Raj Arjun: Before I started getting offers, it was Sara who took care of me like a mother
The actor had worked in director AL Vijay’s earlier movies such as Thalaivaa, Watchman and Thaandavam
Kangana Ranaut's Thalaivii propelled many character actors into the spotlight and one among them is Raj Arjun who played the role of RM Veerappan in the Hindi version of the film. His nuanced portrayal as the shrewd politician and foe of Jayalalitha earned him appreciation not only from the audience, he also caught the attention of critics. The actor had worked in director AL Vijay’s earlier movies such as Thalaivaa, Watchman and Thaandavam.
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“Vijay had given me the role of the antagonist opposite GV Prakash Kumar in Watchman. For Thalaivii many big names were being pitched because the producers wanted someone bankable. But then Vijay insisted that he wanted me, and even Mukesh Chhabra, who was casting for the movie, backed me up because he had cast me in Secret Superstar. He knew my work and was confident about my skill. This is how I got the role,” reveals Raj.
Though he had worked with the director earlier, the actor brought his own perspective to his role as Veerappan. When he is shooting, Raj lives the life of his character and goes to the extent of wearing his costume and keeping the props around him even when he is not on the sets. “It’s my approach to preparing for a role. I even ask myself questions about my character. I start weaving stories about my character and believing in those tales. It helps me approach the role from other perspectives,” he offers.
Before Thalaivii, Raj’s breakout movie was definitely Secret Superstar, which featured actress Zaira Wasim in the lead role. Raj played the role of Farookh, the abominable father of the young singing sensation. He was so believable in the movie that after its release, Raj says, whenever he went for any social gatherings, people would give him the cold shoulder. “Secret Superstar gave me my identity as an actor and I will always consider it my first film, though I had acted in movies before,” he says.
While on screen he comes across as a terrible father, in real life, Raj and his 16-year-old daughter, Sara’s relationship is completely different. Sara is a popular child artiste in South Indian films, and he would accompany her to shoots since she was two, when she first started auditioning for roles. He fondly says, “Before I was recognised and started getting offers, it was Sara who took care of me like a mother. She was the earning member of the family.” On the work front, the actor will be seen next in Love Hostel, a crime thriller and the highly-anticipated Mani Ratnam movie Ponniyin Selvan.