Tamil Guardian

Wednesday June 20, 2001

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“That only one vote separated me from the award contributes to my self-confidence”

With the release of ‘Sethu’ Vikram proved his potential, both as an actor, and as a box-office draw. Cinesouth.com reports on a rendezvous with him on an enchanting evening, stealing time when he was engaged in dubbing his voice for ‘Dil’, in this the first of a two part interview.

SOME PICTURES bring about transformations in a great magnitude. They change the very course of the lives of the central actors in those films. They are so powerful. There was a ‘Parasakthi’ for Sivaji Ganesan. Kamal had his turn around with ‘Pathinarru Vayathinile’. And it was ‘Mullum Malarum’ in the case of Rajinikanth.

‘Sethu’ also has brought about a metamorphosis. It has given a new lease of life to Vikram at a time when he was about to leave for America, lock, stock and barrel, losing all hopes of making it big in the film world here. Today he is acting as a hero in fifteen films.

This sensational and tremendous turning point in the life of the actor indicates that he has lucky moles all over his body. No doubt, Vikram has come a long way in giant’s strides.

He talks on and on about the film, ‘Dil’. He is growing to be a stiff competitor to Kamal Hassan. He has planned to wear different kinds of make-up in all his successive films. We are in to witness many Vikrams in the times ahead.

Does ‘Sethu’ help you still in growing from strength to strength?

I cannot forget ‘Sethu’ ever. It was a great hit. It brought out my capabilities to the limelight. They say that my potential had been wasted in ‘Vinnukkum Manukkum’. The problem is ‘Vinnukkum Mannukkum’ was preceded by ‘Sethu’. Obviously the public expect more and more from me since the phenomenal success of ‘Sethu’.

Do you hope to come across the chance of having another ‘Sethu’ in your life?

‘Sethu’ has a special merit. It has commercial values as well as an artistic touch, all at once. No doubt, it is a rarity among films. I would like to say that the many films in which I am acting now would certainly measure up to ‘Sethu’ both in their commercial and artistic aspects.

‘Vinnukkum Mannukkum’ didn’t offer you a big scope to prove your mettle. Why did you accept to partake in that film?

Some people narrate a story in a particular way and picturize the same in a different manner. It so happens once in a while. One out of ten films are like that. In ‘Dil’ all of us work with team spirit as members of a team. But ‘Vinnukkum Mannukkum’ was different ... it was the brainchild of a single person.

‘Vinnukkum Mannukkum’ was an apt film for the fans of B and C areas. It was a matter of abiding interest that a village youth had fallen in love with a film actress. Of course, we discussed a lot before starting the film. But what happened actually turned out to be different from what I expected.

How did you react to losing a national award for your performance in ‘Sethu’ by a whisker for want of just one vote?

I didn’t worry much on that account. I have already bagged about ten special awards. I was aware that I may not get the national award, but when I learnt that I missed the bus just by the narrowest of margins I became a little happy. The fact that only one vote separated me from the national award contributes to the growth of my self-confidence. That day is not far off from my winning the national award.

Is it true that you are donning varied characters now?

I am playing a mild role that would be endearing to all the members of a family in ‘Kadhal Sadugudu’. I am donning the character of a police officer in ‘Dil’. In another film, I would be a blind man. In ‘Autograph’ I would be depicting the four stages of life. Almost all my films have different dimensions. In another film, I am playing a negative character. There is a thriller. Another film is filled with love, through and through.

Nobody would refuse the inflow of money. I, too, am after fortune. But I require fame too and that too, through acting in films. Therefore I remain choosy in selecting the roles to be played by me. I am playing a heroic role in ‘Samrai’. Mine is a jester’s role in ‘Vikatan’. Despite my comic gimmicks in that film, grief would linger in my mind.

As a college student, I would be donning a mischievous character in the movie, ‘University’. One scene from that film stands out. When I alight from a bus, the checking inspector would demand me my ticket. I would take to my heels. The official would come running after me. When he catches hold of me, I would promptly hand over the ticket. He would enquire: "Why do you run so fast when you have the ticket?" I would retort back calmly: "Why do you run after me when I have a ticket for Rupees two? After all, you are known to run after those who never take any ticket."

