'My latest film is very different from Maya'
While discussing his latest release, Nagesh Thiraiarangam, Aari talks about the allure of playing the protagonist
With Nagesh Thiraiarangam finally releasing last week after a protracted delay due to controversy, Aari is a relieved man. Much of the controversy arose as a result of a perceived connection with the real Nagesh Theatre. "There is no connection. This is a standalone horror film which has a ghost living in a theatre of the same name."
That sounds a lot like his previous horror film, Maaya. "Actually, there is no similarity between the two except that both have the same theme of fear as their selling point. That's just like with any horror film."
He elaborates: "Our hero is an unsuccessful house broker. His friend and mentor, played by Kaali Venkat, keeps telling him, 'Nallavana irukardhu vida, vallavana irukkanum.' This guy, however, is content to live on his brother's salary. That's when he gets a deal of a lifetime: A theatre that needs to be sold. What then happens is the story."
Is it another horror comedy? "Not of the typical variety. For our hero, the horror is quite serious whereas, for the audience, it will be comical."
Did he take up another horror film because Maaya did so well? "Not really. I got a lot of horror film offers, even from friends, but I refused them all. In fact, I initially refused Nagesh Thiraiarangam when it was first narrated. I didn't want to work on a similar genre. But the director pointed out that I had not played the male protagonist in my previous film. So just like Maaya became Nayanthara's Maaya, I wanted this to be Aari's Nagesh Thiraiarangam."
He seems to have been rather easily sold on the film, I note. "It wasn't the only selling point. He told me that there is a very important concept at the heart of the film that even the producer didn't know. It's about a worldwide medical mafia and it's set in a dog-eat-dog world. I realised it would be a shocking element in this film with a message."
Aari strongly believes in the social utility of a film. "Every single thing that we do has an impact on society. I am part of the film fraternity, and with the privilege that comes with being in it, I have the opportunity to explore such themes in my films. But that doesn't mean that I coerce a director/producer into keeping such scenes."
This social consciousness extends to song lyrics too. "The director was conscious not to glorify alcohol in a TASMAC song in the film. So we had a line that went, 'Cutting cutting cutting cutting da... nee raw ah kudicha eman kooda dating da."
But doesn't he think such films become preachy, especially when done by an actor like Aari who isn't yet a star? "Just because star vehicles do it doesn't mean others cannot. If the audience likes it and feel it is sensible, they will lap it up. At the end of the day, a film is a film, regardless of whether it is done by a star or an actor. Maruti-la ponaalum Audi car la ponaalum ulla ukkandhu dhaan poganum; mela okkandhu pogamudiyadhu."
What next for Aari? "Mouna Valai, an action suspense thriller with director Robert, who had done Kalam. I play an NRI and the film has the same technical crew as Maanagaram. After that, I will be doing an untitled film as a cop with director JP."