From the jungle, with joy
Malathi Rangarajan talks to actor Sampath, who's come up with an impressive show in Aaranya Kaandam
realising a childhood dream Sampath
The international award, the hiccoughs prior to its release and the hype created helped Aaranya Kaandam open to a fair share of plaudits. And Sampath, one of the pivots in the film, is a happy man. “The responses have been amazing. We kept the interest in the film going through Facebook and Twitter, and the ploy has proved fruitful,” says Sampath. “It's an urban film, and hence a draw in cities.”
A new director, a dark story, a different screenplay… did he believe it would work? “Surely, I was floored by Kumararaja's confidence! He walked in with a bound script, with bookmarks on the pages which had the dialogue of Pasupathi — my character in the film — and literally acted out the scenes for me. So even before I went to the location, I had ‘watched' Pasupathy in action,” laughs Sampath.
When Sampath came out after the listening session, and told S. P. Charan about the director's impressive storytelling skills, his reaction was, “It made a similar impact on me. That's why I decided to produce it.”
“Charan is a maker who wants to encourage quality cinema. The urge is commendable,” Sampath observes.
At once a consummate villain and a man with conscience who plays by the rules, Sampath's character in AK has quite a few shades, which the actor portrays with élan.
“Your hair has to have splashes of grey,” Kumararaja told him, and Sampath was game. As long as the role is worthwhile he doesn't mind makeovers.
Even when the first shot was being canned, Sampath knew that Aaranya Kaandam would be talked about. “The monitor told me enough about the director's potential,” he says. And Sampath can't stop wondering at Kumararaja's incredible patience. “He's a perfectionist. I'm supposed to be a taciturn guy in the film and he ensured I behaved every inch the part. ‘After AK I've really become so,' I would keep kidding him.”
Isn't the dialogue in AK coarse? “But that's the city gangsters' lingo. They don't look at it as foul language. And we had to use expletives to get into the skin of the characters,” he defends.
Sampath is in awe of Jackie Shroff, who plays the underworld kingpin in AK. “A veteran who's done 180 films, Jackie is a rock star, simple and easy to work with!”
The actor enters Telugu with Vishnu Vardhan's next film which has Pawan Kalyan in the lead. “I waited for a solid role to launch myself in Telugu,” he says. Incidentally, how come he played a blink-and-miss part in Eththan? “That was for a friend. Sometimes it's inevitable,” he shrugs.
Sampath isn't the Page 3 type. “Yeah, I don't party. Becoming an actor was a childhood dream. Now that it's happened I prefer to remain focussed. And I'm a responsible, doting dad. I don't want my daughter in boarding school to think her father is frittering away his time,” he explains.
Does he feel recognition has taken long to come his way? “Not at all, I believe in destiny,” is Sampath's philosophical stand.
“Films such as AK deserve to win. It's a dream factory out there, with films being churned out by the dozen every week. Filmgoers should support good cinema. That alone will help makers with potential,” he says.
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