Anything special about ‘Dil’?

I have reduced my body weight for acting in ‘Dil’. I have also trimmed my hair and grown lean. You would be shocked to see me. I adhered to strict diet control, managing with fruits and juice. Immediately after this, I had to put on more weight to act in ‘Kadhal Sadugudu’. I had to eat a lot and ended up with diarrhoea.

I have to give justice to the role of a police officer in this film. Until I finish with that film, I will continue to turn down further offers, however big the directors may be, because I am not sure of being different in between the two films. At first I thought of increasing my weight for ‘Dil’. But when I learnt that Kamal Sir had inflated his physique very much for ‘Aalavandhan’, I have changed my opinion. Definitely, I can’t compete with him. So, I had to reduce my weight. Isn’t this different too?


Falling in love on a bus route

The forthcoming '12B' with Jyothika and Simran is currently being shot around Chennai. S. R. Ashok Kumar of The Hindu went on location to meet the debutant director.

FILM WORKS’ ‘12B’ is the first film of cinematographer turned director, Jeeva. He says the story is for the youth - a love story with a difference. The location was the Besant Nagar main road where the director was shooting with his two heroines and the hero.

Jeeva, who has worked in a number of successful films, wants to show his talent as a director also. "As I am a cinematographer I thought about a particular knot which is also in the form of a visual," he says.

Why has the film been named ‘12B’? "The whole story takes place in the bus and it is familiar to me as I have travelled in the 12B bus often. I also felt that this kind of a title would sound different."

The story needed a new hero and popular heroines. "So we have Jyotika and Simran. Shyam is the hero and this is his first film. As far as the story goes Shyam and Simran are working in the same place and Shyam is in love with Jyotika. 

The scene we are shooting here in Besant Nagar is the one where Shyam sees Jyotika on the opposite side of the road and wants to talk to her. So he tries to cross the road but the traffic is heavy. By the time he crosses the road Jyotika gets into a car and leaves. “At the same time Simran sees Shyam and asks him where he was going in such a hurry. 

He says he was just going for a cool drink and Simran offers to join him. Both of them then walk down the road to the nearby shop. This is the scene we are shooting at the moment," Jeeva says and adds, "I asked Bhagyaraj to help me with the dialogue, he readily accepted and has helped me a lot."

The film has some wonderful scenes for Simran and she is sure to be appreciated by the audience. "The cinematographer turned director is sure to go places after the film. The script is good and it also gives enough scope to perform not only for me but for all the artistes," she says.

The artistes are Shyam, Jyotika, Simran, Moon Moon Sen, Vivek and Myilsamy. Art is by Thota Tharani, editing by Lenin V. T. Vijayan, music by Harris Jeyaraj and lyrics are by Vairamuthu. Raju Sundaram is dance master, while Vikram Dharma coordinates the stunts. The film is produced by Vikram Singh while the story, screenplay, cinematography and direction are by Jeeva.


Many identities but few thrills

The movie 'Citizen' received plenty of press coverage in the lead up to its much delayed release. The various roles played by Ajith, stories of numerous re-shoots in a quest for perfection and rumours of awards aroused theatregoers' interests. But the most hyped film of the year so far fails to deliver writes Balaji Balasubramaniam.

EVERY YEAR has its share of eagerly anticipated movies that earn hype from pre-release word of mouth. 2000 had many such movies but was a good year since movies like ‘Hey Ram’ and ‘Alaipayuthey’ stood up to their expectations. Ajith’s ‘Citizen’, with reports of Ajith appearing in nine different get-ups, was the first such hotly anticipated movie of this year. But the movie proves to be too much for its debutante director, who lets down the potentially exciting thriller with low-key thrills, ludicrous fights and loopholes galore.

When the movie starts, Antony (Ajith) is all set to embark upon a war and to do so, assumes a new identity. He is now Abdulla, a mechanic. The war itself starts after two years, during which time he becomes the target of a romantic attack from Indu (Vasundhara Das) and earns a good name in society. Wearing a number of disguises and adopting the name of Citizen, he kidnaps three prominent figures in society, the three men responsible for the tragedy that befell his village. Sarojini (Nagma) is the CBI officer hot on his tracks.

