Will Arjun go on a stunt-filled spree again in his Diwali release, Vallakottai? The film will also be high on comedy, says the actor to malathi rangarajan
Obviously statistics doesn't attract Arjun as much as stunts do. Otherwise why is he foxed by queries concerning the number of films he has done or the Diwali releases he's had? “Mmm … this year it's going to be Vallakottai. There must've been others too. I'm told I'm 140 films old. I don't know because I've never kept track. I keep moving on,” he replies.
Age sits lightly on the actor whose onscreen action still gives young heroes a run for their money. And years of experience notwithstanding his viability quotient continues intact. Aiding it is the fact that he's popular in all four languages of the South — his films get dubbed and the versions do well too.
So will he be on a stunt-filled spree in Vallakottai again? “Yeah, except that I've concentrated more on comedy this time,” he smiles. Arjun's poker-faced humour in earlier films with the garrulous Vadivelu has been a sweetener. Marudhamalai is a case in point. This time though it is ‘Kanja' Karuppu who joins Arjun.
Action? “Of course, and everything else that makes up a commercial bonanza,” he laughs. “We aren't imparting a message. Vallakottai is an entertainer, Arjun style.”
Vallakottai is Arjun's third film with director Venkatesh after Vadhiyar and Durai. “Distributors suggest we team up because the films have done well. And Venkatesh and I share a great rapport,” he says. Has he worked with first-time directors? “Don't you remember Gentleman, director Shankar's debut vehicle?”
Does the avid action buff get involved in the stunt choreography of his films? “Hundred per cent — we discuss every sequence. And I'm careful that the stunts I've performed in earlier films don't get repeated.” Why just stunts, even his heroines aren't repeated. He romances Haripriya from the Kannada screen in Vallakottai. “It isn't my decision, though the makers do ask for my opinion. Also frankly, seeing me along with the same heroine over and over again could get tiring. A new face adds freshness, right?” he laughs.
Arjun takes particular interest in the music of his films too. “I have an ear for music and enjoy sitting with the composers. There's this melody in Vallakottai that goes ‘Semmozhiyae…' You'll love it.”
Concentrating on technical aspects can't be easy for a hero who's working in two or more films at the same time. “It's just a couple of days each with the composer and the stunt choreographer, and a couple more at the final mixing stage, which I like to be a part of.” Arjun makes time management sound easy.
But working with new faces who often don't know the language could be exasperating for a seasoned actor like him. “The girls today are very smart. They pick up the tongue fast and come well equipped for cinema,” Arjun defends.
Of late, I come across pictures of Arjun with daughters and wife splashed in magazines. It's never been so. “Because I've never been asked,” he laughs. “My wife and daughters come over to the shooting spot sometimes and that too only if I'm the director. And we rarely socialise.” It's surprising to know that the action king is shy and introverted in real life.
With an avalanche of heroes storming the film scene does he find his fan base being eroded? “On the contrary, it's only increasing in all the four languages,” he says. “And joy lies in having competitors in the fray. Nobody likes to run a race alone.” Donning many hats — as producer, director, writer and actor — does Arjun think he's done too much for too long? “I'll be in cinema till I want to call it quits. As you say, I'm not only an actor. I run on several tracks. And if I stop, the choice will be entirely mine. But I don't intend to,” smiles the action king.
Does he think of adding variety to his repertoire by attempting different kinds of roles? “Surely I do! Wasn't Vedham different?” he counters. “But seriously, when you go out to watch a Jackie Chan or a Bruce Lee film will you not be disappointed if it has no stunts?” The poser is answer enough.