Vikram versus Kenny

Chatline Mr. Macho. Mr. Nice Guy. Character artiste. Box office star. sudhish kamath on a man who is a study in contrast

Kenny is a quiet, soft-spoken, sweet-talking guy who can’t hurt a fly. Mr. Nice Guy, the family man. For a living, Kenny becomes the supremely versatile Vikram, for whom having a multiple-personality disorder is just another day in office.

On screen, he’s the epitome of all things macho — fearless, angry and a nightmare for all the bad guys in town. Bhima, releasing this Diwali, will demonstrate this again. Rushing back after dubbing for the trailer of Susi Ganesan’s Kandasamy, he walks in looking fitter than ever. “I was 86 kg before Kandasamy, now I’m 76 kg,” he says.

Every time we meet up to do an interview, it’s almost like meeting another guy. Then he begins to speak and you know it’s good old Kenny, who prefers his screen identity, ‘Chiyaan’ Vikram. “You’ve written the best story on me and also the worst ever,” he laughs. The ‘best’ was about his arrival as a matinee idol and the ‘worst’ was on Majaa and about him falling into an image trap.

Hence, my first question goes: Where does Bhima fit in – is it a role for an actor or a star, since there is a dichotomy in their functionality?

“A star plays a type; an actor breaks it every single time. Bhima is a role for a star. But I’ve taken it on as a role for an actor. Saamy and Dhil were identical roles on paper – one guy is a cop and the other is yet to be a cop – but I played them out differently. That’s where the actor in me makes a difference to the role meant for a star.”

True, playing within the limitations of the type – that of the protector, the demi-god – you can’t discount the effort. Vikram sculpts them out literally, spending hours at the gym to get the right shape. He wants a six-pack for Kandasamy. “If I get another cop role, I won’t do a Saamy, it will be a different person.”

Vikram is disappointed that this goes unnoticed. “If you ask me, I would want an award for a Saamy or a Gemini but nobody will give me that. They’ll only give me an award if I play the role of a mentally ill or a visually challenged person. Can you think of any role I’ve done the same way in another film?”

Vikram has made his peace with commercial cinema. Would he do another Kasi then? “Not in the next two years,” he admits. “The market is growing and when we want large audiences, we have to be aggressive. Why should I when I have six films with roles I would die for?”

The director used to be the hero of the film. Today, it is the director who literally has to play the hero because a star may not take up any role that breaks the type. “If I had done an Autograph, it wouldn’t have run,” he quips.

Director’s actor

Where does it leave the filmmaker who wants to make a film where the story is the hero? “Today, the filmmaker and the star are a team. Why should I do a film where someone else walks away with everything? I don’t need to do that. I did Pitamagan. So, it’s not like I won’t do multi-starrers or ensemble films. Let there be eight other heroes, I will still do the film if I have something to do in it.” “I’m a director’s actor,” he insists. “I couldn’t have sat within four walls and thought of a role like Anniyan. Shankar had to tell me. He gave me some homework and freedom. I want to put in 300 per cent. After 10 or 20 years, people should say every character of mine is different. The day I start repeating my characters, I’ll quit.”

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