Vikram Prabhu: Mani Ratnam gave me Ponniyin Selvan on Thuppaki Munai's merit
Vikram Prabhu talks about his recent release Vaanam Kottattum, his upcoming films, nepotism, and more
Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges, a second-generation actor, famously said, “One of the hardest things about being an actor is getting your first break. I’m a product of nepotism. The doors were open to me. I’d done several movies before I decided what I wanted to do.” However, Vikram Prabhu, son of actor Prabhu, and grandson of legendary actor Sivaji, feels it was slightly different in his case.
"Even though I am from a film family, I didn't grow up with any knowledge about the industry. Even when I wanted to be part of films, I did my due process by learning acting and doing theatre. Nepotism is a concept I don't fully understand," says Vikram, adding, "I have struggled to reach this place. I didn't have anyone's help. It is my journey."
While Vikram Prabhu says that he came into cinema of his own interest, he still feels the weight of his family credentials. "I have to constantly think about this legacy while doing what I want to do," shares the actor, who admits to subconsciously being always focused on upholding the name earned by his father and grandfather. "That's why I am choosy with my roles. I take time to okay each project. Even for Kumki, there was a two-year working period behind that film," says Vikram, whose recent release, Vaanam Kottattum, hit the screens more than a year after his 2018 film, Thuppaki Munai. "I believe it is okay to wait as long as you come up with a good product. Good things take time, right?"
Vikram Prabhu on his father moving away from hero roles
Appa always wanted to do things he liked. He has broken bones doing stunts and is now in a phase where he wants to take things slow. He is happy as a person and doesn't want to put too much effort in cinema. Appa has been very open about putting happiness in front of heroism. Billa was the first time he did a character role. He is vocal with his decisions. So since he is doing something he likes, I am just happy for him
Looking at Vikram's upcoming films, it does seem his career is back on track after a brief lull with some films that didn't quite set the box-office on fire. Apart from Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan, he also has a couple of other interesting films in the pipeline, including one with producer SR Prabhu and another project "aimed at a world audience".
"I have seen both successes and failures, and I'm only growing from these experiences. One of the biggest lessons about the film industry I learned was during Kumki's release. Almost every big name involved with the film came up to me the day before the release and said it would be a flop. The very next day, when the film was successful, the same people hugged me, kissed me, and congratulated me," says Vikram, who believes this experience made him realise the vagaries of cinema, and how no one can truly figure out what works and doesn't.
He calls himself a director's actor. "In fact, I am a producer's actor too. Beyond acting in a film, nothing is in my power. Be it the final output or even the release date. I realise the audience might see my film as my product, but it is a collaborative effort," says Vikram, whose recent release, Vaanam Kottattum, and upcoming project, Ponniyin Selvan, are both huge multi-starrers.
While multi-starrers help actors share the burden, it can also feed into the insecurity of an actor. Where does Vikram find himself between these two poles? "If it is just me listening to a narration and okaying it, then it might just be a script that appealed to one person. Here, in a film like Vaanam Kottattum, you have so many stars listening to the script and okaying it. Isn't that a sign of how good that script is?" asks the actor, who remains tight-lipped about Ponniyin Selvan.
However, he does reveal that the opportunity came his way after Mani Ratnam saw his performance in Thuppaki Munai. "I am very happy because Thuppaki Munai was a very well-thought-out decision. I must thank (producer) Thanu sir for thinking of me for that role. I liked director Dinesh's narration, and was excited to play a role that was 10-15 years above my actual age. I had the craving to do something like that."
Thuppaki Munai-director Dinesh, just like Dhana who directed Vaanam Kottattum, was an erstwhile assistant of Mani Ratnam. "It is through Dinesh that Dhana came to me and narrated a script. I liked that, but Dhana brought another story, which became later Vaanam Kottattum. It was supposed to be directed by Mani sir. But then, Dhana came on board. It is a beautiful twist of fate that Ponniyin Selvan happened soon after, and well, what a wonderful experience that is turning out to be," he signs off.
Here's the interview: