Selvaraghavan: If a role shows spark, it doesn't matter if it is just for one or two scenes

Selvaraghavan talks about his new avatar as an actor and what excites him about it
Selvaraghavan in Beast
Selvaraghavan in Beast

Selvaraghavan is the latest director to turn actor, following in the footsteps of many like KS Ravikumar, Samuthirakani, and SJ Surya. When the stills of an upcoming film, Saani Kaayidham, were released, featuring Selvaraghavan and Keerthi Suresh, it came as a surprise. Selva has doubled up as a producer and even as a singer (Kaadhal En Kaadhal in Mayakkam Enna) earlier, but acting was never associated with his rather reticent persona. Yet, in a short period, the trendsetting director has an impressive filmography already — Beast, Saani Kaayidham, and Dhanush's Naane Varuven.

In this brief chat organised to promote Beast, he answers questions on this new transformation and where he's going with it…

Do promotional conversations with the press tire you?

As a filmmaker, one has to do it. There is no way around it. In fact, I find it heartening to talk about cinema.

Beast, Naane Varuven, Saani Kaayidham… Tell us about this new role as an actor.

I take life as it comes. I never planned on becoming an actor when I started making films, but when the opportunity showed up, I said okay. I am grateful to Arun Matheshwaran for giving me the role in Saani Kaayidham. Arun launched me as an actor… and now, it is Nelson.

How confident are you about your performance in Saani Kaayidham?

It’s too early to make an assessment. Konajm bayama thaan iruku. I don’t know how people will perceive me as an actor. Let them be the judge of my work.

What does a film/script need to have for Selvaraghavan to act in it?

I don’t mind even if I am approached for just a scene or two. The screentime is not a matter of concern. The role needs to have a spark, and I should feel the film is good enough. I found that in Beast. There are a few things that one would want to do in real life, and the role was one such for me.

You demand a lot from actors as a director; do you do the same with yourself?

Contemporary filmmakers are clear in what they want from actors. And Nelson has extreme clarity. So, while working with such directors, I prefer to do what’s being told, and I leave the rest to them. With Naane Varuven (where he is both an actor and director), I am more of a director than an actor. It’s indeed quite a task to act and then go, check the monitor.

You were known to be taciturn. Now, you seem to be forthcoming on social media, especially while responding to criticism...

I think I have been the same. However, times are changing and you have to adapt accordingly. This holds good across all professions. Also, social media enables me to get in touch with many friends; I consider my fans and followers as friends.

Being active on social media also makes you susceptible to criticism…

I would be lying if I say criticism doesn’t affect me. Adhu abathamana poi. Comments can hurt and get disheartening; however, it also has the power to make us happy. But such opinions aren't just restricted to social media. Even a magazine or a newspaper can be a source of happiness and disappointment.

Given your restraint, how are you as a mentor figure?

I do not get too vocal with my assistants. I tell them clearly that what I am running is not a film school. I tell them to gather their information using observation. Also, there’s no time to teach stuff while you are making a film. I didn't learn direction by sitting around and asking questions. It is all about grasping things on the go. That’s how it works.

Aadavari Matalaku Arthale Verule, an unusual romance you directed, turned 15 this year. Why haven't you returned to that genre?

I don’t want things to become boring and redundant. When a romantic story has worked, why do it again? Pulichupona maava yaaraachum saapduvaangala? So, I try new things to fend off boredom.

What bores you the most?

Chumma irukarathu (laughs). From childhood, I have never liked to be idle. I am completely okay to work and sleep on the roadside rather than lazing at home with all the luxury.

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