Vikram Prabhu, who makes his debut with Kumki, relives the experience of working on the film

Let’s not get into the fairness or otherwise of it. The fact remains that for Vikram Prabhu, the hero of Kumki, his debut involves much more than just travelling on and with an elephant. It includes the onus of a family background that’s imposing. Grandson of the great actor, Sivaji Ganesan, and son of one of our inimitable performers, Prabhu, the young man enters with a buzz that could be intimidating. The only poser on the lips of fans, who met Lingusamy and Prabhu Solomon at the recent birth anniversary celebrations of Ganesan, was “When will Kumki be released?” To them Kumki is more than a film. It is an eagerly awaited moment to watch an heir of the thespian on screen. Vikram realises the responsibility only too well.

Vikram says he’s a foodie, but the stills of Kumki show a well-toned physique. “I’ve lost 30 kg in four months. Fifteen, when I decided to get into acting and 15 after I signed Kumki.” But director Prabhu Solomon didn’t want him to hit the gym.

Vikram was wowed by the magnificence of the tusker as he walked towards it for the first time. He plays its mahout. “I was bowled over by its size!” Vikram knew that the task ahead wasn’t going to be easy. ‘Just do it Vikram,’ I told myself.” It was more about preparing himself mentally.

Physically too it was an exerting exercise. As the animal moved quickly through the forests, the nests of huge red ants on the trees broke on Vikram’s head and the insects stung him all over. “I wasn’t exactly ‘hurt, hurt’ but when the ants bit my forehead it was like a 100 tweezers pulling out my skin,” he relives the moment. “The actual problem was sitting on the elephant. It doesn’t sweat, it only let’s out heat. Imagine the impact on the mahout!”

Vikram saw the announcement in the papers calling for a hero to act with an elephant. “I felt an instant connect because Ganesha is my favourite God, and of course, it’s grandpa’s name,” he says. Almost at the same time, uncle Ramkumar walked towards him to point out the same ad to him. It seemed a good omen and Vikram left to meet Prabhu Solomon, almost at once. “He kept looking at me for five minutes, without saying a word. It was torture,” he laughs. At the end of it Solomon said, “I thought you’ll be chubby. You come closest to the character I have in mind. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

Next day when Thambi Ramaiah came over and told Prabhu that his son had bagged the role, the senior was flummoxed, as he didn’t know about the meeting between Vikram and Solomon.

Seventy-three days of shoot in all the four States of the South, duets with Lakshmi Menon, camaraderie with co-stars Thambi Ramaiah and Ashwin Raja and working with a massive creature — “An exhilarating experience on the whole,” he smiles.

The release of Kumki seems to be getting delayed. Says Vikram: “Immense toil has gone into its making. Prabhu Solomon strives for perfection. And CG for this kind of a film is bound to take time. We’ve worked hard and soon it will be out for all to see.”

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