Arulnithi: Not many senior filmmakers have approached me
The actor discusses his rationale behind script selection, his love for thrillers, and future plans
A striking feature of Arulnithi's career has been his choice of scripts. Despite coming from a powerful political background, the actor has been rather modest in his cinema journey so far and yet, managed to carve a niche for himself. Within this niche, he has experimented by doing thrillers, horror films and rural dramas. "Right from the beginning, I have been extremely careful with my script selection because I believe people watch my films for the content, and not for me. I feel it's better to have a 30-minute screen time in a good film rather than hogging the screen for three hours in a bad film. Odra kuthraiyila irundha dhaan, namakku safe."
A few minutes into the conversation, it is clear that the real Arulnithi is poles apart from the reel Arulnithi. Unlike his stoic onscreen persona, Arulnithi is plenty of fun in person. His quirky one-liners are on point, and so is his unique brand of self-deprecating humour. But why don't we see this side of him in his films? "I'm a jovial person, and my interactions with Vijay Kumar (who directed his recent film, D Block) and his team made me feel a lot younger. I guess that has rubbed off in the interviews I am doing now. Also, honestly, doing back-to-back intense thrillers has made me a bit stiff."
With films like Mounaguru, Demonte Colony, Aarathu Sinam and Iravukku Aayiram Kangal in his filmography, the actor has almost become synonymous with the thriller genre. His last release D Block was also a thriller, and this Friday saw the release of another thriller, Dejavu. "It's not like I only want to do thrillers. Even within the framework of a thriller, you will see that I’m doing different concepts. My next release, Diary, is a thriller too, but it will be a different experience altogether, as it has a lot of VFX. Dejavu is an investigative thriller in which I play an undercover police officer. Although I have done cop roles before, this is a more mature and upright portrayal."
Dejavu is neither his first cop film nor is it his first thriller. Arulnithi was persuaded by the script’s originality. "When going through the script for the first time, I found the one-liner—of a novelist’s writing becoming real—to be intriguing. Halfway through the script reading, I couldn't control my curiosity further and called the director home for further narration. Films like this might have been made before, but I haven't seen any. It was very new to me, and I decided to do it despite being aware that it’s another thriller."
A glance at the list of his upcoming films reveals that Arulnithi is trying to break free from the thriller zone. He will next be seen playing a mute person in a family-oriented emotional drama directed by debutant Prabhu. And then, he will be starring in Raatchasi director Gowthamraj's rural drama. This eagerness to work with newcomers has been another striking facet of Arulnithi's 12-year-long acting career. "From Mounaguru to Demonte Colony, all my big films have come from newcomers. I'm grateful to them for trusting me with their maiden work. Of course, I'm open to collaborating with established filmmakers too, but they haven’t quite approached me. I understand their predicament though, as working with me might restrict their budget," says the actor, who expresses clarity about the need to amp up his game. "With over 10 years of experience, I realise that it's time for me to expand now. I hope that my upcoming films like Dejavu and Diary will take me to the next level. However, I've always been particular about making sure that my producer is safe. I'm planning to upgrade without taking big risks," asserts the actor.
As a first step, he is doing the sequel to his sleeper hit Demonte Colony. Ajay Gnanamuthu, who directed the first part, is the scenarist this time, and one of his assistants Venky Venugopal is helming it. "We're thinking of making it as a franchise, but we don't simply want to milk the popularity of the original. The success of the second part will determine our further plans," signs off a hopeful Arulnithi.