Actor Vemal on his latest film Vaagai Sooda Vaa, cherry-picking roles and future projects

In a way, Vemal's entry into filmdom was well-planned. The lad from Pannankombu near Manapparai moved to Madras, dropped out of school, learnt dance and joined Koothu-p-pattarai. To be moulded and chiselled into a fine actor. To fall in love with everything related to storytelling and theatre. To learn stage designing and lighting. And, to revel in his passion for cinema.

Today, the young actor is riding high, with a string of successes, including his debut Pasanga, Kalavaani, and now, Vaagai Sooda Vaa (VSV). He's cherry-picked his roles, each one different from the other. He shone as Meenakshi Sundaram, the playful rural insurance agent in Pasanga, and then played the equally adorable Arivazhagan in Kalavaani.

His latest is VSV, where he plays a reluctant village teacher, Veluthambi. The film in sepia tones takes us back in time to the 1960s. To the brick kilns of Pudukottai, where a teacher realises his calling.

Koothu-p-pattarai days

Asked about his success at the box office, Vemal is modest. “I guess I learnt how to identify good scripts from my days at Koothu-p-pattarai. We all learnt so much there…,” he says.

VSV, his fifth film, gave him a vast canvas to explore. And, he used it well. Playing a hero who is utterly human and has his frailties does not come easy. Vemal says he took on the challenge as he was bowled over by the ‘period' script. “It also meant getting to work with the same team that made Kalavaani. I knew it would work out well, and would be spoken about for a long time.”

After a rustic romance, it is now time for Vemal to turn into an urban lover in Ishtam, directed by Prem Nissar, and co-starring Nisha Aggarwal. “It's such a sea change from what I've shot so far. From brick kilns and lush fields, I'm now dancing in snow-clad Switzerland,” he laughs.

Vemal has also signed up for Sundar C's Masala Café, where he is paired opposite another powerhouse performer Anjali. He's doing another as-yet-untitled film directed by Ravi, starring Deepa Shah and VSV co-star Oviya.

No anxiety pangs

Vemal says he does not suffer any anxiety pangs with all the pressure on him to deliver a hit every time. “I give my 100 per cent while listening to the script. The rest is not in my hands,” says the actor, who made it big despite being an ‘outsider' to the industry.

The trappings of stardom notwithstanding, Vemal still wants to go back to theatre. “Now, I try and meet my old buddies once in a while. I want to do a play, but that will take two months. I'm going to try and strike a balance so that I can be seen on celluloid and the stage,” he says.