Vaibhav: I want my films to stand out in each genre
The actor, who starred in the recently released Buffoon, speaks about figuring his way in the competitive world of Tamil cinema and future choices
It is not common for someone from showbiz to speak about the disadvantages of having youthful looks. In a world where vanity is fair, Vaibhav says, “I didn’t know maintaining my body would have adverse effects.” This candour sets him apart from his contemporaries. “My youthful complexion has been a limiting factor. In fact, recently I was offered the role of an antagonist in a Telugu film, and the hero dissuaded me from taking up the role because he felt I looked too young,” says a disappointed Vaibhav, adding, “I even offered to change my getup and looks, but the actor wasn’t convinced.”
This love for changing getups can be seen in Vaibhav’s recent film, Buffoon, which has him play the role of a Therukoothu artiste. “It was challenging to play such a realistic role. Aathankudi Ilaiyaraja, a professional Therukoothu artiste himself, plays an important role in the film, and he helped me a lot. I also saw a lot of videos and trained in the artform, and we went for a realistic portrayal with a few cinematic elements to make it palatable for the cinema audience,” says Vaibhav.
The title and posters of Buffoon, backed by Karthik Subbaraj, and directed by Ashok Veerappan, initially gave the vibe of being a comedy entertainer. However, the trailer and the film dispelled any such theories. “It is very much in the zone of a Karthik Subbaraj production. There is dark comedy. There are elements of the underworld. There are well-designed action sequences. This was also the first time I did such a role.”
Vaibhav’s filmography is eclectic and does not easily betray his strengths and comfort zones. He follows up a film like Goa with Easan. He plays the solo lead in Kappal, but then, comes in as a supporting presence in Aambala. Right after Meyaadha Maan, he does cameos in films like Petta and Petromax. “These cameos are done on the basis of my friendships. While I don’t think these detours bother the audience, I do think people in cinema have a strange way of seeing actors,” says Vaibhav, who is keen to offer a different experience with each of his films. “My audience wants me to do films like Goa or Meyaadha Maan or Mankatha 2, but there is a need to surprise them with variations. That is why I went the OTT way even before my contemporaries did. I knew I could reach a wider audience, and they would also have the choice to watch me whenever they wanted.”
Having been in the industry for 15-odd years as an actor, and hailing from a family of filmmakers, Vaibhav has a decent understanding of how the industry has evolved over the years. There is pragmatism when he expresses that during the next decade or so, only the top 10 heroes might get theatre releases, with the rest going the OTT way. But this pragmatism isn’t without a tinge of sadness. “During my college days, we could visit all the theatres in a locality and watch different films. Now, we don’t have as many choices, and the same film is often running across the city. I understand it is all for box-office collections, but it will be nice to have a space for smaller films to have an extended theatre run,” says Vaibhav, who agrees that there’s a lack of tier-2 and tier-3 actors to keep churning out simple films. “Audience encouragement is the key here. It is their push that will ensure ‘smaller’ films come out regularly. When a big film comes out, the release window gets shut for two-three weeks.”
Vaibhav’s film choices don’t position him as a ‘masala hero’. “The only way for me to become that kind of hero is to produce my own film, pool in money, and orchestrate such a project. I don’t want to go down that route. Take, for instance, Vijay Sethupathi’s path to success. He is a hero. He is a star. And yet, he is doing all kinds of roles. That is an interesting alternative path to stardom too,” says Vaibhav, who feels that he is rather choosy with his films because of his urge to do something different. “If it was just about keeping my schedules ticking, I’d have accepted a lot more films. But I’m not that kind of an actor. My idea is to do films that stand out in that genre. Years down the line, when people think of a good romcom, they must mention a film like Meyaadha Maan. When they think of a nice buddy comedy film, they must mention Goa. I hope Buffoon gets remembered as a genre-defining film too.”