With Ajith’s efforts to kidnap the three men and frequent mention of the name Athipatti, our expectations are raised as to the reason behind his quest. Thankfully, the flashback sequence does justice to these expectations. It is quite harrowing and well executed. The way that the kid is saved at the end is very touching, apart from providing a solid reason for Ajith’s comment about him not being alone in the world. The following courtroom sequence features some sharp dialogs and the punishment meted out to the villains by Ajith is unique and effective.

While Ajith’s disguises are at the center of the movie, it is Nagma’s chase after him that offers some of the best portions of the movie. Her undeterred excursions to the collectors’ offices, brought about by the division of the districts, and the search for information about Athipatti are exciting and realistically done. We are shocked as we gradually realise what happened to Athipatti and the rain provides the perfect setting for the conclusion of her search. The excavation is handled at the right pace and the eventual discovery is shocking.

While the movie is clearly a ‘masala’ offering, the two fight sequences take things a little too far. The sequence where Ajith faces off against policemen is a copy of the sequence in the Hollywood vampire flick ‘Blade’. But the sequence is copied as is and what makes sense in the English version looks ludicrous here as Ajith bares his teeth in vampire style, flies into the air and walks up walls. The chase in the forest with Ajith sprinting horizontally among trees falls in the same laughable category.

Several other sequences, like the theme of a man out for revenge because of a sad past, his MO of a letter signed Citizen, Ajith’s makeup as the old man and the character of the old man who is after him, all remind us of ‘Indian’.

Recent reports talked about the length of the movie being too long and the editing needed to trim it down. That might be the reason for the number of unanswered questions and loose ends scattered throughout the movie. For example, the-re is no explanation of how Pandiyan himself lived through the tragedy. Nagma talks about Ajith’s first two letters containing symbols of animals but no explanation is given for them. 

There is no hint of where Ajith takes the men he has kidnapped. On the other hand, the sequences involving Vasundara are the ones that beg to be edited out. The double entendre dialogs during their initial meetings at the mechanic shop are vulgar and the song sequences are abrupt and unnecessary.

For all the talk about his performance in the movie, Ajith has precious little to do apart from being buried under tons of make-up. The only segment that offers him scope is the flashback and his makeup and dialect here are impressive. The talk he has with Vasundara is the only other opportunity he gets to emote but he hams it up.

Vasundara and Nagma fall on two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to acting and both share equal blame for the ineffectiveness of their performances. Vasundara struggles to show any kind of expression on her face and her wooing of Ajith lacks cuteness. Nagma overacts and the ill-suited voice is even more damaging. Meena is wasted in a miniscule role. Hanifa raises a few laughs while the rest of the cast is adequate.

Makeup is not too impressive with the disguise of the fat minister being especially artificial. The sequences with the old freedom fighter and the collector are the only ones where the disguises are even close to looking natural. Deva’s tunes are catchy though a couple of them, ‘Kizhakke Udhikkum’ in particular, remind us of older tunes.


Chennai’s new advertising mania

VIJAY might have signed in an auspicious hour to appear in the advertisement for ‘Coke’. Thanks to the advertisement, the box-office returns of ‘Badri’ picked up. No doubt, the producers won’t get their fingers burnt. Though it is a not a rain of cats and dogs, the film enjoys a perennial flow of monetary collections reports Cinesouth.com.

‘Coke’ people have displayed advertisements throughout the tinsel city for free, stating ‘Kaththiri Veyilil Badri’ (Badri in searing summer). This act of kindness on the part Coca Cola reduced the advertisement expenditure of ‘Badri’ to a great extent.

Madhavan is surrounded with many advertisement offers following that of ‘Pepsi’. Many more firms are now besieging Vijay with a request to help advertising their products. A large manufacturer of bikes is waiting for the approval of Vijay in this connection.

Where are we heading for? In the near future, we would be seeing our heroes displaying the sponsor stickers of various hues on their shirts and pants. As cricketers fully cover themselves excepting for their face with advertisements for different products, in future such similar sights might be visible in the background of song-dance sequences of films themselves!


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