‘Acting is the last thing an actor should do’

Shaam with Manisha Koirala in the upcoming Oru Melliya Kodu. Photo: Special arrangement

Shaam with Manisha Koirala in the upcoming Oru Melliya Kodu. Photo: Special arrangement  


Shaam talks about Purampokku and the lessons he has learnt over the years.

Shaam couldn’t quite believe it when S. P. Jananathan, director of the recently released Purampokku Engira Podhuvudamai, wanted him to enact a police officer’s role without a moustache. The role of Macaulay wasn’t the problem, but the idea of wearing a cop’s uniform without a moustache… he didn’t quite understand how that would work. “Mush is a cop’s property,” says Shaam. But Jana, as he calls the director, disagreed as he had envisioned a different policeman on screen — not the six-pack flaunting, screaming, angry guy Tamil cinema had been used to seeing. In fact, there were scenes he had to redo as he was too loud. “Jana would remind me that I had a gun, that I could shoot criminals any time. I didn’t have to yell to convey my authority.”

Shaam is a bit like Macaulay himself. “Nothing is above the law.” He is almost addressing Balu (Arya) when he says, “If you want to correct the country, join the government. Start by becoming politicians and police officers.” So invested was Shaam in the role that he found himself behaving like a strict police officer even when he wasn’t in front of the camera. “I got angry when people came late on the sets.” I ask if they got annoyed. “Maybe,” he laughs.

All the appreciation that has come his way since the film’s release hasn’t surprised him. “Ten-fifteen days into the shooting, it was clear this was going to be a great film. I’ve done a few bad films in recent years — let’s not talk about it — but I knew this could potentially redeem me.” He also sounds world-weary when he says acting is potentially the last thing an actor must focus on. He explains, “I realised it quite late in my career. I used to focus only on directors and stories, but now, I know a production house is probably the most important, considering it’s what helps films see the light of day.”

One of the problems of doing a multi-starrer is the possible insecurity that may creep in. “Jana shared the complete script with me, except the climax. It was clear that I wouldn’t be overshadowed.” Most people, however, thought that he’d play the least important protagonist. “I got plenty of calls from people who wanted to know if I’d just appear in a few scenes. One even asked if I had any scenes before the interval.” He didn’t mind the veiled contempt though, as he knew that Arya (who made his debut in Ullam Ketkumae, Shaam’s ninth release) was now a bigger star. “I’m happy for his progress. Maybe God has his own plans for me. Who knows?”

Shaam misses the late Jeeva a lot. He believes the director has left a void that hasn’t been filled yet in Tamil cinema. “Jeeva believed in good-looking people, in good-looking cinema.” Unfortunately, Shaam is now stuck with many directors who expect him to “wear a lungi and hold a beedi”.

All the while, I notice Shaam’s rather unusual Tamil accent. “I’m as Tamil as anybody can be. My mum’s from Tirupattur and dad’s from Madurai. I grew up in Bangalore; perhaps that explains my accent. But I love dubbing. My wife has always said that she fell in love with my voice and that I should never stop dubbing for myself.”

He is now doing films across languages, including Oru Melliya Kodu (a Tamil-Kannada bilingual), an untitled Surender Reddy film in Telugu, an untitled Malayalam film with director Khader, and Kaala Koothu, a Tamil film for which he’s now sporting a beard. “My wife has already told me to finish shooting fast and come back home clean-shaven, so I don’t scare my two daughters.”

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Printable version | Nov 13, 2018 11:53:32 PM |

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