It has been sweet dreams for the man who plays a character with a sleeping disorder. Vishal speaks to Subha J Rao of smash hit Naan Sigappu Manithan

With Naan Sigappu Manithan (NSM), Vishal has dozed his way into the box office. Few would have expected a film about a man with a sleeping disorder and zero heroics to strike a chord with people. But it did, and Vishal says he was confident about the script. The film has given him the best exposure after Bala’s Avan Ivan, for which he sported a painful squint through the film.

 “I could not relate to the character of Indran, the timid hero of NSM; but I realised it would be a challenge to be accepted in that role. I did not want to go back to the safe track,” says Vishal, whose film is still running to packed houses. “I decided to do what Indran would do, not what Vishal could do. I had to convey the innocence of a typical middle-class boy and his body language.”

Vishal admits he did wonder if he should experiment or fall back on the commercial mould after the success of Pandiya Naadu, but Thiru’s script bowled him over. “That film gave me the confidence to take up projects with a solid kernel but made in the commercial format,” he shares.

“Gut instinct overrules everything else in my life. Once I take a decision, I don’t listen to even family,” says Vishal. This instinct saw him sign up with hit-maker Hari for his next production, Poojai. Hisco-star in the film is Shruti Haasan. “People will be surprised by this film. It is not a mindless action film, but a nice family entertainer. It’s great to team up with Hari after our successful Thamirabharani.”

After a string of hits and some misses, Vishal admits that one can’t always make the right choice. “We are not astrologists; no one can predict how a project will pan out. But we give every film our best shot.” The actor says that after the producer, the leading man has the biggest responsibility to ensure a film does well.” Vishal, as the lead, had to take that role seriously when Thimiru was not shaping up well; he stepped in to co-direct the film. But for that, this VisCom graduate has always liked to surrender to the director’s vision. “When you are putty in the hand of a director who knows what he’s doing, it’s better for you as an actor. The film also turns out well,” he says.

In all these years, Vishal has played a range of roles — from lover boy and angry young man to an effeminate lead and a man fighting personal demons. But he’s never played the anti-hero. “That’s one thing I hope to see myself doing,” he says.

He’s also done an interesting role in Sunder C’s caper Madha Gaja Raja (MGR), which has been lying in the cans for a long time now. “The release date is still not clear but I’ve full faith in the product. It’s a film that will stay fresh whether it releases next month or next year,” he says.

The last two years have seen Vishal double as producer. His Vishal Film Factory (VFF) was born when he had to start Pandiya Naadu. “I did not want to take a risk with another project; I was scarred by the experience with Samar and MGR. It was a decision that was forced upon me.”

He straddles both roles effortlessly. “When I shoot, I stay an actor, and as a producer I invest a lot of time in pre-production work. And in the last two weeks preceding a film’s release, I hardly sleep.” Now, VFF is looking to make movies with other heroes. “I’m listening to some scripts,” says Vishal.

Despite some bad experiences, Vishal says every film is a leap of faith, in the script and the director. It is this faith that has seen him star in a slew of multi-starrers. Has he ever felt threatened? “All my friends are non-egoistic actors. We all keep our profession away from our friendship,” he says. Great friends with actors Arya (Jammy), Jiiva, Vikrant, Vishnu, Vinay Rai, Shanthanoo, Jayam Ravi, Siddharth, they hang out together whenever possible, he says, doing things guys their age normally do. “It’s a riot when we meet. It’s lovely that we bond as individuals, not as stars with hang-ups.”

Even now, Vishal smiles thinking of the early rejections he faced. People said he was not ‘hero’ material. It has been some turnaround, as his name is now almost synonymous with ‘tall, dark and handsome’. “I never let rejection affect me. I don’t allow adulation get to me either. I stay myself,” he says.