In January 2003, Jiiva’s first movie Aasai Aasaiyai released. Several hits and flops later, Jiiva is quite content with the space he has created for himself. “The stories I do have changed, but my smile hasn’t,” quips the handsome actor. You do have to agree that his films did change. After giving us stellar performances in films like Ram’s Kattradhu Tamil or Raam, the actor has predominantly stuck to different versions of the commercial fare in recent times. “We got the Kattradhu Tamizh’s box back on the tenth day. How do we survive then? We didn’t have the medium back then. Had it released today, the reception would have been completely different,” says Jiiva. He jokes that such films were the perfect examples of the old joke, ‘operation Success, patient died’. “It is easy to ask why I am not doing films like Raam. But they weren’t making collections. There are different kinds of audience, there is an audience for satellite. I figured there is a big disbalance. In fact, I have said that my films are bigger hits on television more than theaters,” says Jiiva with a laugh.
The track record did affect him, but it did not stop him from trusting his instincts says Jiiva. “I will be in a particular frame of mind for 6 months and somehow, I get approached for films in a similar space — Kattradhu Tamizh, Raam, Ko all happened like that. But sometimes it doesn’t happen. I can’t go behind someone to make a particular film. I am an actor not a filmmaker. At times like these, I go with the wind,” he explains. And the actors says his instinct hasn’t failed him in the past. “When I was working with Gautham Menon, KV Anand, I also signed Endrendrum Punnagai with I.Ahmed. At that point, he had given a flop film. That instinct worked for me at the box office when NEP didn’t.” “Nee Thane En Ponvasantham is now celebrated. It wasn’t appreciated by that generation — first world problems, I guess.” he adds.
Jiiva does admit to a few failures but asserts that no producer has ever been crushed in the process. “I wouldn’t get work if my films don’t work. It is just that we don’t browbeat our collections. My last producer Fox Star did a great job with Sangili Bungili Kadhava Thora. I got Sundar C sir’s film due to that,” he says. Jiiva believes that while survival is vital, he is not part of the race at all. “I am doing films patiently; might give some flops as well. But I am surviving. And what are we surviving for, to give better. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Iniku flop kuduthe aganum kelamabalam vaa’. I am not here for the fame,” asserts the Kalakalapu 2 actor.
However, the forthcoming years are going to be very different, believes Jiiva. The digital outreach will definitely seep into the backyard alleys of our theaters. “When I was in my early twenties, I thought the digital outreach would happen in 2-3 years. But it actually has taken around 10 years. 2019 will be even more bigger for this space. We are all prepared for it as well. Anyway, the strike is coming as well,” says Jiiva with an impish grin.
“There is a bigger market that the stakeholders here don’t comprehend. They are doing bigger things and are paying by the views the content gets. There is a lack of transparency. I don’t understand why we are averse to people who give us business,” questions Jiiva. The way ahead is to co-exist, he reasons.
Jiiva is starting the year with Sundar C’s Kalakalappu 2. But he already has an interesting pipeline of releases. First there is the delayed Kee. With an upcoming film strike, the release date is still unconfirmed. But Jiiva is confident, “Kalees is a good director. The film has come out well. I hope things with the producer council and strikes get sorted out soon.” Then there is the heist movie Gorilla, where the actor will be shooting with a trained chimpanzee from Thailand. The name Gorilla, however, is after the warfare style and not the animal clarifies Jiiva. And then, there is Gypsy with Rajumurugan. “I was looking for a film that isn’t necessarily off-beat but is different. Gypsy has different kinds of emotions and also a tinge of positivity.” He clarifies that he didn’t want to do a script where ‘different’ meant gory or violence. “Even after Kattradhu Tamizh, I did think that I could have done a film that had a pinch of positivity; it was too real,” says Jiiva.
The role is a very challenging one, reveals Jiiva. “The moment I heard the script knew I had to do this film. It is a really challenging role mentally and physically. But let’s enjoy it,” he admits. This is the first time Rajumurugan is working with a star — both Cuckoo and Joker had relatively newer names. And Jiiva is elated. “I am happy that Rajumurugan approached me as an actor. I felt happy that the actor is still there in me.”