Arun Vijay on consciously moving away from formulaic flicks and choosing films with good content
In the last four years, Arun has played pivotal roles in Gautham Menon’s cop story Yennai Arindhaal (2015), Arivazhagan’s crime thriller Kuttram 23 (2016), Mani Ratnam’s multi-starrer Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (2018) and now Magizh Thirumeni’s mystery thriller Thadam (2019).
Arun Vijay is 42 and like good wine, he has matured into a saleable star in Kollywood. It took him nearly 15 years to reach a stage in his career, where projects are designed around him. In the last four years, Arun has played pivotal roles in Gautham Menon’s cop story Yennai Arindhaal (2015), Arivazhagan’s crime thriller Kuttram 23 (2016), Mani Ratnam’s multi-starrer Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (2018) and now Magizh Thirumeni’s mystery thriller Thadam (2019). This has put him among the top 10 saleable stars in Kollywood. And he has an impressive list of films coming up for release.
In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, the elusive actor opens up:
You started as a hero when you were just 18 in 1995. How does it feel, looking back on your career from those early struggling days to today’s saleable star?
It feels great that my struggle has been recognised by the audiences and the industry. I’m soaking it in but not getting too excited about it. When I started out, I was too young, immature and made many mistakes like listening to too many people. I know the pain I underwent, and understand what failure means. I have matured over the years, which helped me to reinvent myself.
What made you change gears and move away from playing solo hero in Tamil cinema’s mass masala action hero films that catered to Tier 2 and 3 markets?
I realised five years back that the audiences are changing. They were accepting scripts which were innovative in presentation and realistic within the commercial cinema format. The perception of hero based formula films underwent a big change not only with the audiences but more importantly within the trade. The script and the content became the key to box-office success. I decided to do something different, out of the box and played the villain in Gautham Menon’s Yennai Arindhaal, and from then there was no looking back.
So you would say Yennai Arindhaal was the comeback film that made you not only an actor of substance but also a star?
Yes, Gautham Menon and Ajith sir gave me that long overdue break. Initially, I was reluctant to take up the film, as I have been playing the hero in all my earlier films. It was the last chance I was getting to make an image changeover and I finally decided to go ahead and do it. The character I played — the ruthless and mean Victor — was a turning point in my career. I would say it is my biggest break till now. It came to me at a stage when I had to prove myself. At the YA success meet, we were all given photographs of our respective characters. The portrait Gautham gave me had the word ‘war horse’ written on it by him; I was moved. And working with Ajith sir was itself a learning experience and it got me an altogether new reach.
But critics feel that your choice of scripts did the trick for you.
In the last five years, I have moved away from formulaic entertainers and have been taking up scripts with directors with proven track record of making quality films. My next release after YA was Kuttram 23 (directed by Arivazhgan), in which I played a cop, and the film worked because of its script. That’s the reason why I jumped at doing Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, a multi-starrer after hearing the first narration. To be honest, none of the actors in the film knew the ending, but I took it and it paid off handsomely. My idea of commercial cinema itself has changed. Today, in Tamil Nadu, if a film collects in the urban areas of 3 C’s – Chennai City, Chengalpet and Coimbatore, the film can be classified a hit.
How do you see your fans and audiences reacting to your choice of films?
They are looking at me with more respect and giving me a lot of love. I’m still growing, I believe there’s a lot more to achieve. Some directors and producers are offering me ridiculous amounts to sign new films, but none of them are exciting. I’m also getting good scripts and I think that comes from the films that I have done in the last few years. That’s why I take time to finalise my scripts.
So you have stopped doing films as a solo hero with a lot of heroism?
My latest film Thadam is a solo hero film with a different type of script by Magizh Thirumeni and it worked big time at the box-office. I have taken a conscious decision to move away from typical formula flicks and do films which have good content.
You are a very good dancer and one of the highlights was your dancing in your films. Who can forget dance songs like ‘Dilruba’ ...
Today, the number of songs itself has come down. When I started out in late 90s, there used to be six to seven songs in a film which came down to four by 2010 and now it’s only one or maximum two mostly in the background. The way films are made itself has changed, and we have to adapt ourselves to change. Once in a while, I still dance which I thoroughly enjoy like the 'Adhaaru Adhaaru' dance song in YA with Ajith sir.
You are doing a lot of films at the moment?
I’ve got Agni Siragugal with Moodar Koodam-fame director Naveen. It’s a wonderful script and it also has Vijay Antony in an important role. After that, I’ve got Boxer, a sports film and then with debutant director Gopi where once again, I’ll be playing a cop in it. Then, there’s the big-budget, technically slick Prabhas’s Saaho, directed by Sujeeth. I play a crucial stylish character called Manoj with some grey shades. It was wonderful working with so many big stars from Telugu and Hindi films.
Is it true that you are doing a film with noted young director Karthik Naren (Dhruvangal 16 and Nargasooran)?
Let us say I’m in discussion with him; if it happens it will be great.
Let us talk about the controversies surrounding you, like the “drunk-driving incident”.
It was an accident that was blown out of proposition. And certain people who are hostile to me framed me up. The media made a hue and cry and do you know the court cleared me of all charges as the police could not prove anything. Like I said, it was cooked up but the media did not make it headlines when I was discharged of all charges. Anyway, l have moved on. I believe my work will speak for itself.
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