Vikranth: Staying as Vijay anna's shadow was my biggest disadvantage
The actor talks about his choice of scripts, his journey so far in the film industry, and his struggle to step out of the shadow of Vijay
Vikranth, who is back on the silver screen after a year with Ramprakash Rayappa's Suttu Pidikka Utharavu, reminds me of Anjanam Azhagiya Pillai, the character played by SJ Suryah in the recent film, Monster. Much like that character, he is soft-spoken, unassuming, and optimistic to a fault. He even believes in the 'I love what I get' attitude of Anjanam. "I don't have the liberty of handpicking scripts. Also, the doors I have knocked never opened for me. So, I simply give my fullest to the films that come to me. If my upcoming films are loved by the audience and end up being hits, I believe I will have the option to choose films as I want, and I promise they will be much better products."
Excerpts from the conversation:
You started off playing the lead in a full-fledged commercial entertainer. Fast forward to 2019, and all your upcoming projects seem to be offbeat films.
I'd like to split my career into two halves: Before and after Pandiya Naadu. Initially, I wasn't mature enough to choose the right scripts and settled for working in all the projects that came my way. But Pandiya Naadu changed my perception of films a lot and I began working only on the good scripts offered to me. I wouldn't say I'll work only in offbeat films. In fact, Bakrid, is more commercial than Suttu Pidikka Utharavu, and Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu 2. Whenever there is a new attempt, people tend to think that it's an offbeat film, but that isn't always the case.
There are two other male leads in Suttu Pidikka Utharavu, played by directors Susienthiran and Mysskin. Were you given an option to choose your role?
No, I wasn't given a choice. Even if I had been asked to choose, I would have picked the same role. Director Ramprakash Rayappa had me in mind for this particular character from the beginning. When he called me for narration, I went to his place just to decline the offer as I had done several multi-starrers in the past few years. Moreover, I also had to undergo a physical transformation for Bakrid. But once I heard the script, I changed my mind.
How demanding was it to shoot for films of different genres at the same time?
I shot for Suttu Pidikka Utharavu and Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu 2 simultaneously. The former is completely a director's film, and I just followed his instructions as he had a very clear vision about the final product he wanted. But for Bakrid, I was involved with the project right from the script-reading stage. I rehearsed a lot for the role and stayed with the original characters, whom the film is based on. I did a lot of homework for the film as we had to finish the film within 90 days and return the camel (a key character) as ordered by the Animal Welfare Board of India.
Suttu Pidikka Utharavu seems to have a lot of seemingly difficult action sequences and you look comfortable pulling them off. Do you love doing stunts?
Certainly not! I struggle a lot to do them, but the audience give me similar compliments too. I get dizzy when I climb to a certain height, but for Suttu Pidikka Utharavu, the entire chase sequence happens over the buildings. I guess any action scene that makes the audience shout, "Adraa avana!" is a success.
Did being the cousin of a star like Vijay, result in heightened expectations and comparisons?
Adhu kandipaa irukum la... Anna is one of the biggest stars of Tamil Nadu and I also have a strong resemblance to his looks. So I guess I couldn't have avoided the comparison. In the beginning, I thought it was my biggest advantage. I used to be like, 'Habba, annan madhri irukkena naan!' and took it as a compliment. Maybe that's the reason I worked in masala entertainers then, and hardly realised that those films didn't suit me. After a point, it hit me that staying as his shadow was actually a disadvantage. Anna already irukaaru.. nambalum yen adhe madhri pannittu? At one point I decided to be different and things began to change.
There is a notion that actors from star families have the upper hand in cinema and are able to bypass the struggles faced by other actors.
Reality and facts are completely different from assumptions. And trust me, reality is hard. I have faced a lot of hardship in my life that the outsiders hardly know of. If Karthi sir did exactly what Suriya sir did, he wouldn't have reached the heights he has. Even now, I am proud that I'm Vijay anna's brother, but I've realised the importance of carving an identity of my own.
What would be your choice if you are offered an important role in a big star's film and a lead role in an interesting script by a debutant?
I'll try to convince both of them and shoot simultaneously for both projects. If that's not an option, I'll choose the film which offers me a character that will stay in the hearts of the audience.
You have also signed a film written by Vijay Sethupathi and co-starring Vishnu Vishal. How did things fall in place?
Vishnu was the one who took the initiative for this project. We have been friends for a long period. We used to tell each other that if one of us turns out to be successful, we should help the other. Avan ippo nallaave munnadi poitaan. He felt it's the right time to do a film together. Sethu sir is a well-wisher, friend and anna who wishes that both my brother Sanjeev and I reach a good position in life. Sethu sir's other script with me as the solo lead will take off after this project.
What according to you is the biggest boon and bane of being Vikranth?
I guess the way I handle people and emotions is the answer to both questions. I can adjust with almost anybody and make them feel comfortable. Many become friends with me easily because of this reason. But at the same time, I overthink a lot and refrain from expressing myself to others fearing that it might hurt them.