Barely a year ago, Kalaiyarasan was relentlessly carrying his portfolio to production houses in search of roles. He wasn’t even looking for anything revolutionary; just a few bit roles like the one he got in Mysskin’s Nandalala to help him stay afloat in the industry. And then, without warning, came the pathbreaking role that he hadn’t even been looking for — as Anbu in Ranjith’s Madras . And everything changed for this BCA graduate.
“It’s probably once in a lifetime that you get such roles,” he begins. “Suddenly, directors were approaching me, instead of the other way round. It is an odd experience to be in demand.” All this wouldn’t have happened, according to him, if he hadn’t met the love of his life, Shanmugha Priya, at Accenture, his first place of employment. “I was an irresponsible man with a devil-may-care attitude, but not unlike a clichéd Tamil romance, she has changed me for the better.”
Among a whole host of films ( Jinn , a horror film; Raja Mandhiri directed by an associate of Suseenthiran; and a film by writer Ajayan Bala) that Kalai has signed is Urumeen , starring Bobby Simha, another actor who owes his meteoric rise to a single film — Jigarthanda . Interestingly, the director, Sakthivel, had initially asked Kalai to play the hero. As he had other films lined up, he couldn’t immediately agree. He doesn’t think that playing the villain is a compromise though. “John Christopher, the character I play, is interesting. He doesn’t talk too much, and emotes a lot with his eyes. He isn’t entirely evil, but his desire to avoid defeat at all costs makes him commit mistakes.”
Kalai doesn’t view any of these roles as stepping stones towards playing the hero eventually. In fact, the thought that he may never get to play the hero doesn’t bother him at all, a marked shift in attitude from actors of the good old days who viewed it as the ultimate aspiration. As he puts it, these days, the “ kadhanayagan ” doesn’t matter as much as the “ kadhayin nayagan ”. That perhaps explains why he doesn’t regret spending years in his locality’s playground, roasting under the sun, as he played cricket. “Those years tanned my complexion seriously, but I don’t regret it at all. It is, after all, my casual appearance that gets me my roles.”