Udhayanidhi Stalin: Let Rajinikanth first contest in elections
Actor and emerging politician Udhayanidhi Stalin assures that he is not letting go of his film career for his new post as DMK's Youth Wing Secretary
Towards the end of a meeting with the press, one of the journalists observed that Udhaynidhi Stalin had become more vocal, and the diffidence, seen during his early days in cinema, had disappeared. Another wondered if it had anything to do with his attending political meetings. Udhayanidhi responded not with words, but a smile that betrayed very little, save for a hint of pride.
At his father DMK chief MK Stalin's residence, Udhayanidhi was a picture of composure, taking questions about his upcoming thriller, Psycho, and a few about his political career as the party's Youth Wing Secretary. I began by asking if his future films will be influenced by his politics. After a few moments of thought, he responded, “It depends... on the story and the director. As such, I have no plan to do a political film.”
Psycho, he assured, is an out-and-out Mysskin film. “Yuddham Sei was supposed to be my debut film but I gave it a miss as I didn't want to start my career with such a dark film. He called me to his office and narrated a story for one hour about aliens and stuff, and again, I turned it down because I didn't understand it. On the way home in the car, he told me a one-liner about a blind person... That turned out to be Psycho.”
Udhay’s immediate acceptance of Psycho’s story is partly because he’s a fan of Ayushmann Khurrana's Andhaadhun. “Ayushmann used a special lens in the film. It was hard to find it here but I managed to procure a set eventually. My wife recorded a video of me wearing it and loitering in the house. Mysskin sir saw the footage eventually and said, ‘Kannamma, super, but we don’t need this.’”
Mysskin, on the sets, has a reputation for a being a hot-headed director, with his assistants usually said to be at the receiving end of his wrath. “Once, he shooed away all his assistants and conducted the shoot all by himself. The assistants were calling me from the adjacent road asking if the director had cooled down. It was hilarious. And yet, he’s the sort of director to give credit where it is due, no matter to whom."
The director also reportedly had arguments with Nithya Menen, who is playing a role called Kamala Das. “The two would keep arguing. Now though, both are claiming to be siblings from different mothers. She plays a foul-mouthed character in the film, and you will see her swearing away. She was initially offered Aditi's role but she fought for Kamala Das and got it.”
Aditi Rao Hydari, Udhay said, had two days of shoot with him. “There were many more days of shooting with Nithya. Even with the villain, I have only a handful of scenes. Only when I saw the film did I realise how physically strenuous it must have been for Aditi to play her character.”
From featuring in formulaic films in which his character would fall in love at first sight, to now starring in a Mysskin film, Udhay has come quite a long way. “Manithan was the tipping point. After that, I decided to try out challenging roles. I said no to 'Paatha udanae kaadhal' stories. I wish my grandfather (former CM M Karunanidhi) were around to see Manithan and my performance in the courtroom scenes. His absence during the film's release was heartbreaking for me.”
Udhayanidhi, interestingly, was approached to play his grandfather in a biopic. His answer: “Enna vilayaadreengala?” He added that no one film could hope to do justice to M Karunanidhi and his achievements. “There have been suggestions and offers. MX Player has approached seeking permission to make a series on Thalaivar, but I am yet to discuss it with my family.”
As the conversation turned political, Udhay showed some resistance, but soon began taking some questions about his political career. “It is a bit hectic handling both at the same time but I am managing it. While I was campaigning in Pondicherry, I was shooting for Psycho by the side.”
The actor is baffled that while even the parliament election results are out, Nadigar Sangam's election, comprising all of 2,000 votes, isn’t yet. “Vishal met my father after we won the Lok Sabha elections and that seems to be the reason for all the troubles he is facing. They don’t want him to enter politics.”
However, the Manithan actor remains friendly with his colleagues and added that he would have no qualms in producing a film of Rajinikanth or Kamal Haasan in the future. “If Rajinikanth doesn't have a problem, why would I?” But that doesn't mean Udhay won’t take a dig at the actor. When one of the reporters asked if he would contest against Rajinikanth in the state elections next year, the young actor shot back: “He (Rajinikanth) should first contest.”
Udhay won’t get carried away and noted that he had a long way to go as an actor. “I have to improve... a lot,” he concluded.