Vishal moves away from the angry-young-man roles he is famous for. The actor tells Nikhil Raghavan that films like the upcoming Naan Sigappu Manithan challenge him as an actor

Vishal fits the bill as the archetypal hero — handsome, with a disarming smile. But, Vishal chooses to play different characters. This is especially evident in his forthcoming home production Naan Sigappu Manithan (NSM).

“With Pandiya Nadu, I came out of my comfort zone as an action-oriented, angry young man to a softer character. And, it seemed to have clicked with my viewers,” says Vishal. “Pandiya Nadu has given me the courage to experiment with different roles, and when director Thiru narrated the story of NSM to me, I had no hesitation accepting it.”

Unusual subject

In NSM, Vishal plays a person who has the dual disorder of narcolepsy and cataplexy. He has a bucket list of wishes, but the disorder comes in the way. How he tackles the hurdles and manages to realise his wishes forms the rest of the story.

“Honestly, I had no clue about this disorder or how a person with it behaved. Thiru had done a lot of research on the subject and I did my bit too. It was quite a challenge to enact the scenes,” says Vishal. “But it was just as exciting to do this role, and I am sure it will surprise a lot of my viewers. Thiru is attempting a film with an unusual subject for the first time. Having known him for many years and having done two films with him, I am confident of what he can achieve. For me, as well as for him, this was something new and while I had absolutely no reference point for characteristics, Thiru’s research helped.”

For Vishal it is a departure from the norm of action scenes. “With my earlier films, I had established a strong viewership in the second-tier markets. When Pandiya Nadu released, it brought in more audiences in the rural areas. However, NSM is a city-based subject and quite modern in its approach. It is an action thriller with revenge as the main ingredient, but it will neither be dark nor will it be a film with messages. In my view, something like this has not been attempted so far,” says a confident Vishal, who is producing the film under his banner Vishal Film Factory.

What is Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy (or hypnolepsy) is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. People with narcolepsy often experience disturbed nocturnal sleep (quite often confused with insomnia) and an abnormal daytime sleep pattern. Almost 80 per cent of those with narcolepsy also have cataplexy, a sudden occurrence of muscle weakness. In such people, extreme emotions — sadness, anger or happiness — will result in instant sleep wherever or whatever situation they are in. Cataplexy without narcolepsy is rare and the cause is unknown.