‘Enga Veetu Mapillai was a risk, but it has paid off’
…says Arya, as he opens up about his polarising TV stint, and his upcoming film work, including Ameer’s next
Arya’s just tried out the newest installation at Sathyam Cinemas’ Blur — Virtuix Omni, an omnidirectional treadmill simulator for virtual reality games. The actor’s well-known for being outdoorsy, but even he can’t help but see that “video games today are vera level.” He’s not a total novice to gaming though. He says it’s hard to be one given the number of actors who bring gaming consoles to shooting spots. “In between shoots, it’s quite common for actors to take a break by playing video games inside their caravan. In Bollywood, they even organise gaming parties,” says Arya. While he may not be totally on board the console revolution — because it’s “just sitting and pressing buttons” — he’s quite excited by Virtual Reality games, and more specifically, by the physicality of it all.
Virtual reality isn’t just about games, of course. Some Hollywood directors (Guillermo Del Toro, The Russo Brothers, Eli Roth…) are pretty excited about its future in cinema. Arya, however, isn’t quite convinced. “We are just starting to get used to wearing 3D glasses for hours,” he says. “I’m not sure if people will be too comfortable wearing VR headsets for long.”
The conversation moves to the biggest talking point about him in recent times — his foray into television with the controversial Enga Veetu Mapillai. In no hurry to discuss the show, he begins by pointing out the efficacy of the TV medium, and says it’s important that people don’t devalue it. “Sometimes, it seems to me that we take it for granted. All the top Bollywood actors have stepped into television at some point because they know its power.” And so did Arya with Enga Veetu Mapillai, a show whose format polarised audiences. A celebrity, a bunch of female fans vying for his attention, a televised modern-day swayamvara. “It was a decision I took after much deliberation. It was a risk, but I think it’s paid off,” he says.
The controversy reached its culmination when, in the final episode, Arya backed out from picking a contestant for marriage. Social media went berserk with many suggesting that it had all been planned. Arya laughs off the accusation. “Only after I met the participants did I realise the seriousness and the depth of what was happening. It wasn’t an easy decision for me. I had to take into consideration many things, including the feelings of the respective families,” he says.
It was also important, he adds, that he not hurt the women involved. “These were all girls who took the big decision of being part of such a show. Their parents had allowed it, and I needed to respect that. The only reason they came on board was because they trusted me, and I couldn’t have breached it by exploiting the situation,” he says. After a pause, he continues, “The 16 participants of the show… I know them better than the audience. It may not be immediately clear to viewers why I didn’t choose someone, but there are so many back stories they don’t know.”
His participation in the show has conspired to create a break of more than a year since his last release. “The last one was Kadamban, yes,” he says, nodding. He’s careful not to legitimise this as a break though. “In between, I was shooting for Ameer’s Santhana Devan. We are waiting for funds, so we can resume work,” he clarifies. His next film, meanwhile, is Ghajinikanth, by director Santhosh Jayakumar, who’s made quite a reputation for making adult comedies. “At the outset, I made it quite clear that I didn’t want an A-certified film,” says Arya, laughing. “This film will have his humorous touch, yes, but it will be clean comedy.”
The actor was also originally approached to play the villain in Irumbuthirai, a role which has fetched actor Arjun much praise. “I was asked, yes, but we all agreed that the character needed to be played by a more mature actor,” he says. “I’m glad they decided to go ahead with Arjun. If I’d spoken some of the dialogues in the film, people may have ended up laughing out loud.”