RJ Balaji on making a mark as an actor with Vadacurry and why radio will always remain his first love

In the three weeks following Vadacurry’s release, RJ Balaji has been deluged by praise for his smart one-liners. And, received a few brickbats too. But, being Balaji, he’s accepted both happily. “Once a film is in the public space, everyone has the right to comment on it. Three hours after a film’s release, the verdict is out,” says the BIG FM radio jockey, whose ‘120 Roobayum’ segment on radio went viral before he pulled it out following protests from sections of the film industry.

“Most people liked my kind of comedy. Well-wishers pointed out certain negatives — I was speaking too fast and my eyes were wandering all over the frame. Those were things I noticed too. It’s all part of the learning curve,” says the actor who played Karikalan alias Vadacurry in the film.

After Vadacurry, Balaji has listened to some scripts, but none of them has excited him enough to sign up. He’s doing Vishnuvardhan’s Yatchan with Arya and Kreshna, and says he loves the way Vishnu composes his shots. “In fact, I was very impressed with the way he narrated the script to me. His is a very different style of direction. It’s languorous, aesthetic filmmaking. I’m enjoying myself,” he says.

The people factor is very important in Balaji’s scheme of things. “I had great fun on the sets of both Sundar C’s Theeya Velai Seyyanum Kumaru and Saravana Rajan’s Vadacurry. That’s what helps me give my best,” he says.

In fact, even during his four-hour programme on radio, Balaji surrounds himself with friends and colleagues in the ‘on-air’ studio. “I can’t imagine doing a show sitting alone in a room. When you are happy and cracking jokes with people, that enthusiasm travels over the sound waves too,” he says.

Looking back to his childhood and stint in college, Balaji says he has come a long way. “No one believed I could do anything. They thought I would never have a career. I’ve never scored great marks or taken up a professional course. I’ve always gone against the grain. Whatever people considered my biggest mistakes have been my greatest turnarounds. That’s why I’m so grateful to radio. It taught me everything I now know,” he says.

Balaji feels he has managed to connect with people because he has not forgotten where he came from. “Unless you have a people connect, nothing will work. That’s why, even now, I occasionally take Bus Number 29C to go home. Only then will I stay in touch with reality. I still eat pani puri on the roadside. I have to stay real. Heart of hearts, I am still a middle class boy.”

Despite film offers, Balaji says he’d like to retain the RJ prefix to his name for a long time. “I don’t want to migrate to acting, full-time. Radio is where I will always belong. I joined radio as a 21-year-old boy. In nine years, the medium has taught me to become a man.”