Tamil star Vikram’s latest movie is a box office hit. Iru Mugan (Two-faced), directed by Anand Shankar, sees Vikram playing Research Analysis Wing agent Akhilan as well as a destructive campy scientist named Love. According to the film’s producer, Shibu Thameen, the movie’s domestic and international business has crossed Rs 100 crore. Vikram’s last movie, 10 Enthrakulla (2015), was a non-starter, so the success of Iru Mugan is proof that in the right role, the 50-year-old actor remains a box office attraction. In an interview with Scroll.in, Vikram, who is known for his versatile performances in films such as Sethu, Pithamagan, Kasi, Anniyan, Ravanan and I, talks about Iru Mugan, his struggle to find the right work, and his plans to turn director.
‘Iru Mugan’ has collected over Rs 100 crore at the box office. You must be elated.
It is the nicest thing, no? Nothing works like success. When you put in a lot of hard work and you see it being fruitful, that’s the best feeling an actor can have. I have been getting a lot positive feedback on the film, everybody likes the character and my performance. I’m quite happy.
The director, Anand Shankar, is just one film old. What made you trust him enough to commit to the project?
I really liked Arima Nambi [Shankar’s first film] and I knew that Anand had all the makings of a good director. He is a very intelligent filmmaker. Once he narrated the script, I knew that the characters had a lot of room to play with, there was scope for performance. We are like-minded, we think out of the box and we had a great understanding. So you can look out for many more films together.
How challenging was it to make both the roles appear different? When the trailer came out, the character Love raised apprehensions that the movie stereotypes the LGBT community.
I was looking to make them both as diametrically opposite and as different as possible from the real me. We did not want to show Love in any particular light or tarnish anybody. He is an arch villain who is so powerful that in most places you see him overtaking the hero. For any good commercial entertainer to work, the villain has to be as powerful as the hero. Here, as I was doing the role, we gave him as much freedom as possible.
A lot of questions have been asked about whether the character degrades anybody, but he is so lovable that a lot of people actually feel sad for him in the end. So I think we achieved what we set out to do.
You invested three years of your career in Shankar’s ‘I’. Was the film worth the effort? Did you miss out on important roles during that period?
That film made around Rs 200 crore at the box office. Was it a successful film? Yes, it made a lot of money and broke a lot of records. I don’t think any actor could have got such scope for acting as I did in that film. I am not a body builder by profession, but had to share a stage with Mr Sikkim, Mr India, Mr Kochi and Mr Asia No 3. I was just plain Mr Vikram, who had to look like them and then sport an entirely different look, which I don’t think anybody has ever done in cinema. I don’t know if I will be able to recreate it myself.
But I don’t regret one second of whatever I went through for I. And today, the way people are accepting my films or retracing my earlier roles and lauding my efforts in every film came about because of this one film. It has been the biggest thing for me not just as an actor, but as a person.
What went wrong with ‘10 Endrathukulla’?
10 Endrathukulla, I think, was a very good film. It did not work out because before that, I had done something heavy duty and there was so much me in the film, and then I did this. It just wasn’t a film for me. I’m sure that had any other actor done the movie, it would have worked well.
If everybody knows what is going to be the fate of your film because of your previous film, then we become gods. We are not indifferent to a film’s fate at the box office. We make our choices. Sometimes we fail, but we keep trying, right?
How do you choose your films? How often do you expect them to be released?
I would like to see my films coming out every three months, but it doesn’t work that way. I have to do a film that is wild, exciting and different and very special for me too. So many factors go into that decision. But we don’t have that many scripts or creators in Chennai. I would rather take time to do something that gratifies me first before I can even present it to my audience. That takes time.
Is age a factor as far as actors are concerned? What kind of films do you see yourself doing once you’re older?
I will play the roles that are suited to the way I look.
About 10 years back, Vidhu Vinod Chopra called me and asked if I could do the role of a 60-70 year-old man in Eklavya. I said I couldn’t do it. He told me I could, because I had done Anniyan. But I wasn’t sure I could carry it off, so I didn’t. If I feel I could do it one day, I would.
I don’t think an actor’s age is of any importance. It is about how he looks and if he can carry off a particular role. You can’t fool people. But if I can manage took young and fresh, I would continue doing these roles.
You have done many critically acclaimed films such as ‘Sethu’, ‘Pithamagan’ and ‘Kasi’. Would you like to do such roles again?
Those roles are extremely rare and that is why they are revered and talked about. I am always on the lookout for such roles. But then Love happened too, right? I had always wanted to play a villain and Iru Mugan gave me the opportunity.
What is your biggest struggle and success as an actor?
I struggle to get good scripts and characters. That is always my angst. Finding a story or a role that works is always a big challenge. And my success will be when I actually find such a role and then I feel, wow! Because from then on, it’s no longer work, but following my passion.
Do you see yourself getting into direction? Many actors now run production companies. Will you ever be a producer?
Yes, I will definitely direct a film. Not immediately. It may be in the next two to five years, not later than that. You learn so much during shoots, you’re almost like an assistant director in all your films. Direction is so much hard work, writing, getting everything ready, shooting and post production. We need to set aside time. It’s the most hardcore job. When I do it, I should be free enough to do it, and should be inclined and qualified.
Production, no! It’s too much tension. I am not a businessman, I’m just an actor. For me it’s just about my passion for acting that takes precedent.
What will be your next project? Anything in Hindi?
I will be moving on to Saamy 2 [a sequel to the 2003 hit]. I have been reading a few scripts, nothing has been announced.
I am not even thinking of Bollywood right now. There have been Hindi films that were released recently that, despite all the hype, have not made even Rs 20 crore. While I have a Tamil film that has made over 100 crore. I am happy doing what I am doing now.