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Mr. Versatile

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Actor Nasser continues to make a mark in diverse roles, says malathi rangarajan

As a character artist I can’t afford to speculate. I have to enjoy what I do

The colourful launch invite of Maharaja, reveals that Nasser is playing a prominent role in the film, and from the pictures you make out that he has Anita for company! (She’s the heroine who was paired with Vikram in Samurai and later with Ravikrishna in ‘Sukran.)

Going by the pictures of Nasser sporting a pair of folded jeans, a jazzy blazer, coloured wig and fanciful shades, and shaking a leg with younger actors, Maharaja should be a comedy — a genre Nasser has proved a past master in, as films such as Magalir Mattum and Avvai Shanmughi exemplify.

“Maharaja is about a middle-aged, middle class man on whom fortune smiles all of a sudden. Manoharan, the director, is new. But I’m confident he can pull it off. I’ve given 35 days for the shooting of Maharaja. Actually I can do four films in that period if only money had been the criterion. But I feel this role has potential,” he says.

It’s a very different tune from the one I heard him sing when I last met him a few years ago. “It is,” he agrees.

Not too long ago the versatile actor who had made a tremendous impact with landmark films such as Thevar Magan and Jeans was suddenly seen signing films left, right and centre — accepting almost every role that came his way. Naturally, not all were worthwhile. “I just keep signing on the dotted line. I have to,” he had said.

Nasser explains: “I was forced to do it because I had burnt my fingers in film production. I needed to get out of the financial mess I was in. But now things are smooth and I’ve become choosy. So only roles that give me satisfaction matter.”

Yet Kudhirai, which is in the making, is again a home production, isn’t it? “The market has opened up a lot, since Popcarn my last film, released five years ago. The industry is more organised, perfect market surveys are done and outside funding is available. Raj TV is backing the project. We are producing it for them and it’s my wife Kameela who is managing the entire show. We are more responsible because others’ money is involved,” he says.

Strangely Nasser doesn’t have a role in Kudhirai. “It’s the director’s call. I have nothing to do with the casting. I just know the outline of the story.”

Though he doesn’t sound uxorious, Nasser has great admiration for his wife. “She’s done her doctorate in child psychology and is meticulous in all matters,” he says. With innumerable acting assignments on the agenda managing dates could be hassling. “Not after Kameela began to take care of my affairs four and a half years ago. I listen to stories and decide the projects after which she takes over. So I have no tensions. She bears the brunt,” he laughs.

Worthy juggle

Mention Poi Solla Porom — Khosla Ka Ghosla — well remade, and Nasser takes off with gusto. “It was quite some time since I’d done comedy and the offer proved a boon,” he smiles. He has no qualms about admitting that he wasn’t the first choice for the role. “Another actor was supposed to do it. All of a sudden it came to me. They wanted 18 days from me and it was just not possible,” he recalls. As always Kameela pulled it off. She spoke to three different producers and managed to get seven days. She then called up the makers of ‘PSP’ and gave them the option of utilising the days completely. “‘Nasser would come to the sets at seven and work till nine at night, if they wished,’ she said. I’m glad they agreed. From director Vijay’s narration I knew it would be a worthy role. The young man canned every shot with utmost care. And in Tamil, comedy is never illogical or loud. So I knew it would work,” says Nasser. He refused to watch the original because he didn’t wish to be influenced by Boman Irani’s performance.

What exactly does he look for in a role? “As a character artist I can’t afford to speculate. I have to enjoy what I do. So I choose roles accordingly. As for ‘PSP’ the moment Vijay told me the name of my character I was impressed. Imagine a heartless villain with the name ‘Baby’! The humour begins there,” he laughs.

Nasser is one of the latest to join the ad-film bandwagon. “Amitabh Bachchan paved the way and we actors toe the line,” he says. Commercials involve about a day’s work and help keep the actor visible. “Initially I didn’t take modelling very seriously. But recently at a hardware store in Pollachi, I heard the brand of iron rods I had endorsed being referred to as ‘Nasser kambigal.’ That’s when I realised the responsibility that comes with such promo trips.”

And what do his three sons have to say about their dad’s histrionic prowess? The eldest is into a course in computer game designing in Malaysia while the other two are in school. “Frankly, earlier they were quite upset that their father plays villain and gets beaten up by heroes. Now they are grown up and know that it’s part of the game,” he smiles.


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