Appa doesn't let trolls get to him: Shanmuga Pandian
The actor's second film Madura Veeran released to positive reviews last Friday
It's fascinating to know that Shanmuga Pandian, the lead of the recently released Madura Veeran, a film about the sport of jallikattu, has never seen the sport. "I got to know about the sport only during my college days. And once I knew about it, I wanted to actually go and watch it but that's when the ban was in place. While doing Madura Veeran, I realised the importance of the sport and I'm glad it can educate the masses too," says the actor.
Unlike other films based on the sport, Madura Veeran, which has opened to positive reviews, isn't based on the famous protests against the ban. "Muthiah sir wrote the story even before the protest. There are a lot of films that speak about the sport, but none of them has shown the sport properly. I think ours is the first film that completely talks about the sport."
The film has actual scenes showcasing the sport of jallikattu. "It wasn't a set as our director recreated an arena and we actually held jallikattu there. The bulls that participate in the sport were brought in and so were the players." Shanmuga Pandian brightens up when talking about one of his co-stars -- a bull. "The first time I saw the bull, I was petrified. He is massive and stands as tall as me! They also said he was aggressive. I took time to get to know him, and even fed him," says the actor, who later developed a bond with the bull. "Within a day, he recognised me and actively jumped around when seeing me. He wanted me to play with him, which I did. He even injured me unknowingly with his horns, but overall it was a lovely experience working with him," he laughs.
Talking about his role, the actor says, "My role in Madura Veeran is that of an NRI who returns to his hometown, Madurai, where he sees a couple of incidents that forces him to get involved in the jallikattu issue."
Shanmuga Pandian is grateful to his fellow actors Samuthirakani, Vela Ramamoorthy, Mime Gopi and PL Thenappan for their inputs, and for making him feel at ease. "Thanks to that, it never felt like a shooting spot, but like a home filled with relatives."
Thanks to the Madurai backdrop, he didn't have to work on the dialect. "Right from childhood, my parents used to take me to all the villages and my father was very keen on us following our traditions. So the transformation from jeans to veshti sattai wasn't challenging." What surprised him was actually the crowd that surrounded him while shooting for the film. "I realised that it was because of the love they have for my dad. They would come up to me and ask 'enna thambi, nalla irrukeengala'. Though we shot at our hometown, the people are the ones who made me feel at home. Talking to them helped improve my dialect too," he adds.
About his father, veteran actor Vijayakanth's involvement in his career, Shanmuga Pandian says, "There's no pressure from appa as he always encourages me to only do what I have to do and not copy anyone. The only pressure is from outside -- something all star kids have." Ask him if he's aware of all the memes on social media based on his father, and he says, "I'm not on Facebook or Twitter. But yes, I've seen the memes and trolling of my father. He has achieved everything and he now only wants to do good for the people. Those who want to troll just need a topic and they're using him. Appa doesn't really let it get to him. He just ignores it and goes on with his work." Shanmuga Pandian himself was trolled for his first film, Sagaptham. "I still feel that the film was good and we thought the film would do well, but it wasn't up to the mark. It was hurtful to see the negative reviews and memes. But if I take them too seriously, I don't think I can get any better. The trolls only made me want to try harder and I'm sure that's apparent in Madura Veeran."
When asked about Thamizhan Endru Sol, the film starring him along with his dad, which went into production in late 2015, Shanmuga Pandian says, "The film involves a lot of CG work which is going on. There will be underwater scenes as well, so the search is on for the perfect location to shoot the scenes."
The young actor, whose father is an actor-turned-politician, wants to focus on his film career, but that doesn't mean he has no opinion on politics. "Right now I'm concentrating only on acting, but I know the political scenario in Tamil Nadu isn't good. It has to change!"
Apart from acting, I love photography. During my college days, in an international competition, a photo that I shot got the fourth place. Wherever I go to shoot, I still take my camera with me.
Favourites starring his father: