Harish Kalyan: Audience reception is more important than self-satisfaction
The actor talks about his upcoming film Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale, his love for the mainstream, and why he will play it safe here after
It is not surprising that Harish Kalyan, an actor who grew up watching true-blue commercial entertainers, prefers being part of films that cater to a wide audience. Traditionally, we have seen our Tamil cinema stars opting for the safer route to establish stardom before embarking on experiments. Though Harish began with experimentations, the actor has now decided to take it down a notch or two. "I think a Harish Kalyan film should be something the whole family wants to watch. Unlike my previous films, Pyaar Prema Kaadhal and Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum that were youth-centric, my future projects, even if love stories, will be universal," says the actor, who is gearing up for the release of his next film, Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale, which hits screens this Friday.
For someone who wants to train his attention on proper family entertainers, where exactly does Dhanush Raasi Neyargale, directed by debutant Sanjay Bharathi, fit in? "It is a fun-filled love story. It might not be one of those laugh-a-minute comedies, but it is packaged as a complete family entertainer that will also be relatable to the youth." Was taking up this offer a conscious decision considering the rawness of his previous film, Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum? "Definitely. I had just done a serious film, and I wanted to follow it up with a light-hearted film that people don't need to think too much about. I would call this a typical 'timepass film'," says Harish.
Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale is a film about astrology and the life of a staunch believer, who is determined to marry a girl of a particular star sign. This is a space that was previously explored by Ashutosh Gowariker in his 2009 film, What's Your Raashee? While Harish categorically denies any resemblance with the Priyanka Chopra-starrer, he also talks about such negative comments about the film even before its release. "We do not want to respond to such claims, especially when they are baseless. But we are confident about the audience's perception. Once they see the film, they will know these comparisons are unfounded," asks Harish, adding Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale will explore certain unknown facets of astrology. "The film will go past the usual 'Rahu kaalam', 'Nalla neram' etc... But I assure you it won't be preachy for sure, and even non-believers would be entertained by Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale."
Though his films haven't been preachy so far, Harish's upcoming film, Dharala Prabhu, a remake of Vicky Donor (2012), does veer into the 'message films' territory. Cinema has always been burdened with the question of whether these messages actually work. "Well, the reason I'm doing Dharala Prabhu is not to add one more film to my filmography. I want to deliver a much-needed message through my film. At the end of the day, though cinema is all about entertainment, it is important that these messages are delivered in a nonchalant way, and not drilled into the audience."
Not taking away anything from intent, isn't the audience accepting it completely subjective? For instance, his role as Gautham in IRIR came in for a lot of criticism. While Harish says the role was modelled as an antithesis for a good-natured romantic, not everyone saw it that way. "Many reached out to me about how such behaviour cost them a lot in their lives. Some opened up about how their idea of love was depriving their partner of space. If you ask me whether IRIR connected to everybody, of course not. It is not possible to make a film that is relatable to everyone," says the actor who believes it is the reception of the audience that has determined his career choices so far. "The audience reception is more important to me than my self-satisfaction. I have read the comments about the many liplocks in my films. Both Dharala Prabhu, and the upcoming Tamil remake of Pellichoopulu don't have these scenes. It is not just about what the audience is saying, but also whether the script actually demands it."
Keeping tabs on the audience's pulse has become easier with the advent of social media, and Harish is one of the social media stars of Tamil cinema who maintains a solid rapport with his fans on various platforms. The actor would be the first one to admit the fallacies of the medium. "It is a responsibility but there is a lot of negativity. For example, I put out a tweet about the recent horrific incident in Hyderabad. 85-90 percent people saw it in a positive light. But some spoke about how our films show these things. It is a very stupid thing to say. A lot of good things are shown in our films too. Have we abolished corruption? We show heroes killing a villain. Does everyone turn into a murderer? So I do find such comments unnecessary," says Harish, who goes on to add that messages reach the audience only if the intent and execution is on point.
"Even in the case of Dharala Prabhu, there's a beautiful crux. We are talking about sperm donors, artificial insemination, etc... This is the right time to remake Vicky Donor in Tamil. Back then, not many in the State would have known about fertility centres. As a matter of fact, I didn't either. But now, be it on paper, radio, television, it is there everywhere," says Harish, who is clear he wants to break the stereotype of being a typical romantic hero with his forthcoming films. "Down the line, there are a few scripts like that in hand. But I don't want to blow my own trumpet. I even wanted to remake Andhadhun, but things didn't fall into place. But I do want to be part of such films."
However, having been someone who enjoyed films like Dheena and Ghajini, does Harish see himself being part of such mass movies? "I've enjoyed all kinds of films, be it the stylish ventures of Rajini sir, the grandeur of Shankar sir, or the romantic films of Vijay sir. However, I'm not sure if I want to do similar mass-template films. I do want to act in thrillers or action films, but I can assure it won't be a complete shift. Whatever I do, I will be in a space that will allow me to come back to my films, family entertainers."