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`Aparichit' no more

ZIYA US SALAM

Vikram, the award-winning face of Tamil cinema, touched down in Delhi for a couple of hours ahead of the release of "Aparichit", his multi-crore grosser in the South. He shares his thoughts and aspirations here.


The other day I saw `Rang de Basanti' and wondered why I was not in it! I loved it. I loved Sanjay Leela Bhansali's `Black' too



ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VINDYAS TOO Actor Vikram

Welcome to the world of a film star who is not dripping with arrogance. A film star who looks beyond the cocoon narcissists often build around themselves. A National Award winner who is eager, not just ready, to shower praises on his fellow actors. Welcome to the world of Vikram. Talking of Vikram and his world, well, it just transcended the Vindhyas: his Tamil blockbuster "Anniyan," which is smashing records all over South India, has just made it to the silver screen in Delhi as "Aparichit". The only thing that has changed is the language; the meaning, the effect everything remains the same.

So does Vikram. The man who shaved his head for "Sethu," a Bala film that left him on the verge of an economic crisis, and then almost got him the National Award, is today soaking in success. At Centrestage Mall, East of Delhi, he is a picture of dignity. Clad in a colourful T-shirt with blue jeans and a French beard in place, he is ready with smiles. Yes, he arrives late for the press screening. He is the Salman Khan of the Tamil film industry, the public relations guy informs, showing little respect for your understanding of the medium. Vikram is as popular down South yes, but he has also won the National Award for his craft, something not too many Khans have managed without a dash of controversy. And when the star does sit down to chat, he dispels all notions of conceit.

Dubbed version

Here is a man who has success on the mantelpiece, but is still prepared to add a new hue.

"I am here to make friends. I am here to tell my fans that I am around. I hope people in North India accept me as a hero. It is a big challenge," he says. The challenge, one learns, is the box office opening of "Aparichit", in Delhi after grossing more than Rs.100-crores in the South.

"It is a dubbed version. They have changed a lot of words. I was personally keen that they do a good job of it. They erased a lot of Tamil words and some scenes to give it an authentic touch. Unfortunately, the stadium scene could have been handled better," the professional in the man comes to the fore. "We started the film in Tamil. It worked well. Then in Telugu it broke all records. I went to Mumbai recently and found people talking about the film. That is when I realised that the film could be dubbed into Hindi and released in North India too. Also, the subject is such that it will have a universal appeal."

Incidentally, the film talks of all the ills afflicting our society. There is Rules Ramanujam, a righteous man who takes on the system where people spit on the roads, manufacturers sell defective brake wires, people under-value their property, and chefs serve substandard food on the trains. Of course, there is a guy to set right every wrong.

Isn't it routine fare?

"The subject is something that concerns us all. And the treatment makes sure it does not get too serious or boring," he defends.

Coming from the makers of "Humse Hai Muqabla and "Hindustani", is "Aparichit" likely to be Vikram's single swallow for many a summer?

"No. I am quite keen to work in Hindi films. I definitely will work in Hindi films. They have a vast audience. I want to work in Bollywood for my fans in the North and also for greater recognition. In the South, we are well taken care of. We are well paid and everything."

Keen on Mumbai

Won't it be an uphill task for him, considering the likes of Mammootty, Mohan Lal, even Rajnikanth, Nagarjuna, Chiranjeevi, Venkatesh and Vishnuvardhan, have only made sporadic appearances on the Hindi film screen? And only South Indian heroines like Sridevi, Jayaprada and Hema Malini are popular in Mumbai?"I understand that, but if I get a good script I will do it. The problem with these illustrious heroes was, they never branched out of the South and camped in Mumbai. If they had a couple of months off between their Tamil or Telugu or Malayalam films, they did a Hindi film. I am prepared to grind it out, but first the subject and the director must interest me. As for the heroines being accepted, yes, Hema, Jaya and Sridevi did leave the Tamil or Telugu industry and stay in Mumbai, which made it easier for them. It was easier for heroines in Hindi cinema as they get a better canvas and good pay. The heroes are lucky down South. And it is not that South Indian guys are not accepted elsewhere because of their moustache and everything. I see many guys in Delhi have a moustache. And the likes of Madhavan and recently Siddharth have managed to strike a chord without changing their looks."

Talking of subject and directors, Vikram elaborates, "The other day I saw `Rang de Basanti' and wondered why was I not in it! I loved it. I loved Sanjay Leela Bhansali's `Black' too. I would love to work with both Bhansali and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra some day."So, will he approach them for a role?"No," comes Vikram's firm answer, adding, "I have never approached any director for a role. Not even when I was struggling in the early days."The days of struggle which began with "Meera" in 1989 were firmly put on the inner recesses of fading memory when Vikram got the National Award for his role of a gravedigger who does not speak a word in "Pithamagan". Then he could not speak to the media. "Yes, I know. I had only come for a few hours," is how Vikram explains, almost apologetic in tone. This time it is no different. He is again in the Capital for a couple of hours only. But following the award he is aparichit or anniyan (stranger) no more. Matters little whichever side of the Vindhayas you might be standing.

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