What was it like to be in the Madrasapattinam of the 1940s? With the film releasing today, actor Arya divulges some details

Arya's CV reads like a wish list. In less than six years in showbiz, the computer engineer-fashion model-turned-actor has played a range of roles — from the surly, socially awkward hit man in Pattiyal to the intimidating mystic in Naan Kadavul.

Ever pushing boundaries, the actor travels back in time to the Madrasapattinam of the 1940s in the history-and-romance-spangled film directed by Vijay. “The story spans a limited period in the city's annals — from 1945 to 1947 to be precise. I play a wrestler. It's not about six packs and a well-toned torso. The hero is a brusque, beefy chap with undulating muscles. I had to eat a lot to gain weight for the role. I also went through gruelling training sessions. Wrestling techniques don't come easy. There are far too many intricacies involved in the locks and movements,” discloses the actor with trademark cadence.

The narration that cuts from the present to the past promises to transport the audience to the Madrasapattinam of yore, when bullock carts dotted the roads and dhoti was cool. “It was a lot of teamwork. The director, art director and cinematographer worked painstakingly to get the desired effect.” Because of the unlikely setting and the quaint look, subtle tonal variation and visual effects have been used to achieve authenticity. “That however doesn't mean the film evokes an old, unhappy feel,” Arya hastens. Incidentally, an Indian wrestler courts a British girl in this Pre-Independence romance.

Upcoming films

Madrasapattinam, for Arya, is just one of the releases in a year crammed with dates. Soon to hit the screens are Chikku Bukku with Shriya Saran and Boss Engira Baskaran with Nayantara. Keen on surprising the audience, he has also teamed with actor Vishal for director Bala's upcoming Avan Ivan, a sibling saga with loads of fun. “I don't mind multi-starrers,” he says, reminding us of Pattiyal where he shared screen space with Boys Bharat. “There's a lot of healthy, positive energy on the sets. Each actor tries to outdo the other in a constructive way. And that augurs well for the film.”

Post-Naan Kadavul, in which Arya played the intense Aghori, it's not easy to imagine him in breezy masala flicks. But the actor affirms that while he relishes the challenges posed by offbeat projects, he also has great regard for mainstream fare. “Making commercial films isn't easy. People take it for granted. It's a combination of several ingredients. It's not always that you arrive at a winning formula. Things can misfire.”

After the muddy look of Madrasapattinam, the actor gets a suave makeover for Chikku Bukku (a feel-good romance) and Boss Engira Baskaran (a comic caper). “By the way, comedy doesn't come naturally to me. When the director (Rajesh) enacts a scene, it seems simple. It's a rare gift to face the camera and attempt humour that seems spontaneous on screen. Only some actors have it. For me, it's a lot of hardwork.”

The prolonged gestation period or delayed release of some of his films doesn't worry the actor. Recall the list, and Arya, who danced straight into the hearts of cine-goers with ‘Theepidikka Theepidikka' in Arindhum Ariyamalum, his first celluloid outing, explains calmly, “Delays don't deter me because they are not intentional. Certain projects require a lot of time. So much money is at stake. Filmmakers wouldn't want to make compromises and wrap up work in a hurry.”

The actor has more than one string to his bow. He is now trying to forge another career as producer/distributor. The Show People, his production house, has launched Padithurai with director Suka and bought the film Boss Engira Baskaran. “Padithurai is full of fresh faces. The script is something that attracted me to it. I had no godfather to support me in this field. So I want to help aspiring actors gain at least a toe-hold in the industry!”

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