Some of us might miss out on a relationship that others experience. Like, some might grow up without ever knowing how it feels to be pampered by grandparents. Now, imagine if you could just take out your smartphone and order for an actor to be your grandfather or grandmother. Sounds wacky? This is the concept of Aha Tamil's upcoming web series Mad Company, starring Prasanna, SPB Charan, Kaniha, and Dhanya Balakrishna among others.
Prasanna plays AK, a man who creates a corporation that lets you hire trained actors to perform a particular role. "When Vignesh Vijayakumar (director) and Balaji Mohan (producer) floated this idea, I was instantly captivated by it," says Prasanna. What drives his character AK to pursue such a peculiar business idea? "He is an actor tired of conventional methods of acting and how it is only used for cinema. So, he wants to take acting as a profession into the lives of common people," explains the actor. Interestingly, like the actors in this company, all of us perform different roles in our day-to-day lives, and Prasanna says this is another way to understand this series. "We perform a certain role as a sibling that might be quite different from the role we play as a friend, and so on," he explains.
Mad Company is Prasanna's fifth consecutive web release since his last theatrical film in 2019. While he got to play a scientist with a hidden agenda in Karthick Naren's time-travel sci-fi short in the anthology Navarasa, he played an assassin in Venkat Prabhu's short in Sony LIV's anthology Victim. "Now, that is why I am more open towards such OTT projects. It gives you the kind of opportunities that you usually do not get in films," he says adding that playing AK was also one such unique experience. "At one moment, he's really arrogant, and all of a sudden, he is as vulnerable as a child. Similarly, he will be romantic at a moment, but will bash love and romantic relationships in another instance."
It is no mere luck that Prasanna gets to do these characters. His career has been one that's shaped by conscious choices, he points out. Perhaps, this is why — through films like Cheena Thaana 001, Naanayam and Anjathe — he has always managed to break through any form of typecasting. "I have always wanted to be an actor who can earn the audience's trust that I can do anything and everything." The actor says that he looks at Dhanush's call for a role in the latter's directorial debut Power Paandi as a result of having always strived to be diverse. "I was hesitant about choosing that film but Dhanush told me that there was a reason why I should do it. He said that during the first half when my character gets angry at his father, the audience should feel the anger and that when he starts looking for his father in the second half, they should empathise with his helplessness as well. 'And only an actor like you can pull this off,' he said, and this came from an actor like Dhanush!"
Though Prasanna has been consciously avoiding films for the big screen due to the impact of the pandemic on medium-budget films, he believes that this is the right time to get back. Hence, the actor has signed a project with Rajan Madhav (who earlier collaborated with the actor in Muran) set for the big screen. The film, which will begin production next year, might introduce us to a new on-screen Prasanna. The actor has long stayed away from the type of roles that could elevate him as a star, but this might change in this film, he believes. "I never had such aspirations and I always looked at the story and the character. But I don't know if it's good or bad, because you need stardom for growth in the long run. So, though the passion for exploring newer things keeps me going, I will now also concentrate on becoming a star," says Prasanna.
While he does that, he also hopes to do something else: star in a historical. "Since my school days, I have always wanted to play a soldier in a period war drama. I have this vision of myself sitting on top of a horse, sporting battle armour and long hair, and wielding a big sharp sword. In fact, when I watched the promo of Ponniyin Selvan featuring Vikram sir, I tweeted about this and Vikram sir was gracious enough to say that my dream will come true. I hope that happens someday."
For now, Prasanna has enough releases coming up — Mad Company, two web series for Sony LIV, a Hindi web series for Viacom, and his film with Rajan.
This week is extra special for Prasanna: apart from the release of Mad Company, it has been twenty years since his debut film ( Five Star) hit screens. . “Though I always dreamt about being an actor, movies felt like a different world, because I had no connections within the industry. I didn’t know anything about cinema then, so that film was the starting point of it all. So if not for Mani Ratnam (producer) and Susi Ganesan (director), I don’t know if it would have been possible to get into this field,” says Prasanna. Interestingly, Mad Company also reunites Prasanna with his Five Star co-star Kaniha after twenty years. “We are long-time friends, but somehow we couldn’t work together. Thankfully, it happened with Mad Company.”
Actor, producer, and singer SPB Charan has been busy as well. In Mad Company, he plays the role of an antagonist. "He's the lead anchor of a prominent news channel and a very aggressive journalist whose primary agenda is to defeat Prasanna's character," explains Charan. "It's a technically-sound project with a wacky script that makes you think. It places a mirror in front of society and raises some questions," he adds.
Charan was recently the talk of the town for his song ‘Hey Sita, Hey Rama’ in the hit film Sita Ramam. Just like many of his previous songs, music fans couldn’t help but wonder how much his voice resembles that of his late father, the legendary S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. “I have been singing the same way, and the effort I put into each song is the same. Maybe the perspective of the people towards my singing has changed and for the better, I believe. I thank music composer Vishal Chandrashekhar for the immense response the song has been getting from Tamil and Telugu audiences,” he says.
Like Prasanna, Charan is also inching towards a milestone — of being in the field of film production for two decades. Since his 2003 film Unnai Charanadainthen, Charan has produced several films under his Capital Film Works banner and introduced filmmakers like Venkat Prabhu, Samuthirakani, Shakti Soundar Rajan and Thiagarajan Kumararaja. However, since 2016's Chennai 28 - II, Charan has hit a pause on film production.
Charan claims that there is a group-ism culture prevalent these days, that ensures an actor works only with a specific set of producers. “The same goes for directors as well; they will prefer only that producer. I don’t know why they have such inhibitions,” says Charan, who adds that there have been instances where the director and hero sideline the producer. “By the end of the project, they instruct the producer on how to market and distribute a film. Such things tire me.Moreover, nowadays only two or three distributors are there, which wasn’t the case when I started producing films in the early 2000s.”
But given the boom of OTT, can't a producer like Charan do a straight-to-streaming project? "Even there, a different form of group-ism exists," he says. "Only a few producers can penetrate the OTT market. Now, small-budgeted producers who are unable to market their unreleased films can release it on OTTs, but even that needs the help of distributors."
As of now, Charan has his hands full with concerts and recordings, besides hosting TV shows like Padutha Theeyaga, which he took over from his father . Apart from Mad Company, he has another web series coming up, after which he hopes to get back to working on Adhigaaram, his debut web series as a director. “Only the post-production part is left but I couldn’t devote time to it due to my ongoing commitments. Also, I don’t want it to be a half-baked product. Then, people will say ‘Oh, the producer who introduced so many directors doesn’t know how to direct’.” (chuckles)
Mad Company premieres on Aha Tamil on September 30.