Donning the role of an ex-convict for an appearance accounting for less than one-tenth of the total duration of a film hardly seems something that a top star would do while in the prime of his career. Actor Prabhu, however, had no second thoughts when director Mani Ratnam approached him for ‘Anjali'.
“The role seemed very interesting. I'm glad I took it up, as I am still remembered for that performance,” he says. Several top actors and some directors have often pleasantly surprised the audience by their short and yet significant roles in films.
Actor Dhanush, too, who is basking in the success of ‘Aadukalam', makes a relatively short appearance in ‘Good night' R. Mohan's ‘Seedan' releasing on Friday. “It's almost like a guest appearance. My portion is for 40 minutes, largely in the second half of the film,” says the actor. He plays the role of a cook in the film directed by Subramanya Siva.
What really makes actors go for such roles? “I think it is about the character. This one is bound to be an instant hit among women,” says Dhanush. Offering a lot of scope for comedy, the role gave him “a lot of satisfaction.” “So what if I am not the hero of the film? It is fun taking up such roles once in a while,” he says.
Prabhu also thinks such roles can be very fulfilling. “Mani [Mani Ratnam] told me ‘Hey you appear for about five minutes and it's a shady character, but you save children.' I thought it would be interesting and instantly accepted the offer,” he recalls.
The actor believes that when the director speaks of such a role, it should touch the actor. Something about it should intrigue the actor and make him or her want to take it up despite the short appearance.
“There was this little boy who would keep coming to me saying ‘uncle, uncle, look at my dance' and so on. When I worked in ‘Billa', director Vishnu Vardhan told me he was that little boy. It was so exciting!”
The actor still vividly remembers the fight sequence in the rain. “The technicians were brilliant. The stunt master and cinematographer Madhu Ambat actually made me look shady,” he laughs.
Artists observe that the role must add value in the script and come as an element of surprise. For instance, actor Kamal Haasan's appearance in ‘Magalir Mattum' lasts hardly a few minutes, but his fans still remember it.
Not just actors, but directors have also made a mark with their short appearance on screen. A classic example is director K.S.Ravikumar who makes it a point to come in front of the camera at least in one scene in all his films.
Whether it is ‘Muthu' in which he gives a harassed Rajinikanth a hug and a kiss, or ‘Panchatandiram' as Kamal Haasan's co-pilot, or in ‘Padayappa' dancing stylishly with the Superstar, the director lets the viewer know how much fun he has in front of the camera too.
“It has become a sentiment now to appear in all my films .Even producers insist I do,” he laughs.
The director says he does not specifically plan to include a sequence featuring him, but invariably “works out” that way.
“Even during ‘Muthu' I had not planned to appear in that scene. The portion was being shot in Kerala and during our discussion of a shot, Rajini sir asked me who would play the role of the person who hugs him. I hadn't thought about it, but he immediately said ‘Why don't you do it?”
So the director had to instantly go on a dhoti hunt. “I also had to get some white dye for my hair. That scene became a huge hit,” he laughs.