Writer-director-actor Pandiarajan is back to his humorous ways, this time with a TV serial, “Mama Mapplae”

Producer, director, short film maker, writer, M. Phil degree holder now working on his doctorate, hero, character actor working in seven films, including Vijay's Velayudham, and protagonist in a dual role in “Mama Mapplae” — the weekly serial on Sun … Pandiarajan's facets are myriad!

In the past couple of years, I've interacted with Pandiarajan about half a dozen times, and every time my formal ‘How are you?' has been met with ‘Just as I was!' But beneath the façade of humour lies the angst of a man, who took years to understand that success has its downside too.

He laughs: “Kamal Haasan once told me, you are one of the reasons for people thinking that entering cinema is a cakewalk. You keep saying, ‘I lived in the slums and came into cinema.' The trials and tribulations you underwent in this journey, the humiliations you've had to face … you never talk about them.” Pandiarajan has struggled his way up from the lowest rung. His family couldn't afford to give him higher education. But he pursued it later. “I never give up,” he smiles.

Pandiarajan is used to laughing aloud his blues and brooding in seclusion. “Life is a great teacher. I keep learning everyday. The recent lesson is not to host functions anymore, except my sons' weddings. Fame leads to jealousy and it makes people come up with left-handed compliments on stage, without a thought to the feelings of the person concerned.” The comment that comes after the recent celebration of his 25{+t}{+h} year in the industry, which also marked the release of his stupendous hit, Aan Paavam, is intriguing. The effervescence is intact, but he sounds philosophical.

Yet, with several up and coming directors, including Sasikumar, Ameer and Lingusamy, eulogising him on stage he must have felt gratified. “I did. Our young technicians are a great lot and I'm thankful to them. The purpose of the event was that Aan Paavam had seen a silver jubilee run and remains a significant film in my career. The dubbed Telugu version raced past the 100{+t}{+h} day post, and was again remade in the same language, with success! So I thought it would be a worthy journey back in time. But …” he pauses.

Pandiarajan's first release as writer-director — Kanni Raasi — with Prabhu and Revathi, was a runaway hit, and he followed it up with another sensational show at the turnstiles — Aan Paavam — with Revathi again, in which he played hero for the first time. A prosperous spell as director and actor followed, before the lull. “I owe it to Bhagyaraj,” he says.

The reach of TV

Why a soap now particularly when in the Tamil scenario it is considered a comedown? “I do it because I know my limitations. Today's filmgoers aren't going to shell out exorbitant amounts to watch Pandiarajan at the cinemas. So I'm visiting their homes. Television is taxing, but the reach has been phenomenal,” chuckles the actor, whose century mark in films is round the corner. Any other actor would have evaded a frank reply.

From hero to heartless villain (Anjaadhae) was a paradigm shift, even though he's been donning character roles for a while. “‘Comedy is my forte. The effort could misfire if people begin to laugh at my villainy,' I warned Mysskin. But it worked wonderfully. I went to judge an inter-collegiate competition recently and imagine my surprise when the students called out ‘Logu,' my name in Anjaadhae! “All the same, I'm a director first,” asserts Pandiarajan, who has made impressive strides in the profession. His son Prithvirajan's debut, Kai Vandha Kalai, is the film he last directed.

“Prithvi is working in Therku Maasi Veedhi and Padhinettam Kudi, after which I plan to direct him again. Not writing can be agonising for a creator. And being asked whether he is still at it is torture.” The plain speak stumps me!

Short films

Pandiarajan has made short films too. ‘Magan,' his first, with third son Premarajan, was on child labour and prohibition. “Making an impact in a matter of minutes is a challenge,” he observes. The five-minute short was selected for screening in the ‘Children's World' section of the International Children's Film Festival in Hyderabad. Next was ‘Iru Thuligal' on polio, and ‘Azhagu' on the visually challenged, which were screened at the Lucknow Short Film Fest. Three books of his — “Anubhavam,” “Thookam Varaadha Podhu Sindhithavai” and the screenplay of “Aan Paavam” – have been published and well received.

Pallavarajan, his eldest son, is an engineer. “I named him so because my father was a driver with the Pallavan Transport Corporation.” As I told you, candour is Pandiarajan's middle name!