Actor Jiiva on Tamil movie ‘Varalaru Mukkiyam’ and completing 20 years in films

The actor, whose rom-com entertainer ‘Varalaru Mukkiyam’ is hitting screens this week, speaks about what keeps him going in the industry and the secret behind making films for the youth

December 06, 2022 04:17 pm | Updated December 08, 2022 06:15 pm IST

Jiiva in a still from ‘Varalaru Mukkiyam’

Jiiva in a still from ‘Varalaru Mukkiyam’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In his 2006 Tamil action romance Dishyum, Jiiva delivered a dialogue along these lines: “Naangellam kai thattal ku engura jaadhi (I am from the sect that craves for applause).” This January, Jiiva’s debut film Aasai Aasaiyai turns 20, and when asked about what has kept him going all these years, the actor says that the dialogue from Dishyum still holds true. “People are now less hesitant about appreciating you or criticising you. There is a sense of fulfillment when people tell you they like what you do, and this has increased after the emergence of social media. Why else would we toil under the hot sun, dance in the middle of the street, or get ready for a shot at 4 in the morning?”

He has no qualms about accepting that he likes the money, fame, and power that this field of work grants him. “I also get to travel and meet people. I like the public life I lead as well.” But, ultimately, he says, it’s the love for the art that pushes him. “ If not for that, I would have stopped ten years ago and I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to be in a historical project like 83,” says Jiiva.

Jiiva in a still from ‘Varalaru Mukkiyam’.

Jiiva in a still from ‘Varalaru Mukkiyam’. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

This week, Jiiva is gearing up for the release of Varalaru Mukkiyam, a rom-com drama directed by debutant Santhosh Rajan, who interestingly had also written some of the comedy scenes in Dishyum when he worked as an assistant. Romance and comedy have always been considered a tricky slope, given how quickly some of these ideas get outdated amongst the newer generation of audiences. Jiiva, on the other hand, has always managed to create such content for the youth, and the youth are once again the target audience of Varalaru Mukkiyam. “The likes and dislikes of youngsters have not changed much. 20 years ago, we were the generation that hated exaggerated, ‘cringe-y’ romance or the way the songs were being shot. Our opinions were immediately put down because we didn’t have social media.”

Actors like himself who found a footing in the early 2000s, he says, have managed to keep themselves updated, but Jiiva wishes that filmmakers put that extra effort as well. “Look at Siva Manasula Sakthi. It is still being loved by the youth, and I meet people who are discovering it again. There is a certain pulse to such content that needs to connect with the audience.”

Varalaru Mukkiyam has that pulse, he believes, “After the pandemic, most films that came out were dull in mood and we just wanted to give a good entertainer for youngsters.” From the trailer, the film seems like a blend of everything we have grown to associate with either Jiiva or with a modern-day youth entertainer: There’s a comedy sidekick in the form of VTV Ganesh, a Gana track (Suthura Boomi), a kuthu number set in a bar (Pothi Pothi Valatha Pulla), and a romance track featuring him as a ‘soup boy’ (he is paired opposite Kashmira Pardesi and Pragya Nagra in the film).

This is what one can call a commercial ‘package’ film that caters to the theatre audience, and Jiiva says he will always prioritise that theatre experience. “Look at the excitement for Thunivu and Varisu. I think there is a bifurcation between OTT films and theatre films, and the latter requires a certain type of storytelling which we, at least in South India, have been doing well. There’s a certain flavour to our storytelling that lends itself to a good theatre experience,” says Jiiva.

Varalaru Mukkiyam is also Jiiva’s first solo outing in two years. Kalathil Santhippom, 83, and Coffee with Kadhal were all multi-starrers, something he says he loves doing. “When many stars are involved, the director has the additional responsibility to bring the best output. Moreover, each hero will get an introduction scene and the screenplay will get interesting.” After Varalaru..., Jiiva has comedy film Golmaal up for release. “I am also working on a thriller film for Dream Warrior Pictures in which I am paired opposite Priya Bhavani Shankar. There is also a big-budget project with Vels Film International, which is directed by Pa Vijay and has Raashii Khanna and Arjun sir in the lead. I am in talks for a Hindi film as well.” Will he ever do a direct-to-digital project? “If the pay is good, yes. OTT is here to stay and so when the product and the budget are big enough, I don’t mind jumping in.”

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