Nakul talks about his twin roles as actor and singer

The puppy fat has gone. And, six years after director S. Shankar's path-breaking musical Boys, Nakul has transformed into a lanky, fit youngster who still retains his bubbly charm.

For five years after Boys released in 2003, nothing happened in Nakul's life, “except a Telugu film, Keelu Gurram, which probably ran for two-and-a-half hours and sank without a trace.” What kept him going then was music. ‘Jayile Jayile' in Boys led to ‘Kadhal Yaanai' (Anniyan), ‘X-Machi' (Ghajini), ‘Karka Karka' and ‘Manjal Veyil' (Vettaiyadu Vilayaadu) and ‘Hooray Hooray Hip' (Vallavan).

“My film career didn't take off after Boys. The Telugu film didn't help. Singing was keeping me alive, but that wasn't what I wanted to do. Everyone used to ask me: look at your contemporaries — Bharath, Siddarth and Thaman Sai (music director). What have you done? That stirred something in me. I told myself that I must make it as an actor.”

And then, Kadhalil Vizhunthen came his way; with a catch, though! That he tone up. “The director told me: This is your chance…our chance…either we make it big or sink,” recalls Nakul, who hasn't looked back since that 2008 hit.

Soon after, he signed up for the well-received Masilamani and soon-to-be-released Kandhakottai (with Poorna as heroine).

Talking about his struggling days, Nakul, brother of actor Devyani says: “Even when I auditioned for Boys, I was among the 1,500, and was sure I would not land a role. But, I suppose I have been a bit lucky — a few good roles, some good songs, and now, Kandhakottai. I learnt a lot from director Shankar. He knows exactly what he wants. His methods are unconventional but the end result is like no one else's. I learnt that if you have to succeed, you have to have single-minded devotion.”

A shy person who is not given to excessive partying and socialising, Nakul is quite a home bird. “Only I know how much I miss home when I am away shooting. But, it is an occupational hazard.”

And, he's clear about making it in his chosen field. “I have decided to do one film at a time, and do justice to that role, rather than burn myself out. I want to be at the top, and on my terms,” says Nakul. He remembers the time when, after Boys and Keelu Gurram, many nondescript roles came his way. “Many of them were sleazy, and I am glad I stayed away. Today, when I listen to scripts, I tell my directors: ‘Please, for the sake of my career and the film, give me a bound script and don't make any major changes half-way through the film.”

Nakul considers himself a natural in front of the camera, whether it is dancing, running around trees or fighting. "I really didn't find it necessary to learn acting in an institute or go for horse riding and fencing classes. I learnt from director Shankar that if the director knows what he wants out of his actor, and if the actor has total confidence in the role and characterisation, he will deliver his best. All one has to do is follow instructions and observe the director when he enacts a scene.”

Now, that's what you call confidence!