The deep baritone sets Sampath apart. So does his imposing height and well-toned physique. And suddenly he is ubiquitous. His latest release is ‘Aasal.’
The actor is still to get over the hospitality showered on the crew by Sivaji Films, the makers of ‘Aasal.’ “Can you believe it? In Paris, where we were shooting, we were served hot sambar and potato fry for lunch! Apart from being a committed actor, Prabhu is a perfect host,” he goes on.
Suave villain, loud henchman, rustic baddie -- Sampath has proved that he can make his presence felt in every role he portrays. ‘Thamirabarani’ with Nadiya is an example. And now adding another dimension to his performing skill is the recent ‘Goa,’ where he plays the mascara-sporting, gay partner of Arvind Akash. “People warned me about taking it up. ‘You could get typecast,’ they warned. But I liked the challenge the role offered. After the release I’ve been flooded with congratulatory calls from big names in the industry. And I’ve not lost out on my female fans either,” he guffaws.
Having been a marketing professional for a decade, Sampath seems to know what would tick. “And when Venkat Prabhu was confident I could pull it off I went ahead,” he says about the ‘Goa’ experience. In fact, though he has been playing the stereotypical villain in a score of films in the past eight years, it is Venkat Prabhu who has used him differently in each of his projects. As the rough but affectionate elder brother of Shiva in ‘Chennai -28’ and as the levity-loving kidnapper in ‘Saroja’ who stylishly shakes a leg with Nikita, Sampath showed that he can do much more than unadulterated villainy.
Sampath’s colleague in Mumbai, where he was working, was gay. “I transferred all the mannerisms I had noticed in him to the ‘Goa’ character,” smiles Sampath. But he should be flooded with different roles now because he has transcended the level of playing the predictable villain. Sampath pauses for a moment. “Actually, no, but I’m biding my time. I’ll continue to play the usual characters too because it’s a question of survival and I can’t afford to be very choosy,” is his candid take.
His association with Venkat Prabhu dates back to ‘Neranja Manasu,’ the Vijayakanth film that had Sampath debuting in a dual role. “[Venkat] Prabhu also acted in it. We hit it off instantly,” recalls Sampath. Seeing Sampath comfortable in the colloquial Madurai accent in the film, Venkat Prabhu kept telling him that he has the ability to tackle any role. Little did the two imagine that the former would soon successfully wield the megaphone and find a substantial role for the latter in every project!
Sampath is working in more than half dozen films now. “First-timer Kumararaja has given me a mind-blowing role in ‘Aaranya Kaandam.’ Again director Raju’s ‘Varnam’ has me playing a fabulous character. I’m also doing a very different role in ‘Katradhu Kalavu.’ I love to project a new look in every film but when I’m involved in more than five projects at a time, it isn’t possible.”
For a person with no cinema background whatsoever, Sampath has his career well chalked out. “Initially mom’s main worry was ‘If you become an actor what will others say,’” he smiles. And at that point Sampath didn’t have the courage to go against her wish. After a decade in the field of space and time selling, marriage and a daughter, his mother relaxed thinking his responsibilities would not allow him to think of changing tack. “Little did she know the depth of my passion. My dad, a doc in the Army, always said, ‘Pursue your dream.’ I decided to.” His chortle conveys a lot.
Sampath began with a couple of Kannada films -- he lived in Bangalore then – but soon shifted to Chennai. And today the mother is happy with her son’s choice. “‘Why don’t you play hero,’ she asks. I’m one in real life. Let me be anti at least on screen, I quip,” he chuckles.