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On a journey

k. jeshi
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face-to-face Parthiepan adds to his impressive repertoire upcoming films Jannal Oram , Veerakkal Daivangal and Bad Boys… k. jeshi catches up with the actor

Parthiepan in Jannal Oram
Parthiepan in Jannal Oram

Actor Parthiepan manages to shine in every role. In Bharathi Kannamma , as Bharathi who comes from a lower caste, he jumps into the funeral pyre of his lover Kannamma (a zamindari) and dies. In Vetri Kodi Kattu , he is Muthuraman who creates a livelihood with what he has, after a failed attempt at going to Dubai. In Azhagi , the veterinary doctor Shanmugham is a haunted lover. And in Aayirathil Oruvan , he is a Chola King, who carries the burden of a lost dynasty. All the performances won him applause.

“A number of scenes from Aayirathil … are still tweeted about. This paves the way for discussions on online forums, and creates awareness on the Chola dynasty and the legacy of Raja Raja Cholan. If people remember me for my roles, the credit must go to the directors. The audience identify themselves in the roles. And, they connect with my honesty and social consciousness,” he says. Bharathi Kannamma is directed by Cheran, and Azhagi by Thangar Bachan. “ Azhagi is female-oriented. The story revolves around the characters played by Nandita Das and Devayani. The role didn’t have any scope for nakkal dialogues and mannerisms I am often associated with, but Thangar cast me… people look at me differently after Azhagi ,” recounts Parthiepan.

However, his favourite films are the offbeat Kudaikkul Mazhai and Housefull (it won a National award), which he also directed. “I should have made those films now. Tamil cinema is now open to new experiments such as Myna , Kumki , Pizza…

Films have become abstract, and so are our lives, he says. “Audience tastes are changing. They want fast-paced stories. Today, we don’t have to necessarily show romance for long stretches. There is no space for sentiment or emotional drama. The challenge is to have creative content and make it believable like Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park . In the thriller Pizza , it’s a lie that engages you till the end.” Parthiepan plays a bus driver in his upcoming film Jannal Oram (a remake of the Malayalam film Ordinary ). “The bus travels from Palani to Pannakaadu and there are villagers who regularly travel by it. There is an unexpected turn of events. Ordinary was a blockbuster. I reprise the role played by Biju Menon in the original. Biju spoke in Palakkad slang, in the Tamil version, I speak Tirunelveli slang, my style,” he says.

He returns to playing a semi-historic character in Veerakkal Daivangal , an upcoming Malayalam film. He is also doing another Malayalam film, Bad Boys , a comedy about three trouble makers in a village. “I have avoided many films because they offered me clichéd roles. I choose multi-starrers as long as there is scope for acting.”

Parthiepan has acted in 50 films, directed 11, produced 10, and has been in the industry for 20 years. He has seen his share of success and failure. “It’s part of the game. But, if you persevere, there are plenty of opportunities. Though I have acted only in two films in the last four or five years, I directed Vithagan , wrote a book…I keep myself busy. I watch world cinema. I learn about the making of a film visually from films such as The Book of Eli and Sin City .”

Encourage newcomers

The actor wants to encourage newcomers. “Everyone should celebrate cinema. With digital technology, youngsters make short films and immediately start making commercial films. They explore so much with just a small camera. Twenty years ago when I made my first film Pudhiya Paadai , I told the story of a tough guy and how a girl reforms him in a full-length feature film. Today, it can be told in just 10 shots.”

After Kirukkalgal , his literary work, Parthiepan is working on his second book titled Chumma . “It has kaadhal, kavithai, diary, philosophy…a little bit of everything,” he says.

What next? “A film titled ‘kathai-thiraikkathai-vasanam-iyakkam’,” he laughs.


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