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A perfectionist to the core

INTERVIEW with actor Nasser reveals his passion for films, writes T.SARAVANAN

Photo: G. Moorthy

A class act Majestic performer

Success or failure is immaterial. For, it is not in your hands. What is important is how much you love your job and whether you are able to do justice to your profession.” Sounds philosophical? But there is an element of truth in film actor Nasser’s words.

For a shrewd thinker that he is, Nasser does not believe in over dose of technology. “Technology is inevitable because without it survival is difficult. One cannot prevent its use either. But what you can ensure is its bare minimum use.”

Humble beginning

With a humble beginning from an interior village Naththam in Chingleput, Nasser’s love for cinema drove him to Chennai. But his dreams could not sustain as hunger forced him to join a hotel for survival. In between he tried his luck in writing poems and short stories for magazines.

A firm believer in formal training and systematic approach, Nasser joined Chennai Film Institute for a diploma course. Soon, his professional approach reaped rich dividends when K. Balachander selected him for the movie ‘Kalyana Agathigal’. Though introduced by one of the top directors of Tamil film industry, he too had to pass through hard grind. But, he firmly etched his name in what ever he did.

As he started off donning the role of a villain, he got offers only for similar roles. Not many realised the versatility of this man. “Tamil film industry rallies around success formula. Any actor, who tasted success performing a particular role, will get offers only for similar kind of roles.”

A character artist

But Nasser successfully passed that phase and was seen as a character artist with immense potential, thanks to director Mani Ratnam and Kamal Hassan. None could forget the immortal roles he donned in ‘Thevar Magan’, ‘Bombay’, ‘Avaram Poo’, ‘Avathaaram’ and ‘Maayan.’

An avid learner that he is, it was hard to prevent him from taking over the mantle of directorship. “Once into cinema, it is only quite natural for a person to aim to become a director. Once that is achieved, next target is to produce a film. I have learnt a lot of lessons as a producer and feel happy that I am wiser today. Acting is closer to my heart, as it is my first identity,” he says.

His strong sense of self-belief helps him to perform roles with authority. “Self-respect is first and foremost thing for a person in any profession. You should do confidently what you know. You should equip yourself to befit your identity and justify it. Self-confidence is the key here.”

Worldly knowledge

A man of unfathomable knowledge, his understanding of filmmaking is remarkable. “Any accepted film theory will go meaningless in Tamil film industry. It is both the strength and weakness. We have our own grammar. If the filmmaker is conscious and deliberate in what he is doing then it can be termed as progress. If it is without his knowledge then it might lead to confusion,” Mr. Nasser explains the uniqueness of Kollywood.

He is also quick to point out the reason for not many willing to experiment in Tamil films. “Most of the people here approach cinema from a commercial view point. It is very difficult to experiment here for even a commoner is interested to know about the success or failure of a movie. This resists filmmakers to take risks,” he reasons.

Nasser feels there is a need to build upon storytelling, which is the strength of Tamil films. “Storytelling is imbibed in our culture. Our traditional storytellers are our paintings and sculptures. It is important for any good creator to catch hold of it. If you have to become a strong storyteller, you have to be a keen observer. If you are not able to understand others’ pain, you cannot write about pain. You have to be a vacuum, a blackboard, only to gain knowledge.”

Role of literature

A voracious reader, he points out that reading serious literature goes a long way in honing storytelling skills of a creator. “Creativity like all other brilliant and extraordinary things happen at the subconscious level. It is significant for a creator to strengthen it. Literature, performing arts and music are important for a creator. If you consider cinema as storytelling medium then knowledge of serious literature is essential, for you are going to deal with human relations and emotions. Serious literature is important because it is closer to reality and applies real psychology.”

Nasser also runs a Centre for Tamil Arts, called Adavu, which trains people in various subjects including folk arts, story telling, research and docu-filmmaking.

Having acted in more than 200 films, which include Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi and English language films, his knowledge of world cinema is exemplary and he is favoured by most of the institutions teaching filmmaking and visual communication to conduct workshops for their wards.

His unflinching passion for acting helps him to give more than 100 per cent while performing.

At the end of the day, he seems to be very contented in whatever he does, which distinguishes him from many others of his ilk.

“You can consider yourself successful only when you are able to enjoy every single pie you have earned without any guilt feeling,” he parts with a smile.

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