'I am not as intelligent as Karthik Subbaraj'
...says Prabhudheva, in this candid, casual conversation about Mercury and his newfound lease of life as an actor in the South
Before Prabhudheva can answer my first question, he poses one: "Why are you interviewing me?" He doesn't say it rudely, but simply as an expression of his reticence. "I feel embarrassed to talk about myself. Half the time, in interviews, we lie blatantly. Very rarely are we honest," he says. "When Devi(l) was released, I had plenty to talk about because I'd just returned to Tamil cinema, but I don't know if I'll have much to say now." Well, as I realised, he does, even without discussing the 'controversies around Mercury', a topic he requested no questions about.
Excerpts from a conversation follow:
It's incredible that a shy person like you can be so expressive in dance.
Dance and films are my passion; it happens naturally. I don't have to put in any effort. But conversations aren't. I prefer keeping things to myself. It's just the way I am.
There seems to be renewed interest in Prabhudheva, the actor, now.
People say I am a casual actor. Why do they say that? It's a question I have been trying to answer for most of my career. Fifteen years ago, nobody appreciated me when my films did well, and now, suddenly, they are talking about my acting. To be honest, even I didn't think I was a good actor until Mahendran sir said in an interview that he liked my acting.
Back then, you were doing films like Raasaiyya, Mr Romeo, and Kaathala Kaathala. But now, by doing films like Kalavaadiya Pozhuthugal and Mercury, you seem to show a certain liking for 'serious' films.
Not really. I don't go out of my way to pick these. I was blown away by Karthik Subbaraj's idea when he narrated the script of Mercury. I get excited easily, and I was asking him so many questions. The idea of a silent film thrilled me.
Now, somehow, I have ended up with an interesting line-up of films. I play a Kung Fu coach in Yung Mung Sung. There's another film, Lakshmi, which is an intense family-horror drama, and has some powerful dance numbers. As for Charlie Chaplin 2, it's a mix of everything -- comedy, fight sequences... I just go with the flow really.
Tell us what made you do Mercury.
I listened to the story for 10 minutes when I knew I should do the film. It's all because of the trust I had in Karthik. He has done brilliant films. There's a reason why Mercury is a silent film, and Karthik has justified it properly.
How unique was shooting for a silent film?
Not too much actually. There was no homework involved. Truth be told, shooting for Mercury wasn't difficult at all. Elaame acting dhane. My job is to make people believe in my performance, regardless of whether I have dialogues or not.
I simply did what Karthik Subbaraj asked me to do. I like to surrender myself to my directors. No, before you ask me, I can confidently tell you that the director in me never comes out when I act. That's why young filmmakers want to work with me. Among the directors I'm working with is a 21-year-old called Akash.
Any worries that you could end up doing unsuccessful films in an eagerness to work with the new?
I trust everyone. It doesn't always work, yes, but that's all right. En judgement eppovume correct-a irundudhuna, I'd have worked with Tom Cruise by now. (laughs)
Did the director in you wonder why you hadn't thought of doing a silent film?
You know, I was never meant to turn director. More importantly, I am not as intelligent as Karthik Subbaraj.
You've always maintained that you don't speak Hindi, and yet, it hasn't stopped you from becoming successful in Bollywood.
I still say the same. Enaku Hindi theriyadhu. But films are never about the language; only the feel matters. I have writers around me, who come up with the best lines. I am a 'visual person'. I work hard, and try to know everything that happens around me. Whenever I do something, I make sure it's full of energy. Be it dance, or films. Fortunately, Bollywood has accepted me wholeheartedly.
You're mainly known for 'masala films' in the north.
Producers there always ask me to such films. It's a reason why the films I act in here are so different. Mercury, in particular, was like a breath of fresh air.