Simbu, who's captured hearts with Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya, talks to Malathi Rangarajan about his transformation from a mass star to a class hero

It's revelry at the Simbu camp. After a long spell as a hero catering more for the front benchers, Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya's show at the box office has established his draw among all categories of viewers. The actor who entered the arena as a toddler, thanks to his dad, T. Rajendar, graduated to the status of hero, when just in his teens, with Kaadhal Azhivadhillai. Ever since, Simbu seemed keener to gain a stronghold as a mass hero and less inclined towards performance-oriented roles. Till, VTV happened. With just one film, Gautam Vasudev Menon has made him a hero who has lured all classes of audience. “Many leading men strive to have a solid fan base among the masses, but only a few achieve it. I'm thankful that I'm one of them,” says Simbu.

“I first wanted to make it as a mass hero, but once that dream was realised, I wished to try out something new.” So, that's how Gautam and he got together? “Not exactly,” interrupts Simbu.

Actually, Gautam and Simbu had planned to team up soon after the latter's Silambattam. But, when the filmmaker suggested they go with an action thriller, Simbu wasn't quite game. “I was thinking of coming out of the mass hero image and the shift could have been risky if I tried it out with a new director. But, as a Gautam Vasudev Menon fan who had watched his Minnalae 25 times, I knew that he's an ace at handling love themes. So, I said, ‘Let's do romance,'” says Simbu.

It was then that Gautam told Simbu a sketchy one-liner of the story of VTV. Needless to add, the young hero fell for it. “Even at that preliminary stage I knew the film would be a hit,” laughs Simbu, “and filmgoers have proved me right. The best part is I've not lost out on the masses either.”

Working with Gautam was a joy for Simbu. “There were absolutely no issues. Such a capable technician, yet he gives actors a free rein. If I wished to improvise and asked him, he allowed me to. And, if he found it suitable, he retained it. Ego never came into play,” he says.

So, is Simbu planning only realistic sojourns from now on? “That could be suicidal. I wish to balance action and romance in such a way that I don't lose my hold on the various classes of audience. I need the overall crowd,” he laughs.

But, Simbu did taste big success with Manmadhan. “All the same, the response to VTV has been overwhelming.” He sounds surprised! “I am! I expected it to be a winner all right, but not such a hit as it has turned out to be. So, in the future, a classy approach to stories with mass appeal would be more my line.”

Though young, Simbu has learnt to take controversies in his stride. “I don't court them,” he clarifies. So, why did he walk out of K.V. Anand's Ko? “Anand is a great director, no doubt. I even did a photo shoot for Ko. But I need to vibe with the maker I work with. My father has earned enough for us; so, money isn't the criterion. I was sceptical about certain parts of the narration and needed explanations. But, Anand is a director of few words. And, till the very end, I wasn't sure who the heroine would be. It isn't fair to say that I declined the offer because Karthika was paired with me,” explains Simbu.

And, not much is heard about Vaaliban, which he will act in and direct. “I'm still very confused about whom to cast as heroine. So, for the moment it has been stalled. I intend going ahead with Poda Podi,” he says. The film will have Sarath Kumar's daughter Varalakshmi playing heroine opposite Simbu. “Vicky, a friend from my schooldays, will direct it.” Queries about his female fan following buoys him up. “It's incredible! Girls liked me in Manmadhan too. I was happy with the adulation, and was able to handle it pretty well. But their responses to VTV are, at times, intriguing. I mean, what do I tell a girl who walks up to me in a crowded place and says she wishes to hug me just once? I feel that tomorrow, if I find a girlfriend for myself, they could kill me!” smiles Simbu.

He may try to sound scared, but you can make out that the hero is enjoying every moment of the attention!