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Simple ... and simply successful

A spate of hits, yet Vijay is very quiet and calm about it all. As his next film, "Sachin," with Bipasha Basu is getting ready for release, MALATHI RANGARAJAN meets the hero, to find out what makes him tick ...



Vijay the unassuming winner ... — Pic. by K. Pichumani

THERE IS a pronounced modesty about Vijay. Taciturn to the core, here is a hero who will not utter a word more than he thinks necessary. The smiles he flashes in the course of the conversation are probably a bonus. Yet unassuming and courteous, he says: "True ... I'm the quiet kind. But I'm relaxed and jovial in my group. And till today my friends are those who were with me in college. We still keep in touch. Frankly, within the industry I don't have any friends."

A song sequence for his new film, "Sachin" is being shot and just as the conversation gains momentum Vijay is called to the set. He excuses himself for a few minutes ...

Prasad Studios, in Chennai, is abuzz with activity that morning. " `Sachin' is nearly complete except for two songs. The one that's now being shot on Vijay and Bipasha Basu and another which will be filmed abroad," a unit member tells you.

Amidst a bevy of skimpily clad lissom, young, junior artistes, taking centre stage for a song sequence for the April 14 release of his film "Sachin," are Vijay and Bipasha. This is the heroine's first Tamil venture and it is a judicious move on her part, for she is being paired with the most saleable commodity in the Tamil tinsel world today.

Thotta Dharani's lush and lustrous backdrop of a green, hilly range spells the right mood of romance. Patiently repeating the movements till they satisfy Ahmad, the choreographer, ("He is from Mumbai," the unit hand whispers) Vijay returns to continue from where we left off.

On "Sachin" ...

"Sachin" is slated for release on Tamil New Year's Day. The significance is more because the films of two Titans of cinema — Rajnikanth's "Chandramukhi" and Kamal Haasan's "Mumbai Express"— will be out on the same day. "We chose April 14 only because it is a festive occasion ... at that point I didn't even know that Mr. Rajni and Mr. Kamal were planning their releases. Anyway, they are on a different plane altogether. I'm too small a person in comparison. My track is very different ... if at all, I can compete with the heroes of today, not with giants like them. Some people are trying to make politics out of this ... but I know my limit and where I stand." Humble words from a hero who has given three hits in a row and is all set for the fourth.

"I've been doing action films for some time now. So I was looking for a romantic subject after `Thiruppachi' ... on the lines of `Kushi.' Director Mahendran's son John approached me with a family story that had an ample dose of romance with action. The incidents in the story appealed to me and I decided that I should do it." "Sachin" will be John Mahendran's first film. Young directors making their debut with Vijay is nothing new. The actor smiles, "Yes ... when I feel they have the potential I team up with them. Many such films have been big hits, sometimes they have bombed too ... "



With two heroines in tow, Bipasha Basu, "Sachin" will be yet another commercial fare from Vijay.

"Sachin" has two heroines, Genelia (of "Boys") and Bipasha Basu. Does Vijay prefer a new heroine for every film? Of course, Trisha has worked with him in two ... "No... I've worked in four films with Simran and in two with Jyotika. I don't interfere in the choice of heroines," Vijay corrects the impression.

Hits and misses

Vijay feels that it is only natural that hits make him happy as much as flops affect him. "It takes time to get over a failure. I immerse myself in the next project, yet the sadness lingers. A month or so of working in the new film and getting engrossed in it helps me get over the emptiness... you pin your hopes on certain films and when they don't do well it is disconcerting. Fazil's `Kannukkul Nilavu' is one such. The same team that made a winner with `Kadhalukku Mariyadhai' lost the game this time ... " Vijay recalls.

Vijay sticks to the usual hero roles, doesn't try out anything new in characterisation or get-up, it is often said... "I am not very keen on changing my appearance for a film. I'm not very sure how it will suit my face. Each actor takes a particular route, which works out well for him. I choose the commercial path — a mix of love, sentiment, action and comedy — and it has paid off. `Thirumalai,' `Ghilli,' `Madhurae' and `Thiruppachi' are examples. I may try it out at some stage. Then it will be my own film where the risk will be entirely mine. As of now I feel nobody wants to see me looking different. Vijay to viewers means a vibrant, jolly fellow who performs stunts, falls in love and is humorous. Wherever I go I ask my fans and they tell me exactly what I've told you now," he smiles. "Any way I work very hard and I believe that my parents' and fans' wishes and God's blessings see me through each venture."

While on the subject of appearance, you remember Vijay stating in a recent interview that despite not being a great looker people have accepted him. That speaks a lot about his humility ... "It's a fact ... and when I say I should not even think of comparing myself with big names like Mr. Rajni or Mr. Kamal, again it's not modesty, I really mean it ... "

The "Sukran" role

When he has been emerging a winner with every film, it is surprising that he took up a film like "Sukran" where sycophancy seems dominant. The larger than life image that director Chandrasekaran, Vijay's dad, had given him was rather unwarranted. "I did `Sukran' only for dad," Vijay explains with a candid grin. "After all I am what I am today only because of him ... he was the one who gave me my first break as hero ... "

If film direction has to be in his genes because of his father, he ought to have music in his blood, like his mother Shobha who is a singer herself. Vijay has rendered a few songs in films.

"I observe my directors on the sets ... the way they open a scene, the lens that is used and so on ... but that isn't enough. I have to work hard and equip myself before I embark on direction ... I plan to take it up one day," Vijay pauses and adds: "If a song suits my range I sing it. I cannot take up high-pitched numbers. As soon as the songs for my film are recorded and given to me I try them out. If I'm able to sing them and they want me to I go ahead ... otherwise I am not very particular."

Again Vijay has had no formal training in dance but it is a pleasure to watch the actor's footwork. "I used to do some dancing for the annual day programmes in school ... that was it. But I've had a yen for dancing." No wonder he is an ardent fan of John Travolta. "I like his style," he says.

Comedy has been Vijay's strong point in many of his films. " I feel completely free and relaxed when doing a comedy scene. Probably that's a reason why it clicks ... I'm a huge fan of the Goundamani-Senthil combo ... I've worked with them in my early films. I even have audiocassettes of their tracks and keep listening to them often ... " he laughs aloud for the first time.

Grapevine

"As long as it is light-hearted banter it's fine," feels Vijay. "But once it crosses limits it could affect the family and if the hero is married, such things upset the in-laws also. Again heroines suffer a lot when gossip mills work overtime ... after all we are human beings with feelings ... "

Relationship with the Press



With Genelia.

"The power of the media can never be underestimated. We could do a thousand new things and spend crores of rupees on them. But without the print, aural or visual media taking it to the people we would stand no chance. When reviews of my films are positive and point out matters that we may have overlooked I take note of them for future use ... we do need the media," he flashes a charming smile.

Next project

Vijay's next film will be "Sivakasi," an A. M. Ratnam production with Perarasu (of "Thiruppachi") as director. The actor is keen to work with filmmakers like Mani Ratnam and Shankar. When his wish comes true, it could result in some engaging fare for Vijay and his viewers.

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