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Jai: Working on Coffee with Kadhal was like a college reunion- Cinema express

Jai: Working on Coffee with Kadhal was like a college reunion

The actor, who is returning to the feel-good space with Coffee with Kadhal, talks about being part of the Sundar C universe, being true to oneself in the world of make-believe, and more

Published: 31st October 2022

In The Hounds of Baskerville, Sherlock Holmes says, “People say there’s no such thing as coincidence. What dull lives they must lead.” It was one such coincidence that made a young keyboard player don the grease paint in a film that not only launched his own career but cemented the action-hero credentials of a then-fledgling superstar called Vijay. The year was 2002, the film was Bagavathy, and the musician-turned-actor was Jai. Cut to two decades later, Coffee with Kadhal, his upcoming film with director Sundar C is set to hit the screens on the same day that Bagavathy released all those years back. “November 4, 2002 to November 4, 2022. Such a lucky coincidence, no?” asks a rather upbeat Jai, who shares that it was a casual smile that got him his first acting assignment. “Director Venkatesh sir asked me to enquire with my friends if they’d be interested to star in Bagavathy. When I said yes, and smiled, director sir said, Nee siricha apdiye Vijay sir maadhri irukke. Neeye nadichidu.”

Over the past two decades, one consistent facet of Jai’s career has been his collaborations with people who are in his comfort zone. “With every film I do, I develop friendships with the team. Incidentally, they come to me with their first films, and I become part of their vision. They know my pluses and minuses, and they'd highlight what is required of me as an actor. In fact, Sundar C sir was the first director to approach me outside this circle,” says Jai, who first worked with the ace filmmaker in Kalakalappu 2. “I received the offer when I was shooting for Party in Fiji. Venkat Prabhu anna was doubly happy about it and felt that I was finally being recognised in the industry. Sundar C sir dhaan first time enakku andha nambikka kuduthaaaru.”

While Kalakalappu 2 was Jai’s first brush with the director’s working style, the actor shares that by the time he did Coffee with Kadhal, he was almost like a veteran of the Sundar C universe. “We are planning to do a lot more films together. I know his working style, and there is a warm sense of comfort on Sundar C sir’s sets.” The feel-good entertainer boasts of an ensemble cast including Jiiva, Srikanth, Amritha, Divya Dharshini, Yogi Babu, Samyuktha, and Malvika Sharma. Interestingly, the three male leads of the film started their careers almost together in the early 2000s. “Working on Coffee with Kadhal was like coming to a college reunion,” says Jai. When asked if they sat down to discuss their two-decade journey with each other, Jai quickly responds, “Naaah, we were more invested in each day’s dinner. Inikku Mutton Biriyani poduvaangala Chicken Biriyani poduvaangala nu dhaan pesuvom.” 

While the conversation was peppered with such nuggets of humour, Jai does realise that his happy-go-lucky persona tends to overshadow the serious actor in him. In fact, four of his films this year feature him in serious roles, including a serial killer character (Pattampoochi). “Even Goa wasn’t a success when it was released, but it gained cult status later. On the other hand, my role in Raja Rani is still in a lot of conversations. I realised soon enough that not all my performances will be spoken about with the same vigour,” says Jai. But wouldn’t this create confusion about the kind of films he wants to do? “Let me go back to a biriyani reference. Just because one pot didn’t come out well, it doesn’t mean we stop cooking it. Just like that, if one negative shade didn’t work, it won’t stop me from trying it all over again,” says Jai, whose serious side gets belied by small doses of quality humour. Pointing out that it is his hunger that makes him give multiple such biriyani references, Jai adds, “All we can do is be true to ourselves. We shouldn't be true just because we want someone to appreciate us for being true. Kadamaiyai sei, palanai edhirpaakaadhe.” 

Considering his films in 2022 faced a rather sedate response during their release, Jai is super pumped about playing a role very similar to his real-life persona in Coffee with Kadhal. However, Jai asserts that he is proud of the other films (Veerapandiyapuram, Pattampoochi, Yenni Thuniga, and Kuttram Kuttrame) because they allowed him to explore his acting skills. “It is this variety that is fascinating. Look at how a lot of young and upcoming heroes are trying so many different things, and it feels embarrassing if we are doing the same things again and again. Also, for a long time, I have been doing roles that have me playing around with knives, killing people, and fighting a lot. Finally, with Coffee with Kadhal, I am back to the feel-good space,” says Jai, who is well aware of the never-ending barrage of criticisms that comes his way owing to his ‘image’ of being a tough person to work with, and his non-cinematic pursuits like racing. “We need to ensure that the audience and industry insiders understand that we can have different passions. We don't have to forego one for the other. Also, negativity sells and moves fast too. It is up to this generation to understand the importance of the right intentions. I believe in the younger generations' perceptive power. But more importantly, right or wrong, I am happy being in the public eye. Enna marakkaama irundhaale… podhum.”  

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