Arun Vijay: Stepping into Bollywood is a huge step in my career
The actor, who was recently seen in Saaho, talks about his upcoming films, his career path so far, and more
Who doesn't love a good underdog story? The resurgence of actor Arun Vijay, in itself, is a great story in Tamil cinema. "Some asked me to shift careers, but it was my mother who stood by me. My fans were there too. When my career wasn't exactly going places, my fans would call me and say, ‘Romba asingama irukku na. Mathavangellam keli panraanga namakku padame varle nu'," shares Arun Vijay, who had back-to-back successes in Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and Thadam, and plays a prominent role in his recent pan-Indian release, Saaho.
Arun Vijay, in last week’s release, Saaho, plays Vishwak, the heir apparent of an underworld fiefdom. It was Prabhas, he says, who recommended his name for the multi-starrer. "I am making my Bollywood debut with Saaho, and I think it is a huge step forward in my career," says Arun, who reveals that he never spoke a word of Hindi before Saaho. "In cinema, language shouldn't be a barrier for an actor. I am learning the language now, and on the sets of Saaho, I used a tutor to ensure my lipsync was perfect. I take authenticity very seriously."
In this film with an ensemble cast, comprising of names from across various industries, Arun Vijay’s was the only big name from Tamil cinema. "I was pleasantly surprised to see the respect South Indian actors garnered on the sets. It is a testament to the kind of work done by our South stars and technicians. We have earned that respect, and as an actor from Tamil Nadu, I knew I had to live up to that standard," says Arun, who takes pride in striking a balance between experimenting with genres, while remaining within the boundaries of commercial cinema.
"Whenever I have tried something different, the audience's response has been phenomenal. It is their encouragement that keeps me away from formulaic films. There are a lot of stories out there I wish to explore. Working with the right directors on the right scripts is important to me," says Arun. Be it in Gautham Menon’s Yennai Arindhaal, veteran director Mani Ratnam's Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, or now, two-film-old Karthick Naren's Mafia, Arun has managed to work with a variety of filmmakers in his almost 25-year-old career. "Any suggestions I make to the director are in the pre-production stages. We narrow down everything from the looks to the styling before going to shoot. With some directors, I just implicitly trust them. For instance, with Magizh Thirumeni sir (Thadayara Thaakka and Thadam), I just listen to whatever he says. Even if he asks me to repeat a shot ten times, I just do it, because I know that he knows best. Actors should trust their director."
I point out that he’s alternated between multi-starrers and solo films. He followed Thadaiyara Thaakka with Yennai Arindhaal, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam with Thadam. He has also really taken to characters with grey shades, like his role in Saaho. "It is all a coincidence. Even in Moodar Koodam Naveen's Agni Siragugal, I play a very unique role, and it was quite a challenge. It is the script that is paramount and only then does my character come into play. I'm simply doing roles that excite me."
His excitement reaches a fever pitch as he begins talking about his upcoming films, Boxer, and Mafia. "The moment I heard the script of Boxer, I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is like working in four films together. I need to undergo rigorous physical transformations for that role. It will take me some time to do that. We have just shot for six days so far," says Arun Vijay, who recently finished shooting for Mafia, which also stars Prasanna and Priya Bhavani Shankar. "When you get a director like Karthick, who knows what he wants and is completely ready, shooting is like clockwork. Despite the short time, the quality he has created is mindblowing. I think it is a lesson for upcoming directors that if properly planned, a quality product can be delivered in little time."
For an actor who believes that every film elevates him, Arun Vijay’s career is notable for the conspicuous absence of any message-driven star vehicle, which is usually thought of to be the template with which an actor can turn into a star. "I do want to keep motivating and inspiring people, but I don’t think films are the only way to do it. I do believe though that films can be used to express our anger against our society. Kuttram 23, for instance, had a message, but it was more about spreading awareness; also, subtle messaging works too. A preachy climax with lengthy monologues is not the only way to do a message film."