Arya: My interest in sports has made me a better artist

Arya on his new release, Captain, and how his interest in sports benefits his work as an actor

In a career spanning over two decades, Arya has established himself as a versatile actor with consummate performances in films like Naan Kadavul, Madrasapattinam, Avan Ivan, Boss Engira Baskaran and Sarpatta Parambarai. And for the actor, who is also an ardent cyclist, the secret to professional success is the discipline that comes from an ardent interest in sports. He begins this conversation by recounting that his biggest challenge—cycling 1,540 kilometres at the London Edinburgh London 2022 event in August—has reaffirmed his belief that such sporting activities make him a better person and artist. At the quadrennial event, he successfully completed the ride within the time limit of 125 hours. Even though the expedition required many sacrifices and riding across the steep terrain was challenging, Arya found it to be an enthralling experience. "I often say discipline is essential to master any art form, and sport has taught me that discipline is the key to succeed in life. I can bring my best output as an actor only when I am in the right shape," Arya says.

Chiefly, it aids him when playing physically demanding roles like the soldier character he plays in the recently released Captain. The Shakti Soundar Rajan directorial revolves around army personnel taking down a ‘minotaur’. "Filmmakers want us to wear several hats today—from being a scuba diver to a pilot and what not! In Captain, Shakti wanted me to do deep-sea diving. I took quick lessons and performed the scene by descending 10-12 feet underwater without any assisting gear. For another scene, we shot a sequence while I was suspended on a rope 100 feet above the surface in Munnar," he says.

The actor’s career trajectory reflects his love for experimentation across genres and themes. His latest film, Captain, is an example, and he notes that he liked Shakti's idea of bringing in a mythical creature for an action-entertainer. The success of their previous collaboration, Teddy helped too and gave the actor the confidence that the director could pull off such high-concept ideas. "Producing and acting in such out-of-the-box projects is a calculated decision. We are making films for an audience that has evolved. Template films are no longer effective. We need to offer a new experience for them to come to theatres," he asserts.

While Arya is remembered for embracing such challenging roles, fans have also long loved him for his romantic comedies. It has been a while since we saw him do a comedy and that’s because there’s a dearth of comedy films, according to him. "I am desperately looking for good comedy scripts that are not slapstick and lacklustre. Such films require precise combinations of director, story, and performers." I mention the success of Boss Engira Baskaran, and he says he can't wait to share screen space with Santhanam again. "I also told him that we could do a film that gives importance to both characters. In Boss Engira Baskaran, I saw him as another lead actor. Both of us are hunting for good scripts," he adds.

Meanwhile, the actor is excited about his upcoming Amazon Prime Video project, The Village, touted to be India's first series based on a graphic novel. "The way director Milind has developed the world of The Village is interesting. Unlike a regular web series, this one has special elements like gore and mutants. I am always excited to be part of such novel initiatives." Arya is happy that Tamil cinema is evolving and thinks it’s the right time for creators to invent and reinvent their craft and embrace new ideas. Arya is next working in Muthaiah's rural action film and reiterates his interest in producing films with novel ideas. "I only do films that excite me as an artist. Even after working in this industry for twenty-odd years, new ideas and challenges keep me afloat."

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