MS Bhaskar: I won’t play the same character twice or use double entendres
The actor, who has made his OTT debut with an impressive performance in Amazon Prime Video's Putham Pudhu Kaalai, talks about his journey so far in cinema
Veteran actor MS Bhaskar's episode, titled Avarum Naanum, Avalum Naanum, from Amazon Prime Video's first Tamil anthology Putham Pudhu Kalai, has been getting rave reviews for portraying the beautiful relationship between a woman and her grandfather. The actor who is elated with entering the OTT space with the Gautham Menon-directed segment, is, as always, not starved for words in this conversation. I begin by saying, “Vanakkam” and he responds, “Vanakkam, ellorum ellam vazhamum nalamum petru vaazhanumnu ellamvalla iraivanai vendikkaren."
After Sivaji's Bandham (1985), I can barely remember any other films that have explored the grandfather-granddaughter relationship.
After watching Bandham, I got a job transfer so I could live with my sister's kids. This was before I got married; those kids mean the world to me. When Gautham Menon sir said it's a bandham (relationship) between a grandfather and his granddaughter, it reminded of the film. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen that film. Sivaji appa and Shalini were top-notch in it. Gautham sir gave me 200 per cent freedom to play this role. He's an excellent director and the team is very affectionate.
It’s also the type of character you haven’t played a lot of.
It's a beautiful character and Gautham sir and I discussed in length on how to go about the character. Anu anuva director rasichaaru enna. His encouragement motivated me to constantly think about what more I could do with the character. If my role is getting accolades, all the credit should go to god and Gautham sir.
How was it like to shoot a film with lockdown restrictions?
I have to thank producer Trilok for that. The makers made sure that the entire cast and crew, less than 10 in number, were all tested. We all waited anxiously for the results. Thankfully, nobody tested positive.
You have been a theatre artist, actor, narrator and a dubbing artist. What was it like to venture into the OTT space?
We used to travel to theatres, but they have brought that experience home. People always ask what the difference between the big screen and the small screen is, and I have always said, “Screen dhaan vithiyasam”. The duty of an actor is to give more than what the director expects.
When Sivaji appa got to know about method acting from a director who spoke of actors starving themselves to play certain characters, he said, "Ennaya natural feeling? Oru nadigan na vairu romba saaptutu, pasi-a irukkara mathiri nadikanum ya. Avan dhaan ya nadigan." As someone who follows in the footsteps of actors like him and Kamal anna, I try to put in my best into each film.
Gautham Menon has been doing films for two decades now, and you are an experienced artiste yourself. Are you surprised that you hadn’t collaborated earlier?
I believe that when the time is right, opportunities will come. When I was working on serials and trying to make a mark in the film industry, Rajini anna asked me why I was not acting in films. I told him that I was ready to get paid for one film if it meant getting to act in three, but I wasn't getting roles. Who can I blame? Also, due to date issues, I have also missed out on some films. There are many slips between the cup and the lip (smiles).
As far as GVM sir is concerned, I guess he did not have a character which would have been appropriate for me. Now, he did, and here we are.
Was your transition from a comedian to supporting artiste a planned move?
Naalai pozhudai iraivanukalithu nadakum vaazhvil amaidhiyai thedu. I follow this line by Kavignar Kannadasan. Initially, I did dubbing, lent my voice for junior artistes, and later, for pivotal characters. Then I moved to the small screen, which led me to get work in films where I was asked to do comedy. I have done serious characters in serials like En Peyar Ranganayagi, Vazhkai and even a villain in Selvi. Everything that has happened, I owe to the amazing directors I have teamed up with.
Your career is also notable for you choosing films regardless of whether they feature stars.
We don't get on a bus with knowledge of how experienced the driver is. When a character is given to us, we should do justice to the trust reposed in us by the filmmaker. Sri Ganesh (director of 8 Thottakkal) told me the story of the film in just four lines. I am not someone who asks for scripts in an e-mail as I prefer to hear them. Director Priyadarshan sir once asked me how I was good at memorising lines. I told him that I remember not the dialogues but the concept. If an actor improvises well after understanding what’s expected of them, directors will always accept it.
In Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara, I played a Malayali, and he is a person who subconsciously brings in his mother tongue even when speaking in English. “There is no use of playing the violin on the back of a buffalo” is a line from the film that came in because of the character's backdrop. Acting is not just appearing in front of the camera and meddling with social media during the break. You would have to live that character till you pack up. That's the advice I give to younger actors. The only two conditions I have are that I don’t play the same character twice, and not to use double entendres.