Pasupathy talks about how he evolved the detailed body language of his central character Rangan Vaathiyar in Pa. Ranjith’s Sarpatta Parambarai (starring Arya), how growing up in the same milieu as the film helped him understand the role completely, and why an OTT release will not change the impact of an intense performance, in this interview with Baradwaj Rangan. Edited Excerpts…
You play a character called Rangan Vaathiyar in Sarpatta Parambarai. This is your first film with Pa. Ranjith. Did he give you a script or narration?
First he gave me a narration. He told me he could give me the script but the reason I didn’t even ask for it was because the film happens in Vannarapettai [in Chennai] where I was born and did my schooling. I was there for eighteen years before I moved out. So, I knew the culture completely: the body language, the speech, and the people. Many of my friends in school were from boxing families. So, I was very excited.
The film is about fifteen characters in that milieu and their relationship. I later read the script and understood my performance. I’ve seen similar characters to Rangan Vaathiyar too. My vision and the director’s coincided and we developed the character. I also add a few of my mannerisms.
How does Pa. Ranjith work with his actors. Some directors explain what they want in a performance while others might act the scene out to show it…
Ranjith would have an idea and discuss it with me. I rehearsed for a couple of days. If we work beforehand, we can get an idea of how we should perform collectively. The beauty of the film is that there are no individual scenes. Every scene will have twenty artists.
Pa. Ranjith and I work together to shape the performance. I can’t act if someone teaches me acting. Acting is not about imitation, we have to create it from the inside. Why am I needed if I just have to mimic someone? I will congratulate them on their acting skills and leave.
Ranjith has researched the milieu of the 1970s. Beyond that, because the boxing coach is a fairly cliched character, did you do some research of your own by meeting coaches, for example?
There’s a lot and I don’t want to reveal much. I’ve seen this particular character [Rangan Vaathiyar] several times in my life. A body language for the specific getup of his character also evolved. For example, the shoulder droops often for boxers, the character wears tight clothes and can’t lift his hand beyond a point, etc. There’s a special respect for Rangan Vaathiyar in his community because he has won important matches. He is respected by everyone even if they’re unhappy with him. I wanted something specific to show that.
We tried a paunch. The neck of boxers is also extended a certain way; I’ve used that. The character would look like someone who might pounce any moment. Whether he’s happy or sad, he’s always a bit irritated; he would smile only when his boxing clan eventually wins. That irritation will be seen throughout the film; it’s what drives him right to the final victory. It will reflect in the way the character stands, sits, and in all his behaviour.
The film is releasing on OTT. People talk about the big screen experience that we’ve grown up with. Is the effectiveness of a performance dependent on the screen size?
I think it depends on our perspective. As far as I am concerned, the performance is the same. People who’re used to the big screen might not have the same effect on a small screen. But the performance will reach them the same way. Most people see films on the mobile nowadays; it’s just a matter of habit. Also, most people have home theatres. So, I feel we shouldn’t worry about these things. If the performance is intense, it will reach the audience.