N. VENKATESWARAN

Character actor Mukesh Tiwari, who has a slew of Hindi films in his kitty, can now add a few Tamil ones too.

Item girls are not the only imports Tamil producers and directors are making from Bollywood. They are bringing in talented character actors too, such as Mukesh Tiwari. Mukesh burst into Bollywood with his role as Jagira in the Rajkumar Santoshi-directed `China Gate.' Since then he has done major parts in movies such as `The Legend of Bhagat Singh' (also directed by Rajkumar Santoshi), `Gangaajal' and `Apharan' (Prakash Jha), `The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey' (Ketan Mehta), and `Zameen' and `Golmaal' (Rohit Shetty). The National School of Drama-trained actor's first major role here was Shanmugavadivel, the villainous politician, in the Sarath Kumar-starrer `Thalaimagan.' In `Pokkiri,' which is running to packed houses, he is the corrupt and seedy police officer, Govindan. "But I did my first role in Tamil films much earlier," he says. "I did a cameo in the Cheran-directed `Pandavar Bhoomi,' which was released in 2001."

Cheran's fan

After that he got busy working in Hindi films till Cheran sounded him out for the role in `Thalaimagan.' "I am a big fan of Cheran and like the way he directs. I have [also] learnt a lot from him. That is why I jumped at the role he offered me in `Thalaimagan'." Most of his breaks have come from people who, impressed with his acting, offered him roles. Actor Naseeruddin Shah was so taken up with his work in the play "Agni Aur Barkha" that he recommended Mukesh to Rajkumar Santoshi who was looking for an actor to play the villain in his `China Gate.' Similarly with `Pokkiri.' Cinematographer Nirav Shah put in a word to actor-director Prabhu Deva, when the latter was casting for `Pokkiri.' "I was very keen to work with Prabhu Deva. He is the most demanding director, a perfectionist. I think he is a brilliant actor, a very good technician, and the best dancer in the world," says Mukesh.Conceding that working in Tamil is a problem, he says, "If you understand the soul of the character, of the film, then it helps. And if the director is good, it is very easy. The most important thing is passion. If you have passion, it shows on the screen." "Now, there are no boundaries in art and cinema. Look at European and Hollywood cinema, for example. There are no barriers; it is only cinema." And it helps that he does not look at the director or his experience when accepting roles. "It is not important how many scenes you have. What is important is the role, the emotions we get to portray on screen. It is enough if only one scene clicks with the audience." "Everything depends on the story. That is why I work with a lot of new directors too. Anyway, the only people who need to be scared are the hero and the heroine, not me."

His mentor

"Rajkumar Santoshi is my mentor and gave me my first break; that is why I have a lot of respect for him. `Gangaajal' [was] a rebirth; Prakash Jha offered me a role which gave me an opportunity to perform a whole range of emotions for the first time." Though he has many films in his kitty — `Benaam' directed by Anees Bazmee, `Sunday' by Rohit Shetty and `My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves' by E. Nivas — he wants to turn to direction. "I will direct, but only after seven or eight years and only when I have a good story idea." But theatre is what drives him. "I want to go on a world tour, see all theatre groups. I want to see how they work, how they write their stories, how they evolve as actors. Eventually, I want to open my own repertory and do plays. My affection towards the theatre will always remain the same."