Arun Vijay: Yennai Arindhaal's Victor will always be special
The Chekka Chivantha Vaanam actor plays a double role for the first time in Friday's release, Thadam
Arun Vijay’s look reminds me of Victor, his character from Yennai Arindhaal which infused his career with a new lease of life. He’s since had a string of successful films including Kuttram 23 and Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, and I ask if he thinks this is his best phase. “I'm still growing,” he says. “I believe there's a lot more to achieve."
How’s life been like after Chekka Chivantha Vaanam?
It’s all been positive. Things changed for me after Thadaiyara Thaakka; Yennai Arindhaal was a bigger leap for me. Kuttram 23 and CCV helped me too, and I've gained the confidence to do more now. I'm also getting good scripts and I think that comes from others knowing what I can handle. That's why I time to finalise my scripts.
You’ve worked with Magizh Thirumeni previously in Thadaiyara Thaakka. Is Thadam a similar film?
It’s an investigative thriller, and there’s lesser action here. Magizh took his time with the script and that’s an indication that he wanted to come up with something new. It will be a feel-good film that will thrill the audience.
You are playing a double role for the first time. How challenging was it?
The characters don’t look too dissimilar. The script needed them to look fairly alike, and it would have been cliched to do something as simple as shaving off one's moustache. This meant that I had to put more effort to show how both were different. Magizh was clear about these aspects in his script. The end product makes me really happy.
How has your relationship with Magizh evolved over the six years from when you made Thadaiyara…?
He has always had a soft corner for me and really likes me as an actor. His praise for me sometimes makes me say, Vendaam sir, romba jaasthiya irukku!' (laughs). Now that I've worked with directors like Gautham Menon and Mani Ratnam sir, I know the different graph they come up with in their films. As a director, Magizh has put in more effort into Thadam than what he did for TT. I think, as an actor, I've become more connected with the audience, but that said, we haven't pushed boundaries too far either. I developed six-pack abs for TT but he didn't want it. I wasted six months for it but eventually, I understood it was unnecessary. That's why, even in Thadam, you won't see me jumping around with ropes or having an exaggeratedly heroic intro.
While on soft corners, you seem to have one for thrillers.
It has just turned out to be that way. I have actually avoided quite a few thrillers. But some have been too good for me to turn down, and I didn't want to try something different just for the sake of it. The audience too has always enjoyed a good thriller. Jai Shankar sir has done 60-70 thrillers and I've only done four; so I don't think that is too many.
I watched a video of your Dilruba song from Priyam (1996) and couldn’t but wonder if you’d be up for a romantic film like that now.
I don't believe I’m in an image-trap. I simply want to explore my abilities. If Gautham sir wants me to do a romantic film, I'm ready. I don't want to stick to a genre but action, I believe, is my forte, and I don't want to let go of it as I don’t think there are many who can pull it off. I have some way to go to prove myself in that genre.
How does it feel, looking back on your career from those tentative days in the late 90s?
It feels great that all the struggle is paying off. I know the pain I have gone through; I feel a great responsibility to retain what I've achieved. I work in every film with fear, and I think it fuels me. We are at a time when the audience can easily figure out if our attempts are sincere.
You've got a string of films in the offing.
I've got Agni Siragugal with Moodar Koodam-fame, Naveen. It's a wonderful script and the film will be something new to Tamil cinema. After that, I've got Boxer, and a film with debutant director Gopi. I'll be playing a cop once again in it. Then there's Saaho, a pan-Indian film.
Which one is your favourite: CCV's Thyagu or Yennai Arindhaal's Victor?
Victor dhaan (laughs). It moved me emotionally and the fire I had in my personal life was brought on screen, thanks to Victor. It came to me at a stage when I had to prove myself. At its success meet, we were all given photographs of our respective characters. The portrait Gautham gave me had the word ‘war horse’ written on it by him; I was moved. A film with him is still on and we will begin it after our other commitments.