Atharvaa believes he's on a strong pitch this year. Though his previous release Semma Botha Aagathey didn't work for the critics, he's confident about Imaikkaa Nodigal. "When I started out, I wanted to prove myself as an actor and took up challenging projects including Paradesi. Eventually, I realised the audience like someone who entertains them. So, I am looking to achieve that in my upcoming films. I'm, of course, taking it a bit slow because one Friday, it's me, and the other it's someone else."
For now, Atharvaa is all gung-ho about the Ajay Gnanamuthu directorial, which marks the acclaimed filmmaker Anurag Kashyap's debut as an actor into Tamil cinema.
Excerpts from a conversation follow:
Baana Kaathadi (2010) was your first film. How has the journey been to you so far?
I've always been clear about the kinds of films I do, and how I want to pursue them. In the beginning, I was comfortable doing one film at a time. In fact, Paradesi took two years! Now, I manage multiple films. I'm in the space where I can choose scripts that I really like. Honestly, I wish I had more than 24 hours in a day. (Laughs)
Did you say that because you also produce films these days?
Not really. Both (acting and production) are different things. I enjoy acting. At the same time, I am extremely passionate about producing films. It's not an easy job. But if you think it's just a number game, it can disappoint you. My maiden production venture, Semma Botha Aagathey was a successful film, indeed. We made more money than what we had invested.
Let's discuss Imaikkaa Nodigal.
I play a doctor in the film. Director Ajay Gnanamuthu wrote Imaikkaa Nodigal around 2013 — even before Demonte Colony happened. When he pitched in the story, I wasn't sure of many things. I myself was a newcomer, and I didn't know if I could handle such a big film. Then, we couldn't find producers; there were budget constraints. Meanwhile, I had asked him to make a few changes to the script.
By the time everything fell into the place (after the release of Eetti and Kanithan), we revisited the film. I was happy with the way Ajay had reworked on it. The story revolves around three characters and how their lives intersect. As a team, we've made an intelligent-emotional film. It doesn't fall under your regular template but has everything from thrill, romance, action, revenge and so on. We shot almost for a year. I had a whale of a time shooting live-cycle stunts on a flyover in Bengaluru.
How was it working with Anurag Kashyap?
We all know he's a great director, but I didn't know he could act effortlessly. I'm a huge fan of his films and I like how he goes out of his way to promote quality cinema. I was starstruck when I met him. He's very chilled out. It's hard to see a person of such stature being humble. It's easy to connect with him and there was so much positivity on the sets when he was around. He also distributed Paradesi in north India. In addition, he has huge regards for Bala sir.
Did you teach him Tamil?
(Laughs) I did! But hey, he had a trainer, who made his job easier. Despite not knowing the language, I saw Anurag sir put in a lot of effort to pull off the character. He and I have a few terrific fight sequences, which you can watch out for. He's worked hard on that, too.
Moving on, tell us about Boomerang. The title sounds intriguing.
I get bored easily, so I make sure I've something different for me to experience in every film. I knew I wanted to do Boomerang when Kannan narrated me the script. It's an action-entertainer, and I sport three different looks. It was challenging to shoot because I had to sit for hours to do the prosthetics. We had award-winning makeup technicians Preetisheel Singh and Mark Troy D'Souza on board who spent nearly 12 hours to finalise my look. I still remember the day when I got to attach a tiny tube to my nose as I couldn't breathe due to cold.
You also have Oththaiku Oththa and 100 in your kitty.
The former is about three years of college and student-politics. It's a film everyone can relate to. I never got to study in a college. Ippo andha kurai enaku illa. (Laughs) The latter is a cop story.
Ten releases in eight years. I think you're being choosy.
No, I do films that I truly believe in. I'm ambitious, and I know I've become better with every film.
Would you do an intense film like Paradesi again?
Absolutely. Paradesi was a life-changing experience, and whatever I am today is because of that. Thanks to Bala sir. But I must confess that the film had a huge effect on me. There had been days where I used to come home in the evenings by 7, have dinner and pass out in half an hour. I was depressed for a while because I took the character too seriously. It took me months to come out of it. A film like Paradesi doesn't happen to you often. It was worth all the pain and effort. Enna paththi enakke theriyadha pala vishayangal Bala sir puriya vechchaaru.
When you were young, you wanted to become a pilot.
Oh, yes. I think I can still pursue the course. Innum time iruku!
Do you've plans of venturing into direction?
I've not really thought about it. And I don't know what the future holds for me.
Who's your favourite director?
Mani Ratnam sir. I hope someday I'll get to work with him.