With Adhey Naeram Adhey Idam, Jai is all set to explore action. malathi rangarajan on what it takes to switch paths - from music to acting, from offbeat films to commercial fare

The college goer in Bhagavathy drew attention because he looked every inch the hero’s brother - his resemblance to Vijay was striking. “It was exactly why director Venkatesh wanted me to play the role,” laughs Jai.

It is seven years now and the teenager of Bhagavathy is a successful hero. With two back-to-back hits and another commendable performance in the third, Jai’s fifth film, Adhey Naeram Adhey Idam, which releases today, will launch him in the formula arena to battle with villains and woo the leading lady. His staying power on the commercial circuit could depend on the response to Adhey Naeram…

The cheerful young man exudes self-confidence - a trait that could take him higher.

Strangely, Jai never aspired to be an actor. His aim was to become a composer. Music is in his genes and his uncles, including composer Deva, have been his inspiration. “I would constantly hang out with my cousins Srikanth Deva and Bobo Sashi, the composer of Kulir 100º, making or discussing music,” says this trained keyboardist. He had cleared the Grade VI examination conducted by the Trinity College of Music, London, when the camera beckoned him for the second time, for Chennai-600028. The aural treat for Adhey Naeram … is being provided by good friend Premgi Amaran, a distant relative again.

“For four years after Bhagavathy I never gave any thought to cinema. I was completely into music,” he says.

It was singer, actor, anchor Yugendran who suggested Jai’s name for Chennai-600028. “SPB. Charan and Venkat Prabhu asked me to go over and meet them. I was the only actor who auditioned for all the 10 main roles in Chennai … but I was selected last,” he laughs.

On a recent television show, ‘Adhu Idhu Edhu’ the trio of Jai, Premgi and Vaibhav had viewers in splits with their off-the-cuff remarks and witty rejoinders. Does comedy come naturally to him? “Earlier I was the serious, reticent kind. It was Venkat Prabhu who advised me to change. ‘Now that you are in cinema people will misconstrue your silence for arrogance,’ he said, and the Chennai … team brought me out of my shell,” he smiles.

So can we expect comic capers in Adhey Naeram …? “Of course, ‘Lollu Sabha’ Jeeva joins me for the fun element in the film.”

Jai seems to prefer first-time directors. From Chennai-28 and Subramaniapuram to Vaamanan and Adhey Naeram… the trend continues. “That’s because they give me solid roles, each different from the other. And I know that they are equally eager to come out with a hit.” Also Jai has a soft corner for newcomers. “Even before I got into cinema many assistant directors have been my friends. They’ve told me that they had good scripts but couldn’t find a hero to accept them. I would then tell myself that if I got a chance I would do my bit for them …” Prabhu, who was with S.J. Suryah, makes his debut as director with today’s release.

Vijayalakshmi who was part of Chennai-28 is considered a lucky mascot what with her second film, Anjaadhey also being a runaway hit. She is paired with Jai in Adhey … “She has come a long way from her Chennai … days. She gets her expressions right because she knows just how much she has to laugh or weep for a scene. Her performance has gained a lot of sheen in the past couple of years,” he says appreciatively. Mention the intimate, screen-scorching scenes the two are said to have done for Adhey Naeram …and Jai just laughs it off.

Actor Ajith has made a tremendous impact on Jai. No interaction with Jai is complete without his words about the star. “He’s more like a godfather to me. The sincerity with which he gives me tips on matters such as the criteria essential for accepting a role, is overwhelming. Can you believe it? It’s not even an hour since he called up and spoke to me and you are bringing up his name,” says Jai.

With Aval Peyar Tamizharasi, Arjunanin Kaadhali and Goa to come out one after the other, we will be seeing more of Jai in the coming months. But today he’s all set for Adhey Naeram … “I’m sure it will have a winning run. In Subramaniapuram and Vaamanan, action was limited, but here it will be complete commercial heroism. I’ve taken a lot of risks for the stunt sequences, had a ligament tear and so on, but I’m sure the team’s hard work will pay off. Anyway I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” he smiles.