Musician-actor ‘Hiphop Tamizha’ Adhi’s Naan Sirithal, directed by Raana, releases this Valentine’s Day, and he says that unlike his previous films Meesaya Murukku and Natpe Thunai, this one pushed him as an actor. While he’s been composing music for several films, including the recent Action, Mr. Local and Imaikkaa Nodigal, Adhi says he would like to take a break and focus on an independent hip-hop album. And, someday, he hopes to create a platform for hip-hop music in South India. Excerpts from a conversation…
It was your dream to become an independent music artiste. Was acting ever a part of your dream?
I won’t say I never dreamt of it. As an artiste, you want to become like Michael Jackson. Maybe, I didn’t want to be an actor specifically, but yes, I wanted to become a star.
At what stage did you start taking acting seriously?
Maybe, from Naan Sirithal. In Meesaya Murukku, I was more Adhi than an actor. That was the case even in Natpe Thunai. The roles were similar to how I was in real life. But Naan Sirithal is a completely different ballgame. I am a different person in the film. You won’t see shades of my real personality. I play a character called Gandhi. It is the first time I had to endure the mental pain of syncing with a character, and being a completely different person in front of the camera. I found that difficult, sometimes, but I began to enjoy the process. I think I am a quick learner. I have a hunger for learning new things. Right now, I have a hunger for acting.
Naan Sirithal is very entertaining. In the first half, you will laugh with my character. In the second half, whenever he laughs, you will have mixed emotions. I had a very tough time getting into the character’s shoes, and coming back to real life after the shoot. But, it was fine once I figured out the process.
Has your acting career affected the amount of time you devote to music?
Not at all. I don’t look at music as a job. It remains my passion, my dream. Once I was living my dream, I took a call that music doesn’t have to be my job too.
It’s the same with acting. I do only one movie a year, when I can actually do three or four. It’s because I travel along with the movie. My philosophy is very simple: whatever you do, put everything you’ve got into it. Success and failure is a part of the process, and does not eventually matter. Give it your 100%. For Natpe Thunai, I wanted to learn hockey. I could have just acted as a hockey player. But, I wanted to learn the game. I am here because of the love of my fans and friends. I want to repay their love with sincerity. If I am a hockey player, I need to look convincing on screen. I cannot cheat those who have given me so much love. So, I wanted to learn hockey, which was a four-month-long process. Before we began to shoot Naan Sirithal, I spent a month-and-a-half with the director to learn about the character. This preparation is what I believe in.
I am working on an independent hip-hop album next. My well-wishers tell me I am foolish, especially from a financial perspective, to do this after having acted in three films… but that is who I am. I started out as an independent artiste. Some people want me to at least do film music. But, independent music is music too. I want to take a break, work on an album, and then come back to making film music.
Did you feel your music was changing too much to suit cinema?
That was true until I did Meesaya Murukku, after which I felt like I got the steering wheel back in my hands. If you take Natpe Thunai, it has three full-length rap songs in the soundtrack. Even the work I did with Anirudh was only for a filler. This is changing now. In Naan Sirithal, there are a few bars of rap in the song ‘Thom Thom’. But what I really want to do is proper hip-hop. I want to do something for the hip-hop scene in South India.
Being an actor has its perks. If you ask someone from Madurai if they know what ‘hip-hop’ is, they might identify it with a person, not a genre. If you look at my old interviews, I would have hoped that I would be able to someday do a complete rap song in a film. That has already happened. I believe there will come a day when independent music will be a parallel industry.
How much of the credit for your success will go to the Internet? Also, you’ve been introducing several people from YouTube in acting…
When I started rapping for college audiences, there was no YouTube. In 2006, I created an account, but had to tell people that there was something called YouTube where they could watch me perform. Videos weren’t even monetised back then. We got money only through shows. But, over time, YouTube offered us a platform and we were able to get some revenue from it. When I see youngsters stuck in the same place I was in 10 years ago, I want to give them a platform. Many of them are more talented than I am. This is how I see it — I have a car that is under my control and it’s going somewhere. Why should it go without passengers? I make sure everyone has room in the car, we all drive together, have fun along the way, and reach the destination together.