The Queen's adversary
Vivek Rajgopal, who played the menacing antagonist in Gautham Vasudev Menon's web series debut Queen, shares his experience in working in the political drama series
Queen, the new web series streaming on MX player, has been making news for a lot of things. First, it marks Gautham Vasudev Menon’s OTT debut. It's also Ramya Krishnan’s first foray into the digital space, with her playing a character that seems loosely inspired by the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa. Amid all this, another character has been silently grabbing eyeballs: Pradeepan, one of protagonist Shakti Seshadri’s foes in the series.
Actor Vivek Rajgopal plays Pradeepan with muted sophistication, his menace finding effective outlets in raging glares and his haughty body language. The minimalism was intended, says Vivek. “During those times, even if just two people were seen talking, it attracted eyeballs. People observed a lot more.” This was also one of GVM’s pointers to him. “While shooting the climax, GVM sir told me to understand that everyone was watching me.”
Understanding this made the climax showdown easier to enact, he says. “It was a sequence I was eager to do well in. Even though I got the lines only two days before the shoot, I was prepared.” And with GVM as the director, he had to remember to be precise with his lines. “Part of my initial brief was that I would have to say what was on paper. We could not change it to our convenience.” He delivered the lengthy conversation scene in a single take, a shot that was later cut for the series. “I didn’t expect for the take to get approved right away. But everybody was happy. Gautham sir said, 'Super a pannaan la? Good da. Very nice work da.' It was also the first time Ramya Krishnan ma’am complimented me," he says happily.
Vivek was offered the role after Reshma Ghatala, the writer, and Gautham saw his performance in Sarjun’s Echarikkai. “Reshma ma'am had confidence in me, and she just said I could do it,” he says. He was also asked to devise his own look, for both the younger and the older version. This was quite challenging. “Since I had to shoot for both looks simultaneously, without prosthetics, I had to figure out a middle ground. They gave me such liberty that what I had in mind ended up being the actual look.”
Pradeepan, Vivek says, was not modeled after any one person or character. “At various points, she faced different types of resistance. Pradeepan was created out of a compilation of all those, not just from one person.” However, saying the cuss words made him feel uncomfortable, but after the shot, Vivek admits. “Even though I knew it was for the character, I had minor apprehensions of who people might relate that character with,” he explains. "But none of it mattered while he was shooting. “
He laughs when I tell him that I was reminded of Neelambari saying Padayappa, every time Shakti Seshadri stressed on his name, Pradeepan. “I knew there were many seniors around me, but I could not have played the character if I had had any nervousness. I was particular that I am professional. Also, everyone was comfortable to work with." The only time he was nervous, he says, was when he first shot with GVM. “I don't know him and hadn't met him before. He's a legend and I have always wanted to work with him. And having Kathir sir on the camera... it was all a dream come true.”