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‘I knew I was meant to be an actor’

“Why am I wasting my time studying Math?” wondered 15-year-old Bobby Simha. The boy was convinced that he was meant for bigger things in life. College, books and teachers did not make sense to him. Only movies mattered. “I knew I was meant to be an actor. My hero was Superstar.”

“Superstar?” I ask.

“Isn’t there only one superstar in Tamil Nadu?” Bobby Simha laughs.

The Rajnikanth fan has grown older now.

The Math-hater is now an award-winning actor. In the city to inaugurate the Coimbatore chapter of International short film festival, Chennai, and to promote his new film, Urumeen, he was surrounded by media students pleading for a selfie with him.

“I am happy to see the college promoting short films,” says Bobby. “My entry into cinema was also through short films.”

At Naalaya Iyakunar, the short filmmaking contest on television, forged a friendship between him, Vijay Sethupathi and Karthik Subbaraj, which grew into a more serious and professional relationship. The three have become the defining faces of new wave Tamil cinema. “Our friendship goes back a long way. We worked together for many films. I have even worked as behind-the-scenes technician for some of their films.”

Be it Soodhu Kavvum, Pizza or Jigarthanda, Bobby’s equation with the team is clear. “The comfort factor is always there. Especially while shooting Jigarthanda, it was almost like we were back to our short film days. On the sets, when people booked separate rooms for us, we used to laugh. Because, we knew that we would end up in one room!”

Neram also happened thanks to Naalaya Iyakunar. Alphonse Putharen was another friend from this time. “ Neram too was a dream role. I was just 25. I had to lose weight in 10 days. I went through excessive weight loss and detoxification programmes. I had to go bald, wear floral t-shirts and sport Rayban glasses. I never thought I could pull it off. But, Alphonse believed I would fit in.”

The selection of roles has made Bobby what he is now. He has carved out a space that only he can fill. “I make sure that I do not repeat myself. For Soodhu Kavvum, I chose the Nayantara fan role, even though I was offered a cop role. And that gave me a break. I proved I could do comedy,” he smiles.

Who can forget Assault Sethu, the goonda-turned-superstar of Jigarthanda? Bobby says he will always be thankful to Karthik for that role. “It is a lifetime role an actor would die for. I had to play a 40-year-old, with all the subtlety.” He interacted with real rogues and dons of Madurai for this. “When I saw them, I could not believe that they were goondas. They looked like any of us. I thought they were joking when one of them said he had killed five people!”

Assualt Sethu was born through hours of observation, perfect costumes and Bobby’s charisma and hard work. He had to stand in the sun for six hours a day to get the right skin tone. “Once in the get up, I could feel half the character. I had to work on the voice modulation and body language.”

Just like how Assault Sethu and his don friends go through an acting course, Bobby too has undergone training at Koothu-P-Pattarai, which involved all those rigorous exercises shown in the film — yoga, gibberish, meditation and exercises. “But I don’t think any school can teach you acting. It is something inbuilt. No one can teach you to cry; the emotion has to come from your heart,” believes Bobby.

In Urumeen, Bobby has a double role. “I play the role of Selva and Cheliya, two characters from two different eras. Sakthivel, the director, is my friend. This script has been brewing in his mind for five years. We have been waiting for the right time and budget.” Bobby says he chooses roles that challenge him as an actor. “I do not want to repeat myself. Look at Rajni sir. He acted in a Billa and also pulled off Thillu Mullu. I, too, do not want to be typecast.”

So will Assault Sethu come back in a fresh new look in Urumeen? Or do we look forward to a rom-com hero? Bobby laughs. “I can never be the sappy, romantic hero. I will be faithful to the character the director wants me to be.” Now, that is a promise we can all bank on.

Upcoming projects

Veera

Director: K. Rajaraman

Paambhu Sattai

Director: Adam Dasan

Masala Padam

Director: Laxman Kumar

Iraivi

Director: Karthik Subbaraj

Bangalore days (Tamil remake)

Director: Bhaskar

Ko 2

Director: Sharath

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 2:27:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/bobby-simha-talk-about-urumeen-his-new-film/article7586726.ece

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