I was asked not to act: Udhayanidhi Stalin
The actor, on the eve of Nimir's release, talks about how he didn't, in his wildest dreams, imagine that Priyadarshan would approach him with a script
Nimir, which is getting released tomorrow, has been a fruitful learning experience, says Udhayanidhi Stalin. “It was a huge surprise when Priyadarshan sir wanted to cast me. The offer came at a time when I was getting bored of doing the same kind of projects," he says. "In this film, I play Selvam, a photographer. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would team up with such a veteran. In fact, I asked him, ‘Why me?’. That’s when he said he hadn’t seen any of my films,” he laughs.
Udhayanidhi had watched the original, Maheshinte Prathikaaram, at the time of its release, but made a conscious decision not to watch it after the shooting started. “For obvious reasons,” he laughs, and quickly adds, “There was already the pressure to do well because the Malayalam film was a hit. Fahadh Faasil is an extraordinary performer. All I had to do in this film was follow Priyan sir’s instructions. If someone says I’ve achieved half of what Fahadh did, I’ll be satisfied.”
Udhayanidhi is in awe of Priyadarshan. He gushes, “He pays attention to the little things. For instance, he’d notice if I’ve draped my veshti the same way every day," he says. The actor adds that Priyadarshan is in control of the medium. "Lighting, camera techniques, mood of the scene, and so on. Unlike other directors, he doesn’t waste footage. Whatever we shot has been used in the film. That’s one of the reasons why he could finish Nimir in 36 days. Despite the stringent schedule, he lets you be spontaneous on the sets."
The first instruction Udhayanidhi got from the director was to 'not act' He surrendered himself to Priyadarshan during the process of filmmaking. "I simply reacted to situations, and that has worked in my favour. Nimir is definitely the best film I’ve done in my career after Manithan. Now I get that I don’t need to be a loud actor. Priyan sir made me understand that if I get the emotions right, half the battle is won.”
Nimir is also notable for how Udhayanidhi has worked with three directors, two of whom are in the cast. J Mahendran plays his father in the film, and Samuthirakani, the villain. “Enaku ulla konjam tension-avey irundhuchu because I was surrounded by such stalwarts. But they made me feel like I was home!" he says. "Mahendran sir is an inspiration. He even discussed scenes from my previous films and is up-to-date with what’s happening in general. As for Kani anna (Samuthirakani), we may collaborate in future. He’s a visionary, and always full of ideas.”
Up next, Udhayanidhi has Seenu Ramasamy’s film, Kanne Kalaimaane, and Irumbu Thirai fame PS Mithran’s project (bankrolled by Sri Thendandal Studios) in the pipeline. “Seenu sir and I know each other from his Neerparavai days. Our film will be a family drama and for the first time, Yuvan Shankar Raja will make music for my film. I’ll be shooting for Mithran’s film sometime later as he’s still fine-tuning the script.”
A film with Kiruthiga (his wife) has never happened. He laughs, “She knows me. I know her. Maybe, that's why. On a lighter note, she directs different kinds of films. I guess she isn’t convinced that I am a good performer yet," he says. "She’s wrapping up Kaali now. I know she’s my fiercest critic. She’ll be proud of me for doing Nimir.”