Bobby Simha: It’s time for me to hit the refresh button
The actor talks about last week’s release, Saamy Square, and what could well be his last villain role
In 2003, a college student in Coimbatore named Jayasimha watched Saamy in the local theatre for as many as 17 times. In between rewatching the Hari film, he would catch re-runs of another 2003 Vikram film he was charmed by: Dhool. By the end of the year, he learned every important dialogue in Saamy by heart. So entranced was he by the sight of Aarusaamy crushing his idlis in beer, that he tried to do the same with omelettes. Fifteen years later, Jayasimha is better known to the world as Bobby Simha. He’s become a popular actor during this time and as destiny would have it, has played the villain in Saamy’s sequel that got released last week, Saamy Square. Nobody who watches a film almost 20 times forgets dialogues, and Bobby Simha hasn’t either. “Thodaikku mela lungi evanum thooki katta koodadhu!” he says, mimicking Vikram's dialogue in Saamy. From being a fan to inspiring fan-following, Bobby Simha has come a long way during the last decade.
It hasn’t come easily though — especially since the highs of Jigarthanda. In fact, Bobby Simha wonders aloud if he’s disappointed the many well-wishers who came his way following his breakthrough role as Assault Sethu in Jigarthanda. “I think I’ve made a few miscalculations,” he says, with unnerving honesty. “After Jigarthanda, I did almost 15 films in a year, and there was hardly any time for me to sleep, let alone analyse scripts.” It’s been six years since his debut in Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Eppadi, four since Jigarthanda, and Bobby has decided that henceforth, “No means no.” He hasn’t yet made up his mind over whether he wants to pursue the rocky road towards stardom. But he does admit that every actor, on some level, dreams of wanting to be a hero. “But when they decide that, they don’t do any other roles unlike me,” he says.
This whole business of slotting actors as heroes and villains is an Indian thing, he says. “I’ve realised now that there’s no fighting it. I tried and failed. Now, I have to play the game their way,” he says. Chief among his new resolutions is the decision not to play villain anymore. “Unless, of course, I get a role that gives me plenty of fodder.” He’s not comfortable closing doors completely; it’s a trait he says got him doing films he shouldn’t have. “You do some for friends; you do some for obligations. And then you realise your folly.”
In last week’s release, Saamy 2, Bobby Simha’s played a villain called Ravana Pichai. It’s not the first time he’s playing a negative character, of course. He did that in Karuppan starring Vijay Sethupathi (“He told me it’s a great role and I did it”), and there’s a case to be made for his role being negative in Iraivi as well. He disagrees with my colouring those characters in black. “There’s justification for the actions of my character in Karuppan. He’s genuinely wronged,” he says. “In Iraivi too, Jagan (Bobby’s character) is a loyal guy. He never understands why his friends treat women the way they do.” Ravana Pichai in Saamy 2 lives by a code too, according to him. “He’s an all right guy till you get in his way. That’s how I humanise them before playing them.”
I ask if it was easy for an actor like Bobby Simha to belong in director Hari’s fictional universe, which is home to loud protagonists like Doraisingam and Aarusaamy. Bobby responds that Hari’s energy on the sets automatically revitalises the entire cast and crew. “He operates with the energy of a man who’s had a hundred Red Bulls. He doesn’t take a break even to eat,” reveals Bobby. “This is why no viewer can ever claim to have slept in a Hari film.” Working with different directors is a lot like listening to lectures from different professors, he philosophises. “Be it from Hari or Karthi (Karthik Subbaraj), It’s all lessons; only the style of instruction differs.”
Save for Mercury, Bobby Simha has been part of every Karthik Subbaraj film. “We go back a long way. He understands and knows me in a way other directors don’t,” he says. That perhaps explains why the crests of Bobby’s performances seem to coincide with being in Karthik Subbaraj’s films? “Maybe. Even for a film like Soodhu Kavvum, when I was offered the cop role and I wanted to play the character who’s smitten with Nayanthara, I approached Karthi for advice. He gave me much-needed encouragement,” says Bobby.
Now, of course, Karthik Subbaraj has helped Bobby Simha realise his ultimate film dream: A chance to work with Rajinikanth. Bobby has already finished shooting for his portions in the upcoming Rajinikanth film, Petta. “I’d have given up everything to just meet him for five minutes,” says Bobby. “I can’t believe I’ve actually done a film with him. It all feels like maayaa.” Spoken like a true Rajinikanth fan.