Parthiepan, who has kept his fans guessing for a while, is coming up with a clutch of films. subha j rao catches up with the actor-director

He struck gold 22 years ago with his debut Pudhiya Padhai, a gritty tale of a ruffian and the girl who reforms him. It won a National Award. A couple of ‘clean' films and box office failures later, he struck back with the commercial Ulle Veliye. That was to become a pattern of sorts — a classy creation followed by mass fare.

Following the debacle of Kudaikul Mazhai and Pachai Kudhirai, the director-actor is back with Vithagan, where “you'll keep guessing if I'm the cop or the don”, says Parthiepan. The film is due for an August-end release. “Failure is crushing, but you can't let that stop you. There's no place for hesitation before you immerse yourself in a new project,” he says.

Despite mixed fortunes, Parthiepan is gung-ho about the film that stars him and Poorna. “It is commercial, but about a battle of brains. You won't see me beating 20 goons,” he laughs.

Parthiepan has the distinction of playing the lead in all his 10 films, besides acting under other directors. When did he realise there was an actor lurking inside him? “Acting was my passion. But, in the toss-up between poverty and direction, the latter won. My first producer insisted I act. Later, most actors I approached for my films felt I suited the role better. I was a reluctant actor, but some films have brought out facets of me even I did not know existed,” he says.

Working under others was “difficult and fraught with tension”, the actor-director concedes. “But, after a lot of struggle, I realised only one person can dominate. Now, I don't feel threatened, I don't interfere and I don't even look at the monitor.” That attitude helped when he played a Chola prince guarding a lost tribe in Aayirathil Oruvan. His performance wowed critics, and he gives all credit to director Selvaraghavan. “With him, I surrendered as an actor — we are both abstract thinkers,” he says.

Sequel to Azhagi

Parthiepan is now in creative overdrive — he is planning a sequel to the much-feted Azhagi. “Thangar Bachan (the original director) gracefully allowed me to develop Shanmugathin Dhanalakshmi. I'm in talks with Nandita Das, but she's asked for time — her son is too young. It'll be nice to take the tender love story forward,” he says.

Then, there's the Malayalam Melvilasam, starring him, Suresh Gopi and Thalaivasal Vijay, based on a court martial. “I'm dubbing it into Tamil as Ulvilasam, and will release it after Vithagan.

It's been a while since he's seen success. But, Parthiepan is not low on confidence. “The creator in me has always been alive. Only, I now run at double the speed. I've to make up for the lost time. I am answerable to those who've pinned their hopes on me,” he states.

About Vithagan, Parthiepan says it is his ode to commercial cinema. “Also, after a long time, the songs have turned out really well, thanks to Joshua Sridhar.”

Unfazed by setbacks

The actor, whose fortunes suffered due to crises in his personal life, is a master at coping. “I moved from a bungalow to a flat. I've reduced my needs. I'm happy if I make enough to raise my children Abinaya, Keerthana and Raaki well. They've been wonderful, accepting change without complaining.”

Frank-speak is one of Parthiepan's characteristics. About the burden of expectation, he says, “I don't know if people want to see the ‘regular' me or as someone else. Am I caught in an image trap?”

What next? A movie on the lines of the thrilling, yet tender, National Award-winning Housefull? “I've some scripts ready. There's one featuring 20 characters; I'm just one of the actors.” He'd also like to act in a film such as The Pursuit of Happyness. “I don't like to adapt movies, but if someone approaches me to act, why not?”

His best role so far? “Being a dad. That's what I cherish the most.”

His take

Pudhiya Pathai: Made with the arrogance of youth and with a fire to succeed.

Ulle Veliye: I’m proud of this commercial baby. It is formulaic, but timeless.

Pudhumai Pithan: Highly underrated, but I greatly identified with my character.

Aayirathil Oruvan: Took me out of my comfort zone. Working without a reference point was challenging.

Vithagan: I’ve given it my all. After a long time, I had a great time acting too.

Keywords: ParthiepanVithagan