It’s now time to reap the benefits of my 23-year career: Arun Vijay

It’s been more than two decades since Arun Vijay made his debut with Sundar C’s Murai Mappillai (1995). The actor has now touched the 25-film mark with Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. Terming the current period as his time in the spotlight, Arun Vijay talks about his career, and how he’s learned from his mistakes.

Excerpts from the conversation:

What was it like listening to Mani Ratnam’s narration?
I had been waiting for that moment for several years; it’s a dream for every actor. Mani sir narrated the entire story and also what my character would be bringing to the narrative. He gave me several inputs that helped me transform into Thyagu.

Did you have qualms about being part of an ensemble cast?
I knew the scope of the film from Mani sir’s narration, so I had no doubts. It was a very healthy atmosphere for me as an actor. We worked with no egos. The experience was very positive.

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you want to carve a specific space for yourself. Can you elaborate?
Every actor has a position in the industry. But beyond that, one should have a place in the audience’s hearts. That is what I am travelling towards. However, one can’t push for things to happen. If you put in genuine effort, eventually, it will happen. Until then, I have to keep proving myself as a good actor with everything I do.

Doing only 25 films in a career spanning 23 years is a rather unconventional choice.
It was difficult. I entered the cinema industry when I was 17. Everything happened so fast and I didn’t know how to decide. Several people asked me why I was doing only one film at a time. They advised me to pick up more projects as one never knows what might end up working. But I was clear about the kind of films I wanted to do and I stuck to that. That is helping me now. Had I done many films back then, I would have been overexposed. Instead, I used these 23 years to learn, to grow and make informed decisions. Now, it is my time to reap the benefits of all that.

Kuttram 23, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, Thadam — your recent films have all been in the action/thriller genres.
I am not worried about stereotypes. My role in CCV, before Thyagu’s transformation, was quite new for me. If you take Thadam, there is not much action in the film. The plot and screenplay are new and the film functions in a ‘what next’ zone. But this doesn’t mean I shy away from different genres. I am always open to something new and fresh.

How has your script-selection process changed over the years?
Earlier, I used to focus on my part. How is my role different, what can I experiment with it? Now, my view is more holistic. I look at the entire story and then see what my character adds to that narrative. I am very objective when I listen to the story. I follow all the characters and see how engaging the script is.

Is it possible for an actor to balance protagonist roles with villain roles?
The audience views actors differently these days. I was able to do a Kuttram 23 after Yennai Arindhal, and both were successful. If, as an actor, you do justice to the roles you pick, it will automatically help you achieve star status.

Why then are stars not very willing to play negative characters?
It is a difficult task to accept them when you have done lead roles; one has to be mentally prepared. I too had my inhibitions initially. But I was able to overcome these and do Yennai Arindhal, thanks largely to the team. And luckily, that film worked for me. Otherwise, it would have been immensely difficult to bounce back.

It is rumoured that you play a villain again in Saaho…
I can’t talk about what I am doing in the film, except to say that it is a key character. I am sure it will help me make a mark as an actor. It was a great experience working with Prabhas and the actors from Bollywood. I had to learn Hindi for the film (a trilingual), and that was an interesting experience too.

This was originally written for The New Indian Express. You can find it here.

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