Edited excerpts below:
As a director, you are someone who acts to explain the scenes to the actors. Would you call that acting or conveying it to one person? And did any of those skills come to use when you became an actor yourself?
You got it right. It's completely to convey what I have in mind to the actors. Instead of talking, I believe in portraying a bit and showing it to them so that it will give them a strong foundation. Once they get their foundation, an actor can improvise. But I can't call that acting. When it comes to standing in front of the camera, it's a completely different experience, learning process and path. So, none of it helps.
When Arun Matheswaran pitched Saani Kaayidham to you, were you confused about taking it up at all? Did he tell you what made him decide you should be the lead character in a film like this?
I immediately said yes. I loved the script and I thought it would be good. I never met Arun Matheswaran before, the first time I met him was during the narration. I'd asked him, "why me?" He said he'd written the whole character with me in mind. So, I felt okay, why not, let's try it.
When you look at Dhanush's interviews from the 2000s, he always says it's all Selvaraghavan. When you have influenced him so much and now when you watch yourself perform, did you see any hints or traces of Dhanush in your performance?
Yeah, it should be there because we're brothers. My job is not to bring any elements like that to the film. It is more about the character than individual identification.
You have mentioned that on the sets of this film you wanted to take a back seat with regard to the direction. You wanted to just get involved as an actor. Can you tell me more about that process and why you decided to do that?
I think everyone does it. As a filmmaker, I know completely how important it is to give the filmmaker his space and follows what he demands. He would've lived with the film for a long and we come in the last few months to the film. So he knows it best.
When you're acting, are you seeing any traces of characters you've written or are you intentionally trying to separate the two?
To tell you the truth, I haven't tried anything. To me, it's Sangaiah (His character name in Saani Kaayidham) and his life. So, let's get into the episodes of the character. Nobody can portray the complete life of a character in a film. We can only portray glimpses and parts of it. So, when I'm playing a totally different guy, let's try to think like him rather than carrying baggage like past experiences and characters. I was fresh about the character and that's one of the fascinating things about acting.
Are you enjoying the process of being on another director's sets?
If I wasn't enjoying it, I would've walked out of the sets on the second day. More than enjoying, it's about learning so much. So, that is what pulled me more and more into it.
Usually, when you're writing your films you will have a pattern to figure out the character and you will know that person in and out. When you're trying to play another character, did you require the same amount of information, or did you just listen to Arun and develop the character as it went along?
It's tougher. When you write a character, you're already into it, you already know what this guy does. Here, it's a completely different process, you just listen once, and you must do it and patiently you have to go through every single element. You have to sit with the filmmaker and try to know as much as possible about the character even how he might sneeze, or he might walk. Because meeting a person for three months and trying to replicate him isn't going to be easy at any time. I just followed the character description and how I wanted to portray the character.
When you're choosing scripts, do you intend to do films you would enjoy but maybe not something you would direct or is it in between, an extension of your films and the films you love to make?
It's something else totally. The filmmaker in me should be forgotten and erased during that course of time. That's fascinating and new to me as I'm a completely different person. Because anyways you're tired of living the same monotonous life for the past twenty-five years. I'm fortunate and grateful to God that this happened. It's an altogether different experience. I want to go as a blank slate rather than carrying any baggage.
So, you'll be doing all types of films, from full-fledged comedies to extreme thrillers and all kinds of roles as an actor?
Sure, whatever comes in my way and is interesting, and if time permits, yes.
So, this is your first direct OTT release, had you been given this option from the beginning, is there any film of yours that you may have cut differently or released as a mini-series?
I would've made Aayirathil Oruvan (2010) and Pudhupettai(2006) as a series. It has still got potential and can be done as a sequel. If we do it, it'll be completely different, and we'll have more freedom. I think one day we'll get to do both as a series. I would love to do it.