Arya: I don’t subscribe to any ideology
The actor, who has been receiving widespread appreciation for his performance in Pa Ranjith’s Sarpatta Parambarai, talks about the film
Sarpatta Parambarai is being touted as being Arya’s career-best performance. With all the applause and wishes that are coming the actor’s way, you would expect him to launch into a monologue about the work he put into the role, but instead, he begins, “It is all God's grace!” It’s a phrase he repeats during this conversation many times. The Sarpatta experience, he says, has transformed him into a new person and changed his perspective about many topics. “It is because of God's grace that I got Ranjith sir's Sarpatta Parambarai,” he says. “Ranjith’s Madras was a byproduct of the extensive research he had been doing for Sarpatta. I am lucky to bag this role as I was waiting badly to do a sports drama. Everything fell in place at the right time."
Excerpts from the conversation:
Is it accurate to suggest that Kabilan is the most challenging role you have played so far?
Every new film comes with its set of challenges. For instance, I played an Aghori with almost no dialogue in Naan Kadavul. Aligning with Bala sir's vision was a great challenge. The challenges for Sarpatta were different. As boxing is a contact sport, you can’t cheat the audience with trick shots. All the punches you see on screen are real and we took actual blows to the face to make it all look authentic. This was strenuous as we had to be in character while getting beaten.
Thankfully, I have been practising boxing for four years, purely out of my own interest, and this experience came in handy.
This is your fourth period film after Madrasapattinam, Chikku Bukku and Urumi. How different was playing a youngster belonging to 1975?
Ranjith had a well-defined vision for the film. He knew what he wanted from his actors and what needed to be on the frame. So, I just had to follow his instructions and suggestions for Kabilan. When making period films, directors usually place certain props from that era to cheat the audience. But you won’t find a single such frame in Sarpatta. Ranjith focussed more on the characters and the socio-political background.
Most actors who are as experienced as you are, have got a sobriquet preceding their names. Even a character in this film is called Dancing Rose. Ever asked by your fans to pick such a title?
(laughs) Thankfully, no. Honestly speaking, actors give these sobriquets for themselves in most cases. I am glad that my fans have not asked me for such a thing. I am just happy that people love me for being Arya.
Sarpatta Parambarai, like all Ranjith films, makes strong political statements and references. Do you align with the film’s messaging?
I have no ideology, and neither am I particular that my films subscribe to a certain message always. At the same time, when directors have a vision, I don’t object. When political references or dialogues are essential for the organic narrative of a film, I have no issue. I just don't want to peddle social messages without any justification.
Looking macroscopically, the film is about Kabilan's fight against discrimination. Being an outsider to the film industry, who stepped into cinema through modelling, did you ever go through discrimination?
No, I haven't faced any discrimination in cinema. I believe that both within the film industry and outside, there is no partiality based on religion and caste in Tamil Nadu. We are all sensible.
When it comes to general struggles, yes, I have faced the difficulties any newcomer typically does. But I believe that Tamil cinema gives a special place to any actor and encourages them to grow if they are dedicated and hardworking.
You shot for Aranmanai 3 in parallel. What was it like to shuffle between the sets of a serious, realistic boxing drama and an over-the-top horror-comedy?
Both Ranjith and Sundar C sir knew how to draw me into their universe; they are exceptional in doing that. I believe that the performance of any actor gets elevated in the hands of the right filmmakers. It was challenging to shift from one extreme to the other, but my directors made the transition easy.
The community-viewing experience in theatres turned performers into stars. Do you think the opposite is happening now?
Yes, this change is inevitable. Big-budget films are opting for OTT premieres to recover the investment. We made Sarpatta for the theatres, and we wanted to stun our audience with our visuals. But the pandemic changed it all.
Though you carry a very friendly and social persona, you have been a recluse when it comes to social media. We spotted you actively promoting Sarpatta Parambarai though.
I am reluctant to share my personal life on social media and I hate feeding negativity on social media. However, I try to give shoutouts to good films and support the work of my friends.
I would hate to be a negative influence on anyone or bombard them with trivial details about my day. I just want to be seen as a motivation to be positive and physically active. I also draw inspiration from my followers for many things. I like being this way, and in the future, if I become more active on social media, it would only be to promote good cinema.