Hiphop Tamizha Adhi: Why care about trolls when there is so much love?
Hiphop Tamizha Adhi talks about his latest release Anbarivu, responding to criticism, his love towards independent music and much more
Ghajini’s Sanjay Ramasamy famously observed, “There is a thin line between self-confidence and conceit.” In the age of instant judgement, it can be easy to assume that anyone comparing themselves to Galileo Galilei must be a conceited man. But if you were to read between the lines, it becomes clear that Hiphop Tamizha Adhi seems to operate from a place of great self-confidence. “Yes, there will be an initial reluctance to the kind of music I make, and the films I do, but I encourage myself with the thought that the world didn’t trust Galileo when he first said Earth revolves around the Sun. They understood him later, and I believe it will be the same with my music too,” he says.
In this freewheeling chat about his recent release, Anbarivu, which is currently streaming on Disney + Hotstar, Adhi extends this conversation to cover some heartfelt disclosures and straight-up sermons, which I have taken the liberty to condense into five commandments—considering that his films are well-known to contain messages.
Know thy limitations
For much of his fledgling acting career, Adhi has stuck to his comfort zone and he believes that Anbarivu is no different, even though it was quite challenging. “I think of the film as an experiment. The audience hasn’t seen me this way before. I play twins, Anbu, the energetic, hot-headed person, and Arivu, the calm and composed one. I am not a great actor to pull off these roles, and this is where director Aswin Raam and senior actors Napoleon sir, Sai Kumar sir, and Asha Sharath ma’am came in to guide me. In fact, it was Asha ma’am who taught me how to use glycerine while enacting emotional scenes. Aswin shot portions of each of these two characters on separate days, and even during the combination scenes, we did Anbu only after the Arivu portions were filmed."
Keep thy friends closest
When asked if Adhi was looking to expand his fan base by doing films that seem to be gradually getting bigger in terms of ambition and scale, he refutes by pointing out that Sivakumarin Sabadham was not one such film. He further argues that his off-film sojourns like the Tamizhi videos or his documentation of the Adichanallur excavations are examples of him not thinking about elevating his stardom. “I am made from the love of my fans, and that will be my primary focus. In fact, I call them friends and not fans; that is the bond I share with them. Yes, the OTT release of Anbarivu might get family audiences warmed up to my brand of films. Anbarivu is a big film in terms of casting and costing, and I am particular that all parties involved in my films make a profit. That’s why we decided to release Anbarivu on OTT. However, I know that my friends love to celebrate my films in theatres. I just want them to know that I love them more than they love me. This love helps me move forward because when there is so much love to take in, why lose sleep over trolls?”
Understand thine errors
As someone who burst into the collective conscience of Tamil music listeners with what was slammed as a misogynistic song, Adhi has eventually apologised on multiple occasions. However, it didn’t stop him from addressing this topic once again in his sophomore directorial, Sivakumarin Sabadham. “I had to deal with the problematic nature of ‘Club la mabbula’ in the public place. That’s why Sivakumarin Sabadham was a personal film. Apart from addressing the misogyny, I wanted to use my influence to tell fans that love is just a part of our lives. There are people who harm themselves when their romantic relationship fails. Some confuse possessiveness with the need to control their partners. So, I hoped that at least one person might find it important to evolve. I am not saying that my way is the only right way, but I want to express whatever I feel is right through my art.”
Overcome thy naysayers
Right from when Adhi made his way into the mainstream Tamil cinema space, he has often been at the receiving end of trolling and criticism. “When ‘Sivakumarin Pondatti’ song got trolled, I didn't take it to heart because I knew the song would be successful anyway. I have a constant connection with my fans, I mean, friends, who are my ears to the ground. I am not someone who only looks at social media or echo chambers for validation. I am confident that the success of this song will spawn more such numbers in this trend. There are no rules in art, and I see the breakdown of constructs as an important step ahead. Why refer to certain songs as ‘local’ in a derogatory way? New York’s local is hip hop. It is their version of gaana. We had Deva sir, a huge inspiration, bring gaana to the mainstream. Our gaana is street art too; the day is not far when the world recognises our gaana.”
Follow thy heart
It has been almost ten years since Adhi released his breakthrough Hiphop Tamizha album, and he is steadfast about coming up with the second volume this year. Not getting stuck to one role has also been a recurring factor in his career. “I am finishing my PhD and I want to take up teaching and be a guest professor. I also want to get back to independent music. I know these are minuses for my film career. At the peak of my musical career after Thani Oruvan, I left everything to do research and shoot my Takkar video. Now, my aim is to create a solid musical ecosystem where independent artists and their music flourish. As long as I have the strength, I want to be a helping hand for someone to come up in life.” He is also part of the Underground Tribe movement through which upcoming talented rappers get a platform to perform. “So yes, I do need the strength to delve into these avenues. The financial strength is fuelled by the movies I make. A win might move me a couple of places ahead, but a loss slides me down to square one. There is a constant internal struggle between logic and ambition. Yes, it is exhausting, and at times, it is tempting to take the easy way out. But when it all falls into place, there is nothing like it. We all have just one life, and I want to do whatever I can in this life.”
As I said, Hiphop Tamizha Adhi isn’t found lacking in self-confidence at all.
Here's the video interview: