S. SHIVA KUMAR
Vijay, who's achieved superstar status with Duniya, wears success lightly on his shoulders. It's not easy for him to get over his painful past, when not too many resisted a chance to trample the poor boy with grand dreams
It's the wee hours of the morning, just hours before the release of "Duniya". A stocky youth with studs in his ears is crying inconsolably in front of the theatre, muttering: " In a few hours the public will decide my fate." The morning show begins, the youngster receives thunderous applause not only for his daredevil stunts but sensitive portrayal of a pea-brained pugilist and a star is born.Vijay is still savouring his success. The excitement is palpable and there's innocence in his demeanour that's disarming. He talks of the time when he was suddenly spurned by his lady love (not just stuff of the films you see), a rich girl when she realised he could not afford a car or an apartment. "I told her I would achieve something but she turned her back. I'm sure she'll watch me on hoardings and cry," says Vijay with vicarious pleasure. Then there's the producer who called him a cheap stuntman but wants to do a film with him now.He's short with a sinewy body and in a vague sense resembles Rajpal Yadav. Clad in baggy pants and a jacket, he looks different from what he did in the film. The producer of his next film is presenting him with a Toyota Innova. He disagrees when I tell him people change with power and pelf. "Rajni Sir has not," he says with a twinkle in his eyes. While we stand sipping coffee at an SLV, fans are still wary of approaching him.The interview:How did this idea of joining films take seed?I am from a village near Anekal taluk, from a very poor family. My father and grandfather used to act in plays. I did a few in my high school days. I was a very good athelete. I was good at everything but studies. I was lucky enough to meet Yograj Bhatt, Soori and Ranganath. That's how I got a role in "Ranga SSLC". They really guided me. When I told them of my ambition to become a hero they chided me. `First become an actor,' they had said. I understand their logic now. I'm short so I decided to compensate by learning to perform stunts. I've been in fight sequences with all the major heroes in the Kannada industry. I take a lot of risks.I used to do serials where they gave me miniscule roles. When I progressed to films, I knew nobody would just sign me on as a hero. I did a lot of films after "Ranga... " like "Jogi" and "Deadly Soma". "Duniya" was planned by Yograj Bhatt, Soori and me in a park in BSK II stage. It just happened.When you were getting bashed up by heroes did you fantasise about being in their shoes?Absolutely. I think that's natural. That was my sole aim and I was convinced I could do it.When "Duniya" was narrated to you did you realise it was similar to "Jogi"?I realised, but did not point it out. I was already imagining myself as the hero and was excited and convinced I could do a good job.A hero usually has to look good but in the film you have unkempt hair and stained teeth. Who decided on the look?I consider Soori as my philosopher and guide. He's literally nurtured me. There were inputs from others but Soori decided. He had noticed this strange look that I had in my eyes. My favourite animal is the cheetah and if you notice I imitate that animal when I run. Even that look that's getting me a lot of applause is a cheetah's. I've not mentioned this before. You can learn a lot by observing animals.When a film does well heroes sometimes start feeling they are the sole reason for it.You are right but I don't feel that way. I've struggled a lot; knocking on producer's offices and being insulted. I'm a die-hard Rajnikant fan. I went to his house in Chennai just to meet him but was shooed away. I had run away from home and had to work as a cleaner in a hotel. He's my life. I'm yet to meet him, but I feel I'll just die the day I meet him. I feel he's a living example of how one should lead his life. I'm not ambitious. My necessities are bare. Even this car is not mine.It must be tough quoting a price when your first film becomes a big hit.People come to me and say I'll tell you a fantastic script. You act in the film even if you are paid less. They make investors out of us. I have gone to school with torn knickers. I'll wait for the right script. My main ambition in life is to build an old age home for abandoned parents. I will realise that dream.What kind of offers are you getting? I'm sure you are getting the same kind of scripts.That's true. Suddenly everyone wants to work with me. I want to work in only two films a year. I'll do my home-work. I want people to first accept me as an actor.The second film is crucial because you have to prove you are not a flash in the pan.I'm fully aware of that. Soori's associate Chandra will be directing my next film. We are discussing the script. I will be an action film with a little romance thrown in. I have to practice stunts and tone up my physique.There is this producer who rejected you earlier but has offered you a film now. Will you do the film?Never. There are a lot of things tucked away in my mind. I'm not the forgiving kind. I worked for 22 days in a film and was beaten up when I asked for my money. I had bruises all over working for that film. I vowed that day that I would achieve success.So you will watch Rajni's "Shivaji" first day, first show.Of course. But I want to meet the man and touch his feet. Can you help?