Ajith breaks his silence, at last.

Certain occurrences can have no explanations. Ajith’s faithful fan following, for instance! For all that the actor has had his share of rises and reversals. Yet till date the opening an Ajith release commands remains unsurpassed. The recent ‘Kireedam’ exemplifies it further. “I can only humbly thank the people for the love they shower on me,” he smiles. On August 3, the actor completed a fruitful 15 years in the industry.

For some time Ajith had retreated into a shell — a sabbatical of sorts from the media. “Somewhere deep down I began to feel that with too many interviews circulating, people could get the impression I’m narcissistic, while the truth is far from it. That’s when I thought it was time for silence and re-assessment.”

Frank exchanges

But such stoic silence gave way to many assumptions. “I know! And believe me, remaining unprovoked through all the back-stabbing and canard isn’t easy. But I don’t wish to give importance to people who indulge in it, by reacting to them. None can gain mileage from slinging mud at me. All celebrities go through it. You either stay back or walk away. I opted for the former,” he says.

With no Godfather, and absolutely ignorant about the ways of the industry, Ajith has managed a marathon on his own. He was just around 22 when his first hit, ‘Aasai,’ happened. “I made mistakes and learnt from them. I allowed myself to be surrounded by riff-raff and got carried away,” he candidly accepts. Though bruised and battered over the years, both physically and psychologically, today Ajith stands tall with his success quotient intact.

Solid family support and grit are his strengths. “The brash young Ajith is gone. Now I’m probably turning philosophical and even spiritual. I read a lot and it has made me realise the transience of fame and fortune. Agreed, it’s a rat race everywhere, but let’s move on … live and let live!”

Happiness is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with success or failures, Ajith believes. “I’m happy. If today God appeared before me and said my days on the Earth are over, I wouldn’t mind. Only that I’d ask him for some time to experience and enjoy fatherhood,” winks this dad-to-be.

“My hardcore fans have stood by me through thick and thin. My parents are around to see me growing and so is my circle of friends,” he says.

Of course, wife Shalini is the focal point of his life. He smiles: “Sure. She has brought about positive changes in me. She gave up a very successful career to marry me and I’ll never forget that.”

He’s undergone 14 surgeries and his spine has been fused at three levels! But Ajith has always bounced back into circulation. A medical marvel almost! “I’ve been through hell. I want all the ailing folks out there to know that if you have the determination you can overcome the worst obstacles… The best part is the risky stunts I do have never gone awry. But simple stuff such as jumping off a stool, have confined me to bed!” he laughs.

Laughing it off

Ajith is one of the most imitated actors at every mimicry show. “Even some of the best SMS jokes are on me. I enjoy them and forward them to my friends. I’m mature enough to take these things in my stride.”

Born of a Sindhi mother (from Kolkata) and a Keralite father, Ajith began speaking Tamil only after entering films. And for that his diction and pronunciation are amazing. “I’ve lived in Tamil Nadu since childhood,” he explains.

His elder brother is into stocks and his younger sibling has settled down in Seattle, after graduating from IIT Madras, and a Masters abroad. “I had twin sisters but they died very young,” he ruminates. Ajith’s philanthropy is little known. “Once I talk about it, it means publicity, and the purpose gets defeated,” he says. So he prefers not to dwell on the Mohini-Mani Foundation in his parents’ names, either. The only Hindi film Ajith worked in is ‘Ashoka.’ “Santosh Sivan offered it to me and Shah Rukh Khan called me up saying he wanted me to do the role ,” he smiles.

What does he look for when he signs on the dotted line? “Compatibility!” is the surprising reply. “ If you can’t vibe with the director, work can become torture,” he explains.

His next film after ‘Billa’ will be directed by Raju Sundaram. When out of the blue Ajith says, “I believe in the ‘KISS’ policy,” you look at him perplexed. “‘Keep It Simple, Stupid!’ is what it stands for. Life would be simpler if you take one step at a time and don’t get rattled by irrelevant issues.”

Leafing through a racer’s diaryMention racing and Ajith’s eyes light up. “I began racing two-wheelers at 18,” he begins. Though cars were equally enticing and Ajith was good at driving them, bikes were an affordable option at that point in time. During the practice session (for Group E bikes up to 1100 cc) for the National Championships Ajith met with a major accident.It was in 2002 that he got back into the racing ring, this time with single-seater cars, and acquitted himself creditably in the Formula Maruti National Championships that year. Again in the 14 events held in five Asian countries — China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Korea — for the BMW Asian Championship, Ajith notched up a creditable 12th overall position out of 32 international contestants. “Though it was an Asian event, it had racers from all over the world including Australia. My best in an individual race at the Championship was fourth,” he says.

The actor-sportsman then set his eyes on the British Formula 3 Championship Scholarship Class, a stepping stone to Formula1. “ Here 300 kmph is the speed we are talking about and I comfortably managed 290. Twice I was on the victory stand winning the third place at the Donington Park and Knock Hill Circuits.”

At the end of the day, Ajith feels gratified that he has represented his country at the international level. But what is disconcerting to him is the insipid response from his fraternity. “A pat on the shoulder would have helped. Instead I got a kick on my back,” he shrugs.