‘Yes, we can talk while driving from Hindusthan College grounds to the Brooke’s Mall. That’s cool, right?’ replies actor Arya to an interview request during the Coimbatore leg of his ongoing road journey zipping across Tamil Nadu to promote his movie Captain.
Settling comfortably into his seat after smiling and waving to the crowd outside, he says he is enjoying the trip so far. “It’s fun visiting colleges and theatres to watch the trailer along with fans. Though we have digital promotion, such ground level interactions have their own value as I can directly connect with audiences... It helps create a buzz, and when you communicate better about the film, it hopefully translates to a better opening. I have done this before for my films like Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga way back in 2015.,” says Arya, adding “But, a good film will anyway have a good run, no matter its promotions.”
Arya speaks of his 34 th film Captain, other landmark films of his career like Madarasapattinam, Naan Kadavul, Sarpatta Parambarai, Raja Rani, and his 15-year journey in films.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is the war brewing in ‘Captain’?
It is a fantasy film that featuring a creature called Minotaur. It is a special element in the film, which unfolds with an army backdrop. The movie keeps revealing the threat it poses and why it has to be neutralised. The film is an action drama but the war is with the creature and not terrorists or another country. We hope the ‘awe factor’ draws crowds, especially children who are crazy about Hollywood sci-fi movies.
We have tried our best to match the standards of computer graphics as we’ve seen in films like Spiderman and Superman. I said yes to the film because of Shakti Soundar Rajan, the director. Shakti has already made Miruthan, a zombie film and Tik Tik Tik, a space film, besides Teddy, my live-action animated film. He has a track record of some great work in the CG space. In Captain, he has gone an extra mile to design the entire figure of a minotaur in CG.
Was playing Army captain Vetriselvan physically-demanding?
In the film, Vetriselvan’s team of five is like his family. He is a father figure to the team and it’s a lovely relationship. The story is shot mostly in the northeast border terrain which was tough. The most challenging part was the climax fight, which takes place at 100 feet above the ground. For that, I had to do rope shots that involved hanging from a height of 120 feet mid air. We were shooting in Munnar for rain effect in December and it was freezing!
In another sequence, I fight the creature 20 feet under water, for which I had to stay under water for over two hours every session. It was impossible to come out after every shot, which made it challenging. May be scuba diving skills could have helped me handle the equipment better. I had to signal whenever I was going out of breath.
How was it teaming up with Simran?
It was a fanboy moment. Sakthi had written the character only with Simran in mind. Thankfully, she said yes and it turned out to be a dream-come-true moment for me.
Is a sequel to ‘Boss Engira Bhaskaran’ on the cards, and will it feature actor Santhanam?
We are looking at scripts that can be a winner. We cannot afford to do a mokkai film. It has to come together organically. I am also doing The Village series, a graphic novel adaptation, for Amazon Prime. It has gore and horror and is a bold experiment in India. I will also be in Muthaiah’s next film, a rural action drama. My easygoing approach, as I am not particular about screen time and five-song routines, as well as my willingness to do multi-starrers, are helping me get great projects.
Do you feel a growing pressure to take up pan-India films, since it is the trend now?
It is a personal thing. I could have taken Captain pan-India as there was a huge buzz about it. But it is important to make the film in your core language and then dub it for a wider reach. I am doing Captain in Tamil and is being dubbed in Telugu.
You’re also an cycling enthusiast, and have recently completed the London-Edinburgh 1,540 km route... How did that go?
It was tough. We completed it in 125 hours, during which I slept only for four hours! Randonneuring is quite different from regular cycling and calls for a different mindset altogether. More than the training, it is the mind that drives you to the finish line. Basically, it is about pushing your limits and time management. Every brevet — 200 km, 300 km, 400 km, 600 km, 1000 km — is time-bound, requiring you to finish a specific target in a specific time as you follow the route. You have to keep building endurance levels. The longest I have ever done is the London-Edinburgh-London route. Currently, I am preparing for the prestigious 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) ride in August next year.
How has life been post the success of your Pa Ranjith-directed successful flick Sarpatta Parambarai (2021)?
He is a director who keeps evolving. Sarpatta Parambarai was a sports drama. But in his new film Natchathiram Nagargiradhu, the story-telling was totally different. I loved it. A hit like Sarpatta helps me to do bigger films with better budgets. That’s how Captain became possible.