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Shifting stance

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After being hero in over a 100 films, Prabhu plays character roles with panache. The actor speaks to malathi rangarajan on the past, present and future

In my days I was a chubby boy in cinema!

Prabhu, the most successful actor from the lineage of Sivaji Ganesan till date, is well aware of his pluses and hones them to advantage.

Severe competition at home notwithstanding (Dad Ganesan was still very active on screen then), Prabhu went on to complete around 150 films as hero! Some of them — such as Chinna Thambi, and Manasukkul Mathaapu — had landmark performances from the actor. “People still talk about Chinna Thambi,” he smiles. Directed by P. Vasu, the film was a runaway hit. “I still remember my father’s words after the show. ‘Just as I got a Bhimbhai, you’ve got Vasu,’ he said.” Every Sivaji film with director Bhim Singh was a success story then.

Changing tack

Prabhu switched over to playing character roles about a couple of years ago. And as always in every film —Unakkum Enakkum, (the feel-good flick with ‘Jayam’ Ravi) Thamirabharani (a serious role with Vishal) or Billa (the Ajith bonanza) — he made his presence felt. “Many offers come my way. But I don’t accept all of them. I don’t feel the need to,” he says. Yet the veteran has his plate full — Kandasamy (with Vikram), Ayan (with Surya), Silambattam (with Simbhu) and A Aa E Ee (with Navdeep), to name some.

“Every film is a worthy experience with these young makers — Susi Ganesan, K.V. Anand, Saba, Saravanan and others,” he says.

Today the hero’s mode of working has changed a lot. “My dad used to do three shifts a day. We followed the same pattern. But now it’s one film at a time. The investment is huge and the heroes are a hard working lot,” he pauses, and adds with a guffaw, “Nice to see a lot of six pack abs around! In my days I was a chubby boy in cinema!”

Prabhu is lost in thought for a moment. “In our heyday, we actors would visit each others’ sets and meet for lunch. Rajini and Kamal would come over to my work spot and I would go and chat up with them. So it was with Satyaraj, Vijayakanth and Raja (hero of many Bharatiraja films).Today’s heroes are friendly no doubt, but with the entry of caravan culture, interaction is rare. Can’t blame them, though! But I miss the camaraderie. And don’t misunderstand me! I also enjoy assignments with my younger colleagues,” he clarifies. “They call me ‘Anna’ and the warmth we share is genuine.”

Friends of his generation are still playing heroes, so why has Prabhu changed tack? “I know if I work hard on my physique I’m hero material too. My shift is out of choice,” he laughs cheekily. Recently at the location of Ayan a couple of young men walked up to Prabhu and said they wish to see him as hero again. “It’s a nice feeling. But at the moment I’m happy with what I’ve opted for.”

On the latest

And when exactly did the modelling bug bite him? His laughter is at its baritone best as he says: “You are talking about the Kalyan Jewellers’ ad, aren’t you? It’s fun. It was G.B. Vijay, director of Kamal Haasan’s, Kalaignan, who first got me into it. From Amitji to everybody else you have cinema folks endorsing products. So why not?” You’ll soon be seeing Prabhu sporting National shirting and dhotis in their ad campaign.

Prabhu’s penchant for comedy is well known. “I hope I get to play light roles. Incidentally, I quite like the way in which these young actors have made a joke of my serious line in Chandramukhi — ‘Enna Kodumai Saravana Idhu.’ (Venkat Prabhu’s Chennai -600028 made the dialogue incredibly popular.) I’m in splits even as I my remind him of that hilarious scene in Kanni Raasi when he blinks his way through an interview for admission into a tutorial centre and comes up with howlers for every poser. Prabhu is in stitches too.


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