Sarvam Thaala Mayam couldn't have been done by any actor: GV Prakash
The composer-actor talks about his learnings from Rajiv Menon, Bala, why the film will serve as a dictionary to Tamil cinema his upcoming films and more.
Twenty five years since making his singing debut in Chikku Bukku Rayile, GV Prakash has now turned a bankable actor, apart from being a composer as well. With all three roles converging in this week's release, Sarvam Thaala Mayam, GV Prakash opens up about what this film means to him.
How Bala changed him as an actor
'Before Naachiyaar happened, I only wanted to be an entertainer. Bala sir called me and told me I have the potential to be a serious actor too. The care he took in explaining to me how I should look, deal, and prepare for a character, made me more interested in acting. He told me not to copy anyone and be imaginative. I still remember one particular incident when Bala sir was looking at a passerby, asked them for their shirt, gave them a new one, and told the film crew to wash the shirt and give it to me for the role.'
The magic of Rajiv Menon
'From there, you come to the sets of Rajiv Menon, who has seen a lot of Broadway performances and is a teacher himself. He took the character of Peter and told me all the different ways I can look at it. I provided inputs on the local dialect or in the musical scenes. We shot the film in different places across the country and wherever we were, he used to let me be free so that I could get under the skin of the character. That is his magic.'
Reuniting with Rahman after two decades
'It was an exciting experience. Take Peter Beata Yeathu, for example. I really liked the dance feel. When Rahman sir does a dance number, he sees it in a different perspective. When I sang (25 years after singing for him at the age of four), I put my best foot forward. When Sankarabharanam came, they gave a different twist to how songs were used in the film. Similarly with Sarvam Thaala Mayam, we have a space for music, and when a legend like Rahman sir takes up a musical script, you end up with a breezy, complete album. This album and this film will be a dictionary for Tamil cinema.'
'Peter has a host of problems including those pertaining to religion, the place he lives in etc. This is a coming-of-age film about an underdog and how he looks at life. He will be a hope for all such people. There is a travel he undertakes, and this is not an ordinary trip. Every single part of that journey will come back into his life. It changes his mindspace. Through Peter, I learnt how rhythms affect life as I played with mutiple percussion artists across Meghalaya, Kashmir (rabba) and Kerala (chendai).'
Why Sarvam Thaala Mayam is special
'Films should be inspiring. It should make you charged when you leave the theatre. Slumdog Millionaire is my favourite underdog film and this could be seen as one such film. The visuals in the title track, for that alone, you should buy a ticket and see because Rajiv sir has brought an international sensibility to it and showcased a visual palette usually associated with Hindi cinema. He has presented Indian geography in such a fantastic way. When we showed this in Japan, the audiences loved it. A distributor in Japan actually wants to release the film there now. It just shows that the more rooted you are, the more global you are.'
One musician to play another
'In Sarvam Thaala Mayam, I have to play myself essentially, and we shot with live sound. The rest of the musicians perform at an incredible level and I have to match that note for note. There cannot be multiple takes. My hands hurt a lot but still, my fingering had to be perfect. It cannot be done by a normal actor. India's top actors, cannot play at the pace demanded, say for a thani avarthanam. This is why they cast me.'
How his own music has evolved
'I have used percussion in my films. In fact, Azhagu won a National Award and that song was fully based on mridangam. But even still, I had to learn for one year under Umayalpuram Sivaraman. Not just mridangam but also ganjeera, drums etc as I play a percussionist. Now I know how best to do fusion. I know all the jathis now. I can now see a roll, a thaniavarthanam, an ending cut etc much better than before.'
Love for musicals
'I would love to see musicals, but to make a film like Rock On, Sarvam Thaala Mayam, La La Land, and Sankarabharanam, directors should know music. Shankar sir once asked me why I am not doing a lot of films. I told him I'm not interested in the average mashup of hero intro, romance, and duet that I keep getting. I am not interested in those anymore. I need scripts where I can freak out. I have done something on that note in Vasanthabalan's Jail. You will know when you see the teaser itself.'
A special film in the offing
'It is world class cinema by Indian cinema's worldclass filmmaker, Vasanthabalan. Three writers have written - Vasanthabalan, S Ramakrishnan and Bhagyam Shankar. Verithanama ezhudhirkaaanga about slum clearance board, the violence that is prevalent in such places and how people deal with such violence. Jail will be a voice in and of itself. It will be a No Man's Land/Life is Beautiful for Tamil cinema. 2019 is going to be rocked by Jail.'