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FUNNY SIDE UP

RJ-actor Shiva speaks to SUDHISH KAMATHabout his celluloid dreams, volunteer work and love for everything humorous

PHOTO: S.S. Kumar

ON A ROLL RJ-actor Shiva

With Shiva around, you can be assured of a laugh-a-minute. Very few people have the natural ability to make you crack up, by saying or doing something funny. Like hugging the tree striking an MGR pose or pretending to be a camera-shy celebrity caugh t unawares. He even sits inside a random autorickshaw on the road giving us quite a few options for pictures.

Finally we settle down at Barista and he gets himself tea. The staff pulls his leg, he’s a regular and everybody seems to love him. Even the passers-by on Khader Nawaz Khan Road smile watching him pose. Six or seven years ago, did he know he would be this popular? “Definitely,” he says. “What else would I have done? I’ve studied only upto the tenth standard and this is the only thing I could think of. I always wanted to do films, I knew I would do this someday. It was my only hope.”

I remember Shiva telling me he would direct his own film when “Chennai 600028” had just released. “I think I will get most satisfaction only as a director. An actor finishes his work and leaves the set. So do the rest of the crew. But a director has to do everything. If the actor is like the opening batsman, the director is like a team owner,” he says.

How did he end up with radio then? “Freddy (Koikaran) used to work as a radio producer. I had written some dialogues and played the character of Babu in a play called ‘Robinhood Wanted for Good’. My English was bad but people appreciated my role. Babu was from Kollywood, on the way to Hollywood where he meets Robinhood,” he laughs.

So when Freddy called, he thought it would be one of those things that would fetch him another 500 bucks. “I didn’t know what that office was. They said it was a radio station, they told me they wanted me to write five links about films. So I wrote about two friends in T. Nagar who discuss ‘Jurassic Park’ over fast-food.” At the end of it, they told him he was chosen and that they had auditioned 2,000 people for the job. “Oh, no! 500 bucks,” he thought. He didn’t want to do radio, so he went home and turned off his phone. They persisted, asked him how much money he wanted. “Thinking of myself like a Tamil movie hero I said, ‘Money is not important’.”

Poonam Natarajan, the then director of Vidya Sagar (an organisation that works with children and young adults with cerebral palsy and other neurological disabilities) gave him a word of advice. She wrote something which went on his sticky-board during his days at the radio station: “Accept anything on the way, take whatever, whoever gives anything but stay centred and you will reach a point where you want to go.”

“So I thought anyway I am going to be a joker, whether it is Gemini Circus or Russian Circus does not matter. But what a marvellous response I got on radio. I got 3,000 plus messages in a SMS poll about love marriages versus arranged.”

When he failed his 10th standard exams while studying in YMCA Nandanam, he felt a need to do something to make himself happy. “My ideas were different, I couldn’t focus on studies. So, I went to Vidya Sagar to entertain and teach the kids. They ended up teaching me. This is my 11th year with Vidya Sagar. It gave me everything in life. My mom used to worry. She would say he needs someone to do charity for him and he’s the one doing social work.”

Today at 29, Shiva has four films in his kitty and an offer from a producer to make his own film but he wants to wait. “I want to equip myself technically. Ultimately, I want to produce my own films. I want to take up serious issues but put them across in a funny way.”

“I signed ‘16’ because it’s a regular love story. Amudhan’s ‘Tamil Padam’ is a film I signed because I can’t sleep after reading newspapers … about terrorism, global warming, and other issues. So I decided to do something and change the world,” he says with a hint of mischief.

“And also because when people ask me what movie I am part of, I can tell them I am doing ‘Tamil Padam’. What Tamil padam? ‘Tamil Padam’. I am also doing a film called ‘Genius’ though they may change it to Arivali and ‘Thirumanam Enum Nikka’.”

Does he accept all roles he gets? “No, I rejected ‘Thozha’ and even a role in a Mani Ratnam film for which they wanted two months of dates and wanted me to cut my hair. If you want you can also add ‘Hangover’, ‘Terminator’ and ‘Spiderman’ to that list. I was busy celebrating Deepavali at home.”

Shiva hails from a big family of five sisters and a brother. “Everybody is married, they are worried about me. I am in no hurry. I want to be happy for a while,” he laughs, saying he hasn’t had a steady girlfriend as such.

FOND MEMORIES

The day Shiva auditioned for “Chennai 28” with the poem he wrote.

“Venkat Prabhu liked it but he said it’s not the character he had in mind. But he called me back in three days and also used my poem.”

The day “Chennai 28” released.

“Ajith had seen the film, he called me and said I would do great because he enjoyed the film and said that he knows how difficult it was for a rank outsider to make it in the film industry.”

The 100th day of “Chennai 28”.

He heard Kamal Haasan was watching the film and rushed to find the actor not reacting once. “He was watching even the funny scenes quite seriously. But once he met me, he said: ‘Excellent’. I took my bike and wandered around town hoping I can tell this to someone and everyone. That evening, I also got an award from him.”

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