Will Endrendrum Punnagai prove to be lucky for Jiiva? Udhav Naig catches up with the actor

Very few actors can pull off the role of an impoverished slum dweller and that of a suave metro-sexual with equal ease. This has been Jiiva’s speciality. In the trailer of his next release Endrendrum Punnagai, he is seen in designer clothes, driving a luxury car. “I play an ad-director,” he says, hinting that the film might sport the glossy look of a commercial. “The film is well-packaged. Young urban people will like it,” he adds.

Endrendrum Punnagai is an important film for Jiiva who is standing at yet another crossroads in his career. “I am not in form, you know,” he says with a smile referring to his last two films — Nee Thaane En Pon Vasantham and Mugamoodi — which didn’t do well at the box office. The actor hopes that Endrendrum Punnagai will break the bad spell. “It has got great comedy and even a steamy subplot between Andrea and me. It should work with the current generation.”

This is the tale of every young actor in the industry today. Five or ten years ago, Jiiva would have done a ‘mass’ movie playing a roadside Romeo forced to fight injustice in his neighbourhood. “Not anymore. Those days are over,” he says, adding, “Films such as Katcheri Aarambam and Thenavattu will recover the money invested but won’t look good on my filmography.”

Times have changed. The new strategy involves catering to the young audience at cinemas and not succumbing to the dominant trend. The actor has the distinct advantage of having cultivated a ‘local boy’ image, which, while giving his films the quintessential local flavour, lets him do slightly more upmarket urban stories without alienating his audiences. This line of thought is reflected even in the trailer of Endrendrum Punnagai where a police official is heard saying that they (Jiiva and his friends) look posh but are actually ‘local’. “SMS (Siva Manasula Sakthi) was perhaps the first film in that mould, don’t you think?” he asks.

This new strategy would also involve finding young directors armed with fresh ideas which can touch a chord in today’s youth. “I have done my share of films with big directors. I would like to work with youngsters,” he says. The actor wants to collaborate more than just being contracted to utter his lines. “Young directors are more receptive to suggestions, debates and discussions. This doesn’t always happen when you work with established ones,” he says.

The actor no longer nods to half-written scripts, which seems to be the norm today. “It is a chronic problem. They (directors) narrate three scenes and a one-line idea based on which I will have to decide whether or not to do a film,” he says. His film under production, Yaan, being directed by Ravi K Chandran, had four script-reading sessions, he claims. “Yaan could be one of those ‘cult’ films,” he says.

Does he plan to get into filmmaking and production as well? “I would like to take over Super Good Films (his father R. B. Chowdry’s banner) once we breach the 100-film mark. I shoot a lot of videos when I travel. Let’s see,” he smiles.