After Teddy, Arya-starrer Sarpatta Parambarai had a direct OTT release on Amazon Prime Video. The actor talks about how he convinced Pa. Ranjith to cast him in the film, learning to stand on his head within a month to get the role in Bala's Naan Kadavul, and the secret to a long career as an actor, in this interview with Baradwaj Rangan. Edited Excerpts…
You've always projected a sporty image. For example, you've done a cycling tour of France and maintained your physique over the years. When Ranjith told you that he wanted to make Sarpatta Parambarai with you, what was your first feeling on doing a sporting film finally?
I knew that Ranjith had a boxing script. I have been practicing boxing as a sport for a few years. I wanted to experience an explosive sport. However frustrated you are, if you punch the punching bag a couple of times, you feel liberated. I've also watched many matches of Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. I contacted Ranjith through Kalaiyarasan and told him that I'd meet his expectations. After six months, he told me the story. I was very excited because it was my dream to do a sports film, especially a contact sport.
What was your feeling when Bala offered you Naan Kadavul? You were just a few films old…
When Bala sir called me to speak about the film, I thought that I'd get a small character. He showed me a photo of the sirasaasana pose where you stand on your head. He asked me if I could do it. I told him that I could try. He gave me a month to do it.
My yoga master told me to come at 5 AM the next morning. He started with breathing exercises when I showed him the photo. He told me that it would take me a year to get there (laughs). I practiced by myself on the bed by leaning against a wall. That's how I got into that project.
Your look in the film was very 70s. You looked like yourself but also very different, a bit like seeing someone's father…
(laughs) Actually, when my family saw my look in the film they showed me an old picture of my father where I looked exactly like him. So, it's very true what you said.
You've been around since 2015, a fairly long career. What is the secret of a long career?
From my experience, you need luck or family background to get a break. By God's grace, Jeeva sir introduced me in Ullam Ketkumae. Beyond that, it's your work. Everyone works hard but somewhere you need to connect with the audience. There's no reason for it, I can only say it's God's grace. I feel there are thousands of people who are talented and better looking than I am, but some characters I played helped me connect with the audience. I try to stay connected with people. And you definitely need a bit of luck. By luck I mean that you need to get a good script. Someone like Bala sir could have gone to any actor [for Naan Kadavul].
If you had one favorite film of yours?
Madrasapattinam and Naan Kadavul. Madrasapattinam was beyond my budget but AGS Entertainment was willing to make the film with me. That's what I mean by luck.
How did you ace the Madras Tamil dialect in Sarpatta?
We had forty five days of workshop. We rehearsed several scenes and also practiced the dialect. People who are from the Sarpatta boxing clan gave us lessons. The fishermen community didn't have access to gyms and punching bags; they did real work. We were trained by them. All the actors took boxing training. A national level boxer called Thiru and another person called Santhosh trained me.