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Still the regular guy

An actor par excellence, Vikram is still in touch with his inner roots



Vikram is all set to zoom ahead.

"PATIENCE PAYS rich dividends. Hard work would never go waste." Wise words. But when they come from Vikram, the ageless saying tends to gain more import as the actor underwent a 12-year struggle before reaching New Delhi to receive the coveted National Award and super stardom. "What I have achieved be it in the off beat roles, as Chiyan, the inmate of a mental asylum in "Sethu", or as the blind singer in "Kasi", or as the undertaker ``Chithan'' in "Pitamagan", or in the mainstream commercial films "Gemini", ``Dhil", ``Dhool'' and ``Saamy'' it is due to the directors who guided me to such praiseworthy performances," says Vikram in all humility.

Stardom has not affected his psyche. ``Pitamagan'' that won him a national award was really a tough task, as he had literally no dialogue to deliver except breaking into an occasional soliloquy. The performance depended on just gestures, groans, shrieks and facial expressions. His mentor Bala made him to undergo an amazing physical transformation and discover a new body language. His experience as a dubbing artiste during his struggling days (he had dubbed for Abbas, Vineeth and Prabhudeva in Tamil) helped him to get the right modulations for such roles. And Vikram had taken that role at the peak of his career as a commercial super star. "In fact I wanted to do more entertaining films, but watching many from the North and East walking away with their 7th or 13th national award at the ceremony, you feel like doing more meaningful roles and bring more laurels to the South," smiles this man who eats, breathes, lives and sleeps cinema. But an icon recognized the actor's potential much earlier. ``Sethu'' was just then released. Kamal Hasan was the chief guest at the 100 day celebrations of an Ajith starrer. Commending Ajith for his performance in the movie, the veteran said that lot of young talents were coming to the fore. He then called Vikram, a guest who was sitting in the front row on stage and asked the audience to give him a big clap for his performance in `Sethu.' Vikram was visibly moved by his idol's gesture. Interestingly both the national awardees share the same birthplace - Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district. Vikram Vinod's (that is his full name), father Vinod Raj acted as a villain and character actor in Tamil films and television serials. Young Vikram decided to emulate father even as a child. A theatre buff in college, he took training in classical dance forms, cine dances and fights and waited for that big break.

Meanwhile he started modelling for advertisement shorts for Chola Tea, TVS Excel and Alwyn watches to name a few, all to win recognition. It was during his final year M.B.A that he was recognised by the film industry and a call came from C.V. Sridhar who took him for the lead role in ``Thandu Vitten Ennai'' (1990). Films like ``Kathal Geetham", and P.C. Sriram's debut directorial venture, ``Meera'' followed with offers from Telugu and Malayalam filmmakers as well. After watching "Meera", director Nandam Harishchandra Rao took him for the lead role in ``Chirunavvula Varamisthava". Since then he had acted in over half a dozen Telugu films that include- ``Kurralla Rajyam", Dasari Narayana Rao's ``Bangaru Kutumbam", and Kranti Kumar's offbeat film ``9 Nelalu''. Though he came up with neat performances within the given space in each of these films, none of them took him to the top slot.

The same was the case elsewhere in Malayalam films and at home in Tamil, till director Bala and ``Sethu'' happened. The rest is history. "All these years, I was getting offers from Telugu filmmakers. I can never forget my early films. They provided the training ground. But I was getting some really interesting projects in Tamil and I became busy. Next year I am planning to do a film each in Telugu and Malayalam. Just for national exposure I want to do a Hindi film. The projects are under discussion." His current assignment, Shankar's ``Anniyan'' will be dubbed and released simultaneously as ``Aparichithudu", in Telugu.

"I have a very challenging role in the film. There are many dimensions to the protagonist's character. There is every possibility of getting another national award," hopes Vikram. "The film besides action has a message too," he adds. Recalling the call given by President Abdul Kalam that films should showcase nobility in politics, Vikram says that much earlier in his career he had done a film, ``Pudiya Malar'' that has shown politicians from a noble angle.

Coming back to Telugu films, he says ``Sivapthrudu'' fared better in Andhra Pradesh when compared to its original version in some areas of Tamil Nadu. One of his long pending Telugu films, ``Youth'' directed by the late Jithendra was released recently. It may not be a blockbuster when compared to his recent films, "but it has a neat and simple story line that if the family prospers, the nation as a whole will prosper," says its producer G.B. Jayadev. Despite stardom, that Vikram had not forgotten his roots is evident when he went all out to help the producers complete the film by allotting dates amidst his busy schedules. Vikram does not want to talk about his goals. The national award has definitely opened new horizons for him.

M.L. NARASIMHAM

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