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Victory, Verve, Vikram


Meet the man who made it to the top with grit, after years of struggle.

FIESTA FOR FANS: `Maja,'Vikram's next, will be a shift from `Anniyan.'

The most happening hero in tinseldom who made all heads turn towards him with his sheer performing prowess in `Sethu' keeps proving with every film that he's here to stay. And `Anniyan' has just reiterated it. With the film living up to the hype and hoopla, the actor is on cloud nine.

"But I'm always cheerful and charged," he smiles, sitting in the patio of Hotel Green Park, Chennai, for a one-to-one chat.

He had been to Hyderabad for the release of `Aparachithudu' — `Anniyan' in Telugu. It is doing roaring business and he has every reason to be happy. "Shankar has a market there," he informs. It's not easy to find a footing in Telugu today, struck as it is by the star son syndrome.

"In this scenario `Chandramukhi' is a hit in Andhra and `Anniyan' following suit is fantastic. For the first time my film was released simultaneously in four States and is doing well everywhere," he says. "We have to come out alone, I had told the producer. I'm glad it has worked."

Flawless diction and fluency are Vikram's other assets. He talks nineteen to the dozen pausing now and then with a rhetorical poser, "Am I digressing too much?" Probably it is thisenergy, joie de vivre and drive that have helped the man through 15 years of struggle before reaching the top.

Working with Bala

You tell him how director Bala's eyes turned moist when he spoke of Vikram's sincerity while playing `Sethu.' "He got emotional, did he? That's Bala, you know! Even when narrating a serious scene his eyes would turn bloodshot and you can actually see the goose pimples. And the way he can extract performance from an actor is amazing! Forget actors we are here to act, but when we go to the villages for shooting, he would just pick a woman from the crowd and make her deliver a piece of dialogue effortlessly. That's his greatness! I tell people that in the entire country there's none like Bala to cull out commendable portrayals from the most ordinary person!" Vikram's voice is soaked in admiration for the man who fashioned two very different roles for him. . The sexton Vikram portrayed in `Pithamagan' led him straight to the President's proscenium for a national award. "I'm again after Bala to get a script ready for me ... our rapport is perfect and I yearn to work with him," he confesses.

So it is with Dharani. "He knows the pulse of the audience too well. Basically I'm a director's actor and with creators like Bala and Dharani I'm in a totally comfort zone," he adds.

In the early stages of his career, Vikram's choices did not prove very sound. "I couldn't afford to be choosy. I needed work. I would do a Tamil film, then a Malayalam, Telugu and so on. There was a time when my dream was to work with makers like Shankar. And what an experience it has been!" Vikram re-lives the making of the magnum opus.

The `Anniyan' saga

"More than `Sethu,' `Kasi' or `Pithamagan,' `Anniyan' drained me. A few days of shooting for a film are generally enough for me to get into the skin of the character, after which it's pretty cool. If you had noticed, my gait in the initial scenes of `Pithamagan' was more like that of a hero. But after a point Bala just had to tell me what he wanted and I could deliver. `Anniyan' was different. My body language, physique and mannerisms had to be different for the three characters I play — Ramanujam, Remo and Anniyan."

Vikram normally hates to have a break in shooting schedules. Even if it was just for a day he would get restless. But for the first time whenever there was a halt in shoot for `Anniyan' he would heave a huge sigh of relief ... such was the strain ... "I would sit at home then just watching my pigeons ... "

The scene close to his heart in `Anniyan?' "Ramu giving his love letter to the girl's parents ... I thought that was real cute," he laughs.

The toughest shot? "When I lean over to kiss Sada, Remo becomes Anniyan, and I wrestle with myself. It was a challenge for cameraman Ravivarman too. Holding a digital camera every time I rolled down and came up with a different persona, he had to keep his camera moving up and down." But the prison sequence with Prakashraj is a scene-stealer. "Can you believe it? It was the first take," Vikram laughs.

An actor like him doing an insipid role as `Vinnukkum Mannukkum,' after playing the mind-blowing Sethu, was unbelievable.

"For three months I was listening to two or three scripts a day, waiting for another `Sethu' to come my way. It just didn't happen. That was when Rajakumaran came to me with `Vinnukkum ... ' and he charmed me with his story telling style," Vikram shrugs it off.

And now it is `Maja' with Asin as heroine. "It is fans who make you ... and `Maja' is for them. They've waited patiently for a year and a half for `Anniyan.' So I want to give them a quick colourful comedy, aesthetically made, for Deepavali," he says.

From what you glean, Vikram has chosen `Maja' after much thought.

"The film is bound to be compared with `Anniyan.' We are working on that premise. So we thought the genre should be different. `Maja' will have romance with action," Vikram adds.

You notice the producer of `Maja,' and a few others waiting to meet him. He excuses himself from them and insists on going down the lift with you. In the lift too he has a smile for everyone. Maintaining this front of congeniality always could be trying. "No, honestly I like people and I love socialising. My wife is like that too ... I've imbibed a lot from her ... " says the proud husband and adds, "We are simple people. My only passion is cars. I wanted a sports car and that's it. Otherwise we still live in a rented house."

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