Vishal’s Naan Sigappu Manithan is yet another attempt to break away from his image. He talks to Silverscreen about movies, life, friends and finding the new actor in him.
Vishal is doing a lot of soul-searching these days. He is eager to tease out the actor in him, push frontiers and better his craft. So, when director Thiru told him the story of a man who sleeps when he is roused by extreme emotions, he googled all the possible material available on Narcolepsy. He went on YouTube and earnestly studied up on real-life case studies. And then he went all the way to bring the Narcolepsy affected Indran in Naan Sigappu Manithan to life. He admits it was not easy- “The biggest challenge was to fall asleep convincingly. You can’t do that with your eyes wide open. I didn’t have any reference from cinema as it’s never been done before. It was also difficult to pretend as if you can’t hear the dialogues considering you are sleeping,” he tells me. Was it emotionally draining? “Yes it was exhausting but it hurt me physically as well. I would fall on my face face many times. It was harrowing.” But he is not complaining. Far from it. In fact, he very is pleased at how he managed to pull it off.
Vishal credits Avan Ivan for this new bravado as an actor. And he unapologetically keeps bringing the film into our conversation. It’s like his own little Bible. After all, it’s the defining movie in his life and the reason he stopped signing mindless action films. After playing the squint eyed, effeminate Walter Vanangamudi, his career and his outlook took a 360 degree turn. He stopped being complacent and started looking out for good scripts- “I realised that it makes a difference to step away from your comfort zone. As an actor it gives me an incredible high and I just don’t want to stop doing it. Bala sir asked me to put 13 kgs for Avan Ivan and he said he wanted to introduce me as a heroine. That was an epiphany for me,” he recalls.
Naan Sigappu Manidhan is also getting mileage for the underwater kissing scene between Vishal and Lakshmi Menon. If he was at the receiving end of it at last week’s press meet, he is not showing it- “There is little I can do about it. It was not meant as a publicity gimmick. It’s an integral part of the screenplay. It’s not a James Bond kind of lip lock. Any publicity is good publicity but my concern is that the audience shouldn’t come just for this or think that this is the only focus of the film,” confides the actor. NSM is Vishal’s second film from his production house, Vishal Film Factory after the successful Pandianaadu last year. How difficult was it to juggle between the two roles? “I was pretty clear. I took good care of my team, shoots were on time and Thirru is a producer’s delight. This maturity came from working with Bala sir and Pandiya Naadu,” he admits adding that ever since he has turned producer, he has started to view the tribe more kindly. As a producer, what are the kind of films he want to create? “I want to be open minded and produce all kinds of movies. It would be dangerous to fall into the trap of ‘being different’ every time,” and goes on to add, “Our company will be focusing on discovering new talent.” His next is a “super commercial” film with Director Hari and another one with Suseenthiran, who directed Pandiya Naadu. [quote align=’right’]He unapologetically keeps bringing Avan Ivan into our conversation. It’s like his own little Bible, the defining movie in his life and the reason he stopped signing mindless action films. After playing the squint eyed, effeminate Walter Vanangamudi, his career and his outlook took a 360 degree turn.[/quote]
Stardom is an illusion
For Vishal, stardom is a relative term. He has experienced it and loves it but he is also aware it won’t last long- “It’s good though there are shortcomings. I speak for myself when I say that I do everything I want to do as a normal human being. Be it hanging out at my favourite café or trekking to North India after every film.”
But having said that, being an actor tops his all-time high list. There isn’t anything he likes or knows better – “I am a movie addict. You throw me out of a film set and I would probably land up in rehab. There is no alternate profession for me,” he assures me. The movie devotee in him religiously catches most of the films, first day first show and of course a Rajnikant film calls for a celebration. Does he get into a disguise? Won’t he get mobbed? The humble persona resurfaces – “Unless it is a Madurai or Theni, they won’t bother you much.”
He seems to be living it up at the Celebrity Cricket League matches, captaining a team of friendly actors and is known never to lose his cool. What’s the vibe he shares with rival teams? Does he see an attitude change in actors from other industries? “CCL is like a family reunion for us, a great stress buster. There is a strong bond that is not usually seen on a film set. It’s like going back to a boy’s hostel (laughs). It’s funny but there are superstars in all teams but on the field, we are just buddies, no one is star struck. Usually we only get to meet actresses from other industries but here we get to meet actors,” he quips. Off the pitch also he is known to be a friend’s friend, generous to the core, finding them roles in his films. Like the time he offered an important role to his good friend actor Vikrant (actor Vijay’s cousin) in Pandiya Naadu or even gamely agreeing to be part of multi starrers –“I can’t do without my friends. We don’t discuss films. Like the last time I met Arya, I remember ribbing him about an ad he did. He mercilessly criticises me as well,” he tells me.
Does he keep tab of everything written about him in the media? “I do keep track of it. More than me my dad is my biggest fan and even keeps cut outs of my link up news,” he laughs. Has there been instances when he wanted to clear a few stories about him? “Yes, when it gets too personal. I remember the time when I went to the Himalayas, a paper said I was depressed and was taking spiritual help. Then when they said I had taken Shriya Saran along with me to Himalayas! It was funny,” admits Vishal.
Considering his action hero image on screen, you automatically think he is into gadgets and fast cars. But, gadgets are not on his favourite list- “I can just about switch on my DVD player. I love cars though. But travelling is what I love most,” he says adding that he is not on twitter either.
Finally, what’s his idea of a perfect life? As expected his philosophy in life is disconcertingly simple -“Just like everyone I too keep wanting more and more. A perfect life depends on what you want professionally and personally. So long as you know where your priorities are, life becomes happy. I want a happy life not a perfect life,” he smiles. As we wind up our chat, Vishal reminded me of what James Dean said- “Being a good actor isn’t easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I’m done.” He is well on his way.