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The `Virumaandi' villain makes a mark

Relaxing on the first floor lounge of the Alliance Francaise in Chennai, Pasupathi, the conniving Kothala Thevar of the Kamal Haasan film "Virumaandi" settles down for a tete-a-tete with MALATHI RANGARAJAN.

Pic. by V. Ganesan

WHEN HE shrugs his shoulders and tells you in a matter-of-fact tone that his eyes are his strong point, there's no conceit in the admission — just a statement of fact. None can forget Pasupathi's bright and piercing eyes easily.

About three years ago at Alliance Francaise, in Chennai, looking to meet Hans Kaushik, the hero of Lenin's, "Oorukku Nooru Paer," you came across a pair of penetrating eyes in the canteen on the first floor. A fleeting glimpse was enough to gauge their power.

Pasupathi is part of Magic Lantern, the drama troupe with a difference. Despite the depressing scenario of Chennai's theatre scene, a couple of groups such as Koothu-p-pattarai and Magic Lantern try to bring quality stuff in Tamil drama. Pasupathi's career as an actor began with Koothu-p-pattarai.

"I wanted to be a dancer. So after Class X, it was no to academics," smiles Pasupathi. And how did his parents react? With a mischievous glint in his eyes, Pasupathi mimes — they sprinkled water on his head and dismissed him — the action was simply to indicate that they gave up. "None in my family has anything to do with histrionics or dance — in their opinion I was just a wastrel."

Though he knew he wanted to get into dancing full time, Pasupathi didn't actually know how to go about it. That was when he chanced to meet N. Muthusamy and got to know about Koothu-p-pattarai.

"I joined them at once. From dancing, acting and directing, to martial arts, Silambam, and stage dιcor it is one complete training ground for any aspiring professional artiste."

The atmosphere was so conducive and wholesome that Pasupathi spent the next decade or so with Koothu-p-pattarai. It also gave him a chance to rub shoulders with veteran Nasser.

These artistes are almost always found at Alliance Francaise.

"Every Director of Alliance has encouraged us, given us the stage upstairs and when one leaves, introduces us to the person who takes over. So the premises is more a home for the Magic Lantern and Koothu-p-pattarai groups," says Pasupathi.

Though "Virumaandi" brought name and fame, it was Nasser's "Mayan" that first revealed the spark in Pasupathi.

"But even before that, I worked with Kamal Haasan for "Marudhanayagam." I shot for five days for the film ... lean and longhaired, I looked very different then. Kamal himself remarked that my entry would have been stupendous if `Marudhanayagam' had released first. ... Anyway it had to happen this way and I'm not complaining... "

Pasupathi does not come across as the religious, God-fearing kind. "I am not... " he shakes his head emphatically.

The role of the heartless policeman in all its ruthlessness and arrogance was portrayed very well in "Mayan." And then to see the same man as just a villain's henchman in "Dhool" was such a letdown.

"But "Mayan" didn't do well while "Dhool" did," laughs Pasupathi. "It got me incredible recognition. I don't regret doing "Dhool"... For that matter I don't take up a role if it does not satisfy me... When I took up the role of a priest in "Iyarkai" people advised me against it. But I want to attempt different roles. Typecasting is something I hate... "

Again he played a small role as Nandita Das' brother in "Kannathil Muththamittal," but what variety is he talking about, in such miniscule parts? "A role being small, or getting chopped off is something I can do nothing about. But within the framework, I choose roles that will not show me in the same mould. After "Virumaandi", everyone comes to me with a dhoti-clad ruffian role... I don't take them all. The character should appeal to me in some way, only then do I accept... "

The shrewd, cunning, conspiring Kothala Thevar of "Virumaandi," a milestone in Pasupathi's blossoming career, made a great impact, particularly his voice modulation. And as it was live sound did it involve too many takes? "Not at all. That's where the theatre grounding helps. Kamal himself has remarked that he uses theatre actors more because they waste very little film... We believe in rehearsals. So when you go well prepared before the camera, error is minimal."

How did his family react to people gunning for Kothala Thevar, after "Virumaandi?"

I had taken my mother, brothers and cousins to Sathyam to watch the film. As my atrocities on screen continued and every one was quiet, suddenly a voice among the audience began to hurl abuses. He was giving vent to his hatred for Kothala Thevar in the choicest terms possible, when my family turned around and asked, `Do you need all this?' I just laughed," chuckles Pasupathi.

Now that he has arrived — you'll see him play the bad man in "Madura" and "Machi", "Sullaan" (in the just released "Arul," he's again a dhoti clad Machiavelli) — does he intend getting married?

"Till now work has been an intoxicating driving force that has kept me on a constant high. Only of late have I begun to think about marriage ... I'm planning to tie the knot soon," he says.

What if he's asked to play a romantic hero?

"No way... I can never for the life of me cast romantic looks, nor can I run around trees. But if it's just dance or comedy I'd love to do it," he smiles.

Though steeped in real theatre values, Pasupathi doesn't feel the need to classify films as commercial or cinema. "Basically it's business... careful planning, acumen and an eye for detail can only bring success. I am astounded at the way Kamal Haasan plans every step of his production and executes it. Such makers can never go wrong." It was Nasser who introduced Pasupathi to Kamal Haasan. "Nasser and I are very close and our rapport dates back to his theatre days. ... "

Pasupathi has entered the Telugu scene too. "Veedae" the Telugu version of "Dhool" that had Ravi Teja as its hero, is again a hit there. "I've completed three Telugu films now... "

Is the bad man of cinema, short-tempered in real life? "Yeah... I break a few things before my anger subsides but my mother just doesn't bother because the mood is short lived. `The things you break are those you bought... so go ahead,' she says," guffaws Pasupathi.

Pasupathi's father who was with the Port Trust, got a job for his son there, soon after his retirement. "I attended the interview because I had to. But when the appointment order came, I just tore it." Pasupathi sounds cool and casual about every issue big or small. Probably that's what sets this `villain' apart.

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