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Scaling heights with `Pokkiri'

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

Another race, another victory! At the moment Vijay is basking in the joy of winning with his new film.



BEGINNING THE YEAR IN A BIG WAY: Vijay in Pokkiri.

Vijay's victory saga continues. And when you meet him at the commodious room in his home in Neelankarai, Chennai, a week after the release of `Pokkiri,' his smug smile conveys this much. "After `Aadhi' in January last, I had no release till `Pokkiri.' For nearly six months I was listening to stories but none appealed. That's when I got to watch the Telugu `Pokkiri.' I felt it would work. Now reports are coming in that it has. The year has started off well," smiles Vijay. The actor rarely smiles, but when he does his eyes light up. You can't expect constant chirpiness in your conversation with Vijay. He's quite the serious kind.

As far as choosing a script goes, Vijay's criterion is simple. "Some element in it should stir a chord in me. If it does I'm game. Call it instinct or hunch, the truth is, it has worked for me most of the time," he says. But for a Vijay film `Aadhi' can't be termed a huge success. Unruffled by the poser (in fact, throughout the exchange the actor maintains a calm maturity that belies his age), Vijay leans forward to explain, "I agree. That's because my two earlier projects [`Thiruppachi' and `Sivakasi'] were massive hits." So was `Gilli.' "Yeah! Distributors have been calling me up to say that for them `Pokkiri' is like a double `Gilli.' But in all fairness you can't compare the two films now. `Pokkiri' is just out."

Prabhu Deva has re-entered the Tamil arena in a director's garb with `Pokkiri.' Responds Vijay: "I was very much taken in by the way he had made his first Telugu film, `Nuvostanante Naenodhantana' (`Unakkum Enakkum' in Tamil) So as soon as we decided on the remake of `Pokkiri,' the first name that came to my mind was Prabhu Deva. We approached him and he agreed."

Doesn't he intend getting out of the action formula? "No. Mine is the commercial route. But once in a while, if I get a project like `Kadhalukku Mariyaadhai,' I'd love to do it," he explains.

Under Deva's direction

It took Vijay just three days of work to find his footing with Prabhu Deva.

"I understood what he expected and the sync was perfect. He's quite a perfectionist. He would patiently explain, act out and go on goading you till he got what he wanted, but would never upset the mood of the actors," smiles Vijay.

On the amazing dance skills of Prabhu Deva, Vijay says: "He's so good that I was kind of nervous ... He choreographed one song. He knew my strong points in dance and devised steps accordingly. He was around when we shot other songs too, improvising here and there. Even in the fights, he suggested effective changes."

`Pokkiri' is Vijay's second film with Asin, after `Sivakasi.' "She's a natural actor and her underplay is superb. She would absorb what the director says and come out with the right reactions without overdoing things. I think it's so with many of the actors from Kerala."

Generally heroines in Vijay's films have little to do. "Not so. Just watch `Pokkiri,'" he interrupts.

Ask him about his favourite leading ladies in his films, he pauses for just a moment: "Trisha and Asin. I like Trisha's cute expressions in song sequences in films such as `Unakkum Enakkum.' She doesn't stop with mere movements," he adds.

Vadivelu provides the humour angle in `Pokkiri.' "He plays a kung fu master. His attire with that weird hairstyle had us in splits every time he entered the sets," Vijay laughingly recalls. "The track was entirely Prabhu Deva's idea. The Telugu version did not have it."

Vijay seems to have a penchant for Mani Sharma's music — `Shahjahan,' `Youth' and now `Pokkiri.' "Yes. Even his racy numbers have a touch of melody. And it is melody that sustains a song. We've not taken any of the songs from Telugu. Including the re-recording, Mani composed fresh for us,"

Vijay's next project is `Azhagiya Thamizh Magan,' produced by Appachan, (of `Friends' fame), and directed by Dharani's associate Bharathan. The heroine is Shriya.

Is `Pokkiri' an image-boosting exercise for the hero whom a recent TV survey projects as the next `superstar'? "I rate it as my best commercial film so far. [Of course, it's a matter of opinion.] Nothing has been thrust into `Pokkiri' for effect. And when they talk about this survey made from among the public, it makes me feel more responsible. It inspires me to give my fans my best in return for the confidence they have in my potential," says Vijay.

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