Cinema With “David” Tamil superstar Vikram tries to win over Hindi film audiences by showing them his ‘actor’ side. ANUJ KUMAR
Time and again we have actors crossing the Vindhyas to try their luck in the Hindi film industry with varying results. This week it is the turn of Vikram, the National Award winning Tamil superstar who will be seen in Bejoy Nambiar’s bilingual “David”. Set in three different time periods, the film is about three Davids fighting their Goliaths. Vikram’s “Anniyan” did good business in its dubbed version and he was appreciated for playing Dev in Mani Ratnam’s “Raavan”. In fact, it was his natural performance which was held responsible for highlighting the lacunae in Abhishek Bachchan’s efforts in playing the title role.
Vikram says he was waiting for a “David” kind of script. “I got many offers after ‘Raavan’ but I didn’t want to do it for numbers.” Vikram is one of those artistes who moved on from an actor to become a star and he realises it. He was offered the role of David played by Neil Nitin Mukesh but he declined it. “The character is very stylish and hard hitting but I had already played tough guy with shades of grey in ‘Raavan’. I didn’t want the Hindi film audience to say that Vikram is repeating himself. My strength is acting and ‘David’ will showcase that. People will watch and say ‘Wow! He can act’.”
So he opted for David who lives in Goa. “It is like being normal but at the same time performing. I had to look as normal as you see somebody on street but still not being me. It was tricky otherwise there was no challenge as such for me at this stage of my career,” says Vikram. Bejoy wanted to cast a comedian or a character artiste, somebody from stage for the role. “He said it is not ‘that’ kind of role. I said that’s why I want to do it. I enjoyed it. He is very carefree, irresponsible, loser…there is nothing that works for him but everything around him is funny. It is not slapstick comedy, though. People will find him cute. You will start falling in love with this character. It is the actor side doing a star’s role.”
He insists it is a kind of character which he has not attempted even in Tamil cinema. “He is not bothered about what’s happening around him. If his mother gets a cut he would say ‘Oh! You cut yourself’ and move on. There are fights, there is style but there is so much acting. There was no scope for it but when you will see the film you will say this is not Vikram. Not just Hindi audience, Tamil audience will also feel the same,” he promises. The title suggests that it takes off from the timeless David versus Goliath challenge and Vikram shares that here emotional, physical and spiritual problems take the form of Goliath and how the three Davids counter them indivudually, overcome them, forms the narrative. “There is a strong undercurrent of father-son relationship in all three stories as well. However, Bejoy has taken a very commercial way to present the complex theme. It is an intelligent film for sure but not an intellectual film.”
Talking about the preparation for the role, Vikram muses, “Sometimes you do homework but sometimes as you are doing the role, you have recollections from your life and you incorporate it. Here I just thought I am playing a Goan, so I should not think too much and let the emotions flow. From costumes to acting style, Bejoy gave a lot of freedom. He wants the actor to enjoy the character and that helped me a lot.”
Bejoy’s last film was more about style than substance but Vikram differs with this analysis. “‘Shaitan’ was appreciated by all. Yes, there was style but there was substance as well. Because it was his first film and a small budget film, it didn’t get the kind of attention it should have got in the theatres. ‘David’ might give you a whiff of ‘Shaitan’ but it is not ‘Shaitan’.”
One fails to understand why Mani Ratnam didn’t cast him for the Hindi version of “Raavan”. Vikram says he perhaps wanted to exploit Abhishek and Aishwarya, husband and wife, playing Raavan and Sita on screen. “This is a call that Mani Sir had to take and Abhishek worked really hard for the role. As for me doing the role, at that time I didn’t know Hindi well enough and also I find it interesting to play two different roles in the same film. In ‘David’ I found it very boring playing the same character in Tamil and Hindi. I think if Bejoy had given me another role in the Tamil version I would have enjoyed more.”
He maintains that language plays an important role. “Now that I know Hindi and even dubbed myself it was difficult for me to shoot the same scene simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil. There were times when after shooting a scene in Hindi I found myself completely blank while doing the same thing in Tamil perhaps because I was thinking in Hindi.”
Vikram holds he is not the only one presenting an amalgamation of actor and star. “I think a lot of people are trying. I like what Vidya Balan, Abhay Deol and Farhan Akhtar are doing.” With “Vishwaroopam” getting delayed because of the ban, now three big Tamil films are scheduled to release on the same date. “I feel one of the films might release at a later date. It is a producer’s call but I have full faith in ‘David’. Even if it releases a week later it will attract the attention of cinegoers,” he signs off.
Between the lines…
On his knowledge about Hindi films
I don’t watch many Hindi films but my mother does. I only catch up with hit films. “Aradhana” was the first Hindi film that I watched. Then I enjoyed “Yaadon Ki Baarat”, “Sholay”, “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak”, “Maine Pyaar Kiya”, all the hits. I never listened to the language just observed the performances. More than the films, Hindi film music has been an influence. I don’t understand completely but I enjoy the tunes. My mother introduced me to Hindi film music when she gave me the cassette of Mukesh’s songs. It was a collection of songs that Mukeshji performed in the US on his last trip to the country. It moved me a lot. For a long time I didn’t know about Mohammad Rafi or Kishore Kumar. To me Mukesh was the singer in the Hindi film industry. When I told this to Neil he was so touched. He breaks into “Sawan Ka Mahina”….
On Salman Khan doing “Sethu” remake
I think he did a great job and it was such a big hit. If I had done it nobody would have seen it!
On “Vishwaroopam” controversy
I think people should understand that some changes could be done to see that the film is released. If there are certain scenes which are objectionable I think people can sit and sort out the matter. After all Kamal Haasan has made the film for the love of cinema.