Ajith Kumar whose Arrambam is set for a Diwali release gets talking to Nikhil Raghavan about being a director’s actor, his upcoming production Veeram and his passion for racing, flying and photography

Billa (2007) was a landmark film for Ajith Kumar — a film that brought together director Vishnuvardhan and Ajith. The duo, during the making of the film, made up their minds to come together again sometime soon. Meanwhile, Vishnuvardhan got busy with his own projects and Ajith completed director Venkat Prabhu’s Mankatha, another huge hit, and Billa 2. The two have joined forces again and the result: Arrambam, a movie slated for a grand Diwali release. Ajith is busy with director Siva’s Veeram getting ready for an early 2014 release. Excerpts from an interview with the actor:

How would you describe your roles in Arrambam and Veeram?

The best part of both films is the diversity of roles. In Arrambam, my character is very stylish, on the lines of Billa and Mankatha. I play a mean guy —imagine a politically incorrect character. As with all A. M. Rathnam films, there will be a strong social message. Some of the issues dealt with are universal in nature.

As for Veeram, I play a rustic character, attired in a dhoti most of the time. I have enjoyed doing this action-oriented role; I think the last time I did such a role was in Attagasam.

What is the one thing that you look for in a role?

I consider myself a professional actor, paid to do the job — to enact the role as conceived by the director. Fortunately, in most of the films I have done so far, the scripts carried roles that suited me. I have progressed from youthful, romantic roles to action and now more mature ones. I do believe in the bound script but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you have to trust a director’s capability. I look for compatibility with the producer as well as the director. At the end of the day, we are all here to give our best and for me, there should be job satisfaction.

Are you a director’s actor? How much do you contribute to a film or a role?

I am driven by the director’s vision. As an actor, I do offer suggestions. I think if we use our talent to improvise within the area of acting, without infringing on the director’s creativity, it proves beneficial to the film. When there are no egos to tackle on the set, it makes life wonderful.

What has given you satisfaction — playing a romantic hero, an action hero or an actor with negative shades?

I have done my share of romantic films in my youth. I have grown older and insist that I will only play roles that suit my present looks, salt and pepper hair included. Luckily, Mankatha and Billa 2 came along. Now, in Arrambam and Veeram, the trend continues. Remember, doing characters with a slight negative shade does not take away the romance and fight out of you! I try to do roles I am comfortable with. Work is a motivation for me, irrespective of the character I play.

Health and fitness issues have plagued you in recent times. Despite the risks involved, why do you prefer to do most of the stunts yourself?

Accidents and injuries are part of this profession — call them occupational hazards. Thankfully, I have had good doctors who have helped me recover fast. Health and fitness are issues for anyone in any vocation. As for stunts, to an extent, we have to do them ourselves to lend them authenticity. Of course, there are professional stuntmen who are paid to do sequences and we as actors have always respected them. Many a time, they have come to our rescue too. Today’s audiences are very discerning and can spot a badly done stunt scene with doubles. So we have to give them their money’s worth when they come to watch our films.

Your love for speed and safe driving skills is a curious combination.

I have been both a bike and car racer since I was 18. I love speed but with caution. Having raced in India and abroad under internationally renowned drivers, I have learnt the art and the need to adopt safe driving practices. Today, when I ride my superbikes even on the road, I ensure I wear a helmet, gloves, boots and, on long drives, an overall. I plan to launch a website that will be updated with lots of advice, guidance and videos taken during my road trips on my two superbikes – BMW and Aprilia.

Issues related to society, environment… which is closest to your heart?

I believe if you are an honest taxpayer, that itself is a huge contribution to society. It’s the responsibility of the various government departments to use the taxpayers’ money for the benefit of society and the environment. I do my best for my family and personal staff. We co-exist — as much as they depend on me for their livelihood, my family and I depend on them too. I would not like to publicise my philanthropic activities.

Besides acting, you’re passionate about flying, aero-modelling and photography.

Due to several reasons, I couldn’t acquire a private pilot licence. I did the next best thing — aero-modelling. I have a collection of model aircraft which I fly from a private airstrip near Chennai. Post Arrambam and Veeram, I plan to undergo a long-pending surgery to repair a torn ligament in my leg. After this, I will go abroad on a six-month vacation to not just recuperate but also to indulge in aero-modelling at one of the leading centres. Photography is a passion and I think I have an eye for the unusual. I do not do this for any commercial reason, though.