Jayaprakash speaks about how he stumbled upon acting and how it drives his life today

His eyes light up when he sees a green car trundle down the road to his house. He’s tenderness personified as he polishes the much-loved car with his towel. And, finally, he’s the mature yet mischievous companion of his talkative wife. That, for you, is actor Jayaprakash in Pannaiyaarum Padminiyum, a love story that revolves around a landlord, his wife, his driver and the green Padmini car.

Six years ago, Jayaprakash was just a producer-turned-actor. Today, he’s the go-to man for any director on the lookout for an actor who can bring alive characters on screen — he’s shooting for about 15 films this year!

Even as he gracefully receives the bouquets coming his way for his turn as the golden-hearted Pannaiyar, Jayaprakash makes it a point to thank director-actor Cheran. It was he who forced him to take up acting with Maayakannadi. “Acting was nowhere on my wishlist,” says Jayaprakash. “But, when I watched my debut film, I was pleasantly surprised — with myself and everyone’s reactions.”

Then, the untrained actor honed his craft. “I am putty in the director’s hands, but I focus on certain things,” he says. He trains his thoughts on the look and behaviour of the character. And, the eyes. “Performance is in your eyes. When I watch movies, I always notice an actor’s eyes.”

Love for motor vehicles

Sometimes, he derives inspiration from life. The Pannaiyar’s open-mouthed fascination for the car mirrored the actor’s love for motor vehicles. He still remembers his Yamaha 350. “Even today, I wipe my car when the driver does not come,” he smiles.

Jayaprakash, who hails from Seergazhi, says he is fortunate to be in the industry at a time when experimentation is in. “Landing a good role is not easy,” he says. It helps that he has myriad experiences to draw from. He’s dabbled in many fields — dairy farming, petrol business, transport, billiards parlour…

In a way, says the actor, it is great that he started acting at 45. “I’ve been chiselled by life. I’ve seen joy, pain, success… they all come together on film.”

That’s also why despite the stardom, he has managed to hold on to his real self. “I shop for groceries, I go to the theatre, I take an auto… I don’t want to cut myself off from reality.” He says his family plays a huge role in keeping him grounded. “I also know that eventually, someone will replace me and I will hang up my boots.”

The actor smiles thinking of how he landed the lead in Pannaiyaarum… “Director Arun Kumar showed me the hugely popular short film. I was laughing at the end of it. I was doubtful if I could recreate that magic. But, he was confident. I am delighted to be part of a film that celebrates mature companionship. There’s mischief, tender bullying…and the comfort that comes from growing old together.”

Arun, he says, is “young, brilliant and disciplined.” The only focus was to make the film interesting. “That’s one thing I love about young directors, and I bond with them even after work.”

Jayapraksh also gives more importance to the script than the cheque book. “Probably, because I know the pain of being a producer. If the character is great, I do it,” he says. That’s how he’s signed up for Aaranju Mittai, a film by Biju Vishwanath produced by Vijay Sethupathi. “Biju told me: ‘It’s about 70-year-old Kailasam who has an attitude and lives life on his own terms’. That one line had me hooked. We start shooting in March, but I’m already thinking about the film every single day,” he says.

This year, Jayaprakash will also be seen in Raghava Lawrence’s Muni 3, where he plays a negative character, and essay yet another “memorable role” in Pasanga Pandiraj’s film with Simbu.

“The best thing about being an actor is the access to so many people, so many young teams, so many creative minds,” he says.

And then, Jayaprakash gets back to dreaming about Kailasam.