In your Instagram, you mention #pronoia in your bio. What is it?
It is the opposite of paranoia. Pronoia means you believe that the universe conspires in your favor. I stumbled upon it when I was looking for a quote one day. I checked what it meant, and was immediately able to relate to it. I believe in it.
Dharala Prabhu was liked both by the audience and critics. But, due to unforeseen circumstances (Covid 19, and the resultant lockdown), its run was halted. How do you connect this with pronoia?
(laughs) Well, we cannot expect everything to be in our favour. We just continue to keep believing that everything will happen in our favour. But, of course, not all our desires come true. I must thank all critics. In the three days Dharala Prabhu was screened, the audience gave the film really good reviews. We thought the film might pick up. But, perhaps, the Universe had other plans. I don't know…
Are you a philosophical person? Are you detached from how a film does after release?
I am very emotional. The director (Krishna Marimuthu) called me a couple of days back in response to my encouraging messages to him. He told me that my optimism was like that of a football team coach. Anyway, I know that all of us have worked hard, and it is a big disappointment. I hope the film releases again. But, we cannot control piracy until then. Especially now, with the lockdown, everybody has the time to watch something at home. So, it's hard to predict. Yet, I have belief that the film will release again and do well. I am not sure if it will be a box office hit. At least, the idea in the film would have reached a larger audience.
Were you apprehensive about how Dharala Prabhu would be received by the audience, because its central idea is sperm donation?
At first, I thought it wouldn't work. When I watched Vicky Donor many years ago, I liked it as a film. But, I never expected that I would act in its remake. It's a tricky character to play. I was worried about the response from the audience. The director assured me that he was rewriting the script and adapting it for our audience. The rewritten script retained the essence of the original. These scripts carry the risk of failure. Even if a single dialogue had misfired, Dharala Prabhu would have become an adult comedy.
You did Sindhu Samaveli in 2010. A decade later, do you think the film will be accepted today? Would you do a film like that?
I am not sure, because execution is as important as the idea. I believe how a film is written and executed is important. Anyway, even if, say, Krishna Marimuthu came to me today, and suggested we make something like Sindhu Samaveli, I wouldn't do it. I think I've already taken a big risk with Dharala Prabhu. I don't want to experiment with every film.
Does that mean you're going to be doing more family-friendly films, given that the audience is larger?
Definitely, I will have to do it. Pyaar Prema Kadhal was for people between 18 and 30 years. I am not sure how well it connected with parents. Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum was an out-and-out, intense love story. I began feeling I was doing films for just one section of the audience. That's why I wanted to do Dharala Prabhu. It is a family film.
Do you feel yourself diversifying into rural films? It seems like a rite of passage for heroes.
Definitely. Vetrimaaran sir did Polladhavan, an urban story that did well. Aadukalam, set in Madurai, also did well. People have welcomed films such as Paruthiveeran for the newness, because they hadn't seen these people and landscapes before. I want to do such films. Even Kaadhal had depicted a slice of Madurai culture.
Actors are often slotted by looks. You could be slotted in the space that was occupied by Madhavan or Abbas, with a charming, lover boy image. Do you constantly get scripts written for that image?
I try to consciously avoid the image trap. I don't want to get slotted. Dulquer Salmaan has an urban look. An OK Kanmani is natural to him. But, he has also done Kammatipaadam and Charlie. In Malayalam, they don't care much about image. If I believe I can do justice to a rural film, I will definitely do it. If someone like director Sasi calls me to do a rural film, I'll do it. However, I won't do it for the sake of doing a rural film.