Watch | No more movies: Udhayanidhi Stalin on quitting acting after ‘Maamannan,’ and his political road ahead

Watch | Udhayanidhi Stalin on quitting acting after ‘Maamannan’, and his political road ahead
| Video Credit: Johan Sathyadas, Shiva Raj

Why Mari Selvaraj’s filmmaking impressed Udhayanidhi and how he assembled the starcast of the Tamil film ‘Maamannan’, releasing on June 29

June 26, 2023 05:52 pm | Updated June 29, 2023 12:29 pm IST

In 2012, a reticent Udhayanidhi Stalin made his debut in Tamil cinema as a lead actor with a rom-com titled Oru Kal Oru Kannadi. He described himself as an accidental actor then.

Eleven years later, as he gears up for the release of Maamanan, a film that will be his last, Udhayanidhi uses the same phrase. “I would probably give myself a 5 on 10 as an actor. It has been a short span where I did about fifteen films. But I will always be proud of my first film and my last,” he says, in a conversation with ‘The Hindu’.

Udhayanidhi Stalin in Tamil film ‘Maamannan’

Udhayanidhi Stalin in Tamil film ‘Maamannan’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The actor-turned-politician and son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin explains that this is because Maamannan, directed by Mari Selvaraj, speaks of social injustice, a theme that has been prevalent in the filmmaker’s earlier works as well. “When it was decided that this would be my last film, I wanted to work with him because I love his frames, scripts and political ideology.”

Dream starcast

The ‘last film’ tag worked well for Udhayanidhi in roping in the best names in each department; Maamannan boasts a unique star cast including Vadivelu, Fahadh Faasil and Keerthi Suresh. “I just opened doors, but it was Mari who convinced all of them. Vadivelu is well known to me and was, in fact, in the frame during my first cameo in Aadhavan (2009). He was surprised that we were offering him a serious and weighty character of a father in this film, but agreed because he liked the script. The entire story revolves around him; he is the ‘Maamannan’,” says Udhayanidhi.

Udhayanidhi Stalin and Mari Selvaraj in Tamil film ‘Maamannan’

Udhayanidhi Stalin and Mari Selvaraj in Tamil film ‘Maamannan’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Music for the film is by AR Rahman, with some of the tunes, including the peppy ‘Jigu Jigu Rail’, already doing well on music platforms. “Mari wanted to rope in Santhosh Narayanan, his constant collaborator, but I desired to have tunes from AR Rahman, who agreed as well.”

Udhayanidhi’s fascination for Mari Selvaraj’s cinematic world started with Pariyerum Perumal but grew manifold with the director’s next film, Karnan, starring Dhanush. “Though we’ve seen Dhanush in several rural films, his angry man portrayal in Karnan stood out for me. Yogi Babu was a leading comedian during this phase but he did some great character roles in these two films.”

Though Udhayanidhi repeatedly states that he isn’t the best of the actors around, he still did pick up a trick or two from his co-stars in Maamannan, especially Fahadh. “I am a huge fan of Fahadh’s work and his advice helped me a lot during shoot. I have many loud, argumentative sequences during which I struggled. Fahadh took me aside and spoke about his experiences while filming Trance, which really helped me pull it off.”

A better connection

Vadivelu, Mari Selvaraj and Udhayanidhi Stalin in Tamil film ‘Maamannan’

Vadivelu, Mari Selvaraj and Udhayanidhi Stalin in Tamil film ‘Maamannan’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Post Maamannan, Udhayanidhi will get busier than ever before with official commitments. He is currently Minister for Youth Welfare and Sports Development for Tamil Nadu, besides being the MLA of the Chepauk constituency and the secretary of the youth wing of the DMK party.

“My schedules are usually blocked at least ten days in advance. I am usually out of Chennai for four days in a week; I travel throughout Tamil Nadu, inspecting implementation of breakfast schemes, attending district review schemes, and also attending functions relating to party members. In Chennai, I usually meet up with authorities of my constituency for pending works and allocation of the MLA fund,” he says.

A part of his journey from a reticent speaker to a confident one has got to do with his experience with cinema. “I was speaking with director KS Ravikumar recently, when he mentioned how I had transformed drastically since the days of shooting my cameo in Aadhavan. Maybe internalising all my film dialogues and interacting with a lot of people in the film industry has helped me get rid of the shyness I initially had. Now, I am able to connect with people better,” he says.

Udhayanidhi Stalin

Udhayanidhi Stalin | Photo Credit: Johan Sathyadas

Future plans

People who follow the film industry closely know of the clout Udhayanidhi wields over projects. He has now distanced himself a bit - he says he has stepped out of his production house, Red Giant, owing to his current political commitments. But before that, Udhayanidhi did have a big influence on the Tamil movie industry; in fact, Kamal Haasan’s upcoming biggie Indian 2 was re-started after his intervention. “People in the cinema industry have big egos. The main stakeholders of Indian 2 had a misunderstanding and the project was getting stalled. Lyca Productions requested me to solve the problem; all I did was to get the three main stakeholders together and talk for ten minutes, and that solved the entire problem.”

After organising the Squash World Cup in the city a few weeks back, Udhay has his hands full on the sports front: a surfing league, the Asian Cup in hockey and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Trophy competitions. “There are a lot of responsibilities and expectations from me. I have separate teams working for my Youth Wing, my constituency, and my official work. I also have a team to coordinate among these various teams, and they all report to me. I hope to use the future to concentrate on all this official work,” he says, adding with finality, “I will not be working on any other movies henceforth.”

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