Playing villain comes naturally to Venu Arvind. Anusha Parthasarathy talks to the actor who is set for a comeback on the small screen
I'm holding up a white towel by Venu Arvind's face. “Position it in such a way that the light reflects off it and falls on me. Then it becomes easier for the photographer to click,” he says, standing by the poolside, unmindful of the loud splashes. He then looks at the photographer; “You'd make a good director,” he laughs, “You're not easily satisfied.”
After a three-year hiatus, the actor is back to where he belongs — television. “For two years I was busy making my first film ‘Sabaash Sariyana Poti'. Then I spent a year not knowing what to do next. I guess this is what they call being at the crossroads; I didn't know if I wanted to act in serials again or take-up a new career. Finally, I decided that I didn't want to lose what I've gained. So, I'm making a comeback in a Radaan production,” he says.
A Physics graduate, he pursued his Masters in Management but found his calling as an actor. “My father was a commercial tax officer and since a lot of theatres came under his purview, the managers were good friends. I would visit these theatres everyday after school and watch movies for sometime. I fascinated by MGR. And when someone asked what I wanted to become when I grow up, I'd say ‘I want to be MGR',” he smiles.
In 1975, Venu was selected as a child artiste for Doordarshan. “I also did a few plays with Poornam Visawanathan. They were called ‘Tuesday Plays'. I did about 30 to 40 plays before I moved to cinema. While theatre teaches you voice modulation and performing for a live audience, cinema is a more glamourous medium with a different appeal. But I think TV is the most powerful as it reaches the masses,” he sums up.
Venu entered filmdom with “Muthu Engal Sothu”. He also starred in Mani Ratnam's first film “Pagal Nilavu” and later did “Alaipayuthey”. “Television made me successful, especially K. Balachander's serials. He helped me grow as an artiste and understand the nuances of the craft.”
After “Kadhal Pagadai” and “Kasalavu Nesam”, Venu Arvind did AVM's “Vazhkai” and later, one of his career-defining roles in “Alaigal”. “In serials, to begin with, we are provided a broad sketch of the character. We improvise on it. As the serial progresses, the audience response and feedback are taken into account and the script is worked around it. When I played Ranga in ‘Alaigal', people began to like negative characters. At one point, I even felt guilty I was getting more offers for negative roles. ‘Alaigal' was clearly a trend-setter.I've heard producers and directors tell actors ‘this role is similar to Ranga's’.”
Playing an antagonist is not easy. Venu often faced the wrath of the viewers. “They loved to hate me,” he laughs. “I've had people curse me. While this is encouraging to the actor in me, I sometimes wondered if I should continue doing the role. But it is all about entertainment and holding the audiences' attention. I prefer comedy because it's relaxing. It's easy to make people hate you or love you but it takes a lot of effort to make them laugh. There should be more humour in serials but that is not happening.”
After working with Radaan Mediaworks in “Arasi” and “Selvi”, Venu turned to film direction. “Most actors dream of becoming a director, especially after having been in the industry with the best directors and seen them work. With ‘Sabaash Sariyana Poti' I gained some knowledge and lost some hair. There is so much to direction — every single decision, from managing the actors to the costumes, falls on your head and it's overwhelming sometimes. I would love to direct again but this time I want to work with a saleable actor and market the film better,” says Venu.
A recipient of the Kalaimamani award in 2007, Venu is the first TV actor to receive it. “The work of an actor never ends. There's no retirement for an actor and only he decides when he'll stop.”