to thank director Nelson and Sivakarthikeyan who wrote the lyrics just for me. There are many out there who dream of a song sung by Anirudh, and here, he sang it for me, a comedian. I have to thank him as well. Along with Nayanthara, these three people are the reason the song has gone viral. I was just a small part of it.
The helicopter shot seemed pretty well executed.
Dhoni did it in Jharkhand and I did it in Chennai (laughs). I'd almost made a profession out of sports, when films happened, and I started doing comedy.
Your humour seems to rely a lot on your improvisations.
Actually, I don't write my lines and neither do I ask for a bound script. I trust my directors. My trust has borne fruit once again in Kolamavu Kokila. We improvised sometimes. Nelson is the mind behind all the punchlines in the film. His improvisation skills are amazing and he often leaves us in splits.
What about your hairstyle that seems to have attracted somewhat of a cult following?
I think my hair acts more than me. People laugh more at my hairstyle than my acting. It’s a huge plus for me. Neraya peru athey koluthanumnu suthurange. (laughs) If that happens, I think I’ll shave it all off and turn to doing rowdy roles.
It seems like a horror comedy cannot be made without you, these days.
I guess they all want someone to look the part in a ghost film (laughs). But on a serious note, I consider every film to be important. Not just in films, but even in life, I believe that if someone waits for the perfect opportunity instead of taking what comes their way, they are stalling their progress. No matter how small a role is, an actor should take it and look to do something special with it.
Any chance we can see you in a serious role soon?
I'm doing a film titled Vellai Yaanai, directed by Subramaniam Siva (in whose Yogi I debuted), and that's a commendable role. Similarly, in Pariyerum Perumal, I play a serious role. I've also signed another film for a character role.
Even while you’re working with all these popular faces, you are still taking on a lot of seemingly unglamorous films too.
There was a time when I didn't think I would ever work on a big-budget film. Only from doing small films have I grown to a place where I’m doing films with Ajith sir and Vijay sir. I try to work in each film with the same dedication.
You worked in Shah Rukh Khan's Chennai Express. Are you up for work in films from other languages?
Not many people know that; so thank you for pointing it out. I can't thank the team of that film enough. I got offers from Malayalam and Kannada industries too after that, but couldn't take them up due to other commitments. And yes, I’m definitely happy to do films across languages.
Are you getting offered lead roles too?
I am getting a few, yes, and I love directors for coming up with stories that can feature me in the lead. But I know I cannot pull it off. The truth is, I am really comfortable doing comedy. So I will stick to it for now.
Favourite film: Puthiya Pathai
Favourite comedian: Goundamani sir and Senthil sir
Actor: MR Radha sir
Female actor: Pooja and Laila
Dream role: I'd love to play a role similar to that of Goundamani sir in Onna Irukka Kathukanum