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A for attitude

Charismatic and confident. That's Ajith for you. He talks to M. ALLIRAJAN & SUBHA J RAO about his passion for car racing and how he has changed as a person.

HE HAS essayed double roles with finesse in his movies. People are waiting with bated breath to see if he can pull it off in real life as well. Ajith Kumar, who has made a mark as a good performer on screen, is now straddling the twin fields of movies and motor racing. Is it possible to do justice to both careers?

"It is difficult to concentrate on two highly demanding professions. But, I was into racing long before I started acting in movies. I am able to space time between the two," he says unfazed.

Though Ajith has been racing for more than a decade now, it was his performance in the Formula BMW Asia Championship 2003, held in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Korea and China, that reaffirmed his confidence. Ajith, who was into bike racing, gave it up after a minor accident and lack of sponsors.

With Kodambakkam sending out feelers, he opted to don the greasepaint before his first love beckoned again.

Now that he has achieved a "moderate level of success" in his movie career, Ajith has decided to limit himself to two releases a year. Not just because of motor racing. "I thought about it a long time back. But I was not in a position to enforce my wish."

Are producers apprehensive about casting him, given the risk involved in racing?

"Tell me," he says pausing for effect: "is there any field without risk?" "All my surgeries, and I have undergone many, have been due to accidents during shooting. I do understand that people feel I am racing for a fancy. There is a lot of negative talk about my racing. But, I am not forcing anybody to sign me on. Producers who find me risky can stay off," he tells curtly.

"I have always worked with people whom I know personally. My producers understand my passion for the sport. They also understand how it will help the film's business."

"People in the countries I have raced in are familiar with my name. When they know I am an actor, they will be interested in watching my movies. At present, only Tamilians watch Kollywood movies in Malaysia, Thailand and Japan. My being a racer can open up a new marker for our films," he believes.

With racing being a very expensive sport, how does he manage? "For the Formula BMW Asia Championship, I spent close to Rs. 90 lakhs. One of my producers is helping me out. I am crying out loud for sponsors and have written to corporates to no avail," he rues.

He is now off to Britain for testing for the British F 3 Scholarship Class Championship.

Most of his movies have been with up and coming directors. Is there any special reason? "There was a time when I wanted to work with big names and banners. I never got any offers then." As for public perception that he is high-headed, he asserts: "People who have met me even once will not come to such a conclusion. There is a thin line between arrogance and confidence. I am an extremely confident person. What's wrong in that?" he asks.

"I don't have an attitudinal problem. I just carry an attitude."

"Stop being judgmental about people whom you have never met," he tells tersely. Quiz him further and he says: `Ok. Let me clarify things once and for all. I am like a mirror. Smile at me and I will smile back. If you scowl, that's what you will get from me."

His stereotypical macho roles have been drawing a lot of flak. Why does he continue doing them when he is capable of so much more? "Don't blame me for this. My best film after Vaali was Mugavari. Though it ran for 100 days, the producer did not get the expected returns. The entertainment industry is similar to the hospitality industry. You can only give what people want," he explains.

"Anyway, those who said Kandukondain Kandukondain was an excellent movie were people who did not come to theatres. I won't do movies for them.

But, I will not blame them. People from the middle class will not think of taking their families to theatres. The toilets are stinking. Something needs to be done about maintaining theatres," he says.

As for the string of bad releases he has had, Ajith explanation is this: "Every good story teller need not be a good director. The same holds true vice-versa. I took on certain movies because they sounded good when they were narrated to me. It is difficult to judge if a good story teller will turn out to be a good director."

Ajith likens his bad times to that of racer. "My plight is like that of a good racer who is let down by a breakdown. What can I do if the script fails?" he asks.

His critics in the industry have torn him to shreds in recent times. How does he feel about the diatribes?

"People have called me a temporary actor. But, I know my best is yet to be tapped. Earlier, I did not know who was saying these things. Now, I know and am waiting for sweet revenge," he says his eyes blazing with anger.

Has this yearning for retaliation changed him as a person? "Of course," he says wistfully. "Time was when I was a very `nice' person, when I valued emotions. Small things mattered. Like sitting by the window enjoying the manvaasanai. Today, I am setting goals and waiting to avenge my detractors."

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