Actor Vemal speaks about Manjapai and learning from his mistakes

Few actors have the heart to clinically dissect their performances. Vemal is an exception. He speaks calmly about the rough patch he went through recently, with two massive flops in a row.

“Initially, I chose my films. At some stage, I depended on a group of people around me to do the thinking. I ended up acting in films that did nothing for my career; films where I was a misfit. Luckily, I’ve got a chance to prove myself again. Now, I know whom to trust and whom to keep away from. The mistakes have been a great learning curve,” he says.

The actor is now kicked about Manjapai, a family entertainer that revolves around the relationship between a grandfather and grandson.

Rajkiran plays his thatha; the heroine is Lakshmi Menon, considered a lucky mascot after back-to-back hits. The film is directed by Naveen Raghavan.

Naveen has assisted Sargunam, who directed two of Vemal’s biggest hits — the village caper Kalavaani and the National Award winner Vaagai Sooda Vaa.

“When shooting, you notice a spark in certain assistant directors. I knew Raghavan would make it. Sargunam narrated the subject to me; I fell in love with it. Luckily, everything fell into place. The actors, the producers (Thirrupathi Brothers, known for backing small, beautiful films)… Some films have a positive vibe throughout. Manjapai is one such,” he says.

Vemal says the film has a lot going for it. “After a really long time, you’re going to see a film that focusses on the thatha-peran bonding. Something on the lines of what Padmini amma and Nadiya shared in Poove Poochudava. When you return from the theatres, you’ll remember your grandfather,” assures Vemal.

The actor is also excited about some of his other projects. There’s C.S. Amuthan’s much delayed Rendaavadhu Padam, where his character is a spoof on a superhero, and Thangam Saravanan’s Anjala, co-starring Pasupathi, which revolves around a tea shop and the people frequenting it. There’s also R. Kannan’s Oru Oorla Rendu Raaja, where Vemal shares screen space with Priya Anand and Suri.

The scripts of all these films, says Vemal, excited him as an actor. “I’ve decided to only do films that tap my ability. I’ve figured out I’m not cut out for roles that demand sophistication or style. I experimented with that twice and it took me nowhere. So, it is village subjects and urban films set in a middle-class milieu for me,” he says.

The actor says he’s grateful that good directors still approach him for dates. “In many films, directors mould me to suit the character they’ve written. It’s a beautiful process to live another person’s life on screen,” he says.

When he’s not shooting, Vemal bonds with family, including his two sons; the youngest is just five months old. “My elder son, who is three, gives me feedback. He watches the songs of Manjapai and tells me, ‘Appa, super-aa irukeenga’. Nothing in the world can beat that compliment,” he smiles.

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