When you decide to act in movie, what are the ingredients you look for — the story, the director or the producer?
Nothing. It is not possible to be rigid about story, director or producer. One has to think of various other commitments also. For example, one has to think of friendship.
Does that mean sometimes you have to act in movies which you don’t like?
Yes. Sometimes one has to do a story which one might not like.
Is it difficult to be a true professional?
It is not possible at all…. It might be possible for others, but I can’t. If one is very strict about all these things, there won’t be any harmony in life and relationship. I am not saying that it is very difficult to be a true professional. Personally, I won’t be able to adhere to such strict norms. I haven’t done that all these years and I don’t intend doing it now. More than my feelings, I give importance to the feelings of others.
You don’t like to hurt a friend by saying ‘no’?
You are not supposed to hurt a person mentally or physically. You have no right to do that, isn’t it so? You tell me.
I give more value to that sentiment, that’s all. I give more importance to human relationships than the success of a movie. You may say, I am not a professional at all. Now that I have grown old, I cannot change also. See, I am going to be 37 in May (laughs)
You grew up in a typical middle class atmosphere. Now you lead a totally different life. How has this change affected you?
I don’t think any such change has taken place in my life. I had a comfortable life even when I was young. There is not much change in the kind of comforts that I enjoy. It is true that when you are in the film world, you tend to move towards a more luxurious life. It is not the case of actors alone, even singers, dancers and all those connected with films have this kind of a luxurious life. I would like to live like an ordinary person, but because I am in this field, I am forced to follow certain patterns.
But I will tell you, it has not changed me at all. I have to spend more money to live like this, that’s all. Earlier, I could stay in any hotel, now I have to stay in one where there is privacy. Earlier, I could travel by bus, now I have to travel either by train or by plane. I look at all this as a part of my profession.
There is no point in feeling sad. It is all part of this profession. Not only film stars, but politicians also lose privacy. You enjoy fan adulation to some extent. But if they go on pestering you all the time, it affects your privacy. Will any one like that then? No one. But then a time comes when you have to sacrifice either your profession or your privacy. Since we give more importance to one’s profession, we sacrifice one’s privacy.
Is it because you don’t have privacy in Kerala that you shifted to Madras?
No. I am married to a girl from Madras. (Suchitra, daughter of Balaji, an actor of yesteryears). My son is studying in a school just opposite our house. If I had been married to a girl in Kerala, I would have stayed on in Kerala itself. It is as simple as that.
You once told me that you became an actor by accident.
Yes, it is true I came into this field by accident. But I had acted in my first film when I was studying my Pre-Degree in college. It was directed by a friend of mine, but the film did not see light. Before I started dreaming about a career in films, even before I finished my college, I got my next film and it became a super hit. So I never had any fascination for films. Because I was drawn into this profession without experiencing any struggle.
People say it is very difficult to get into this profession. I don’t plan anything in my life. People might not believe me. They might say I am making up stories. But it was by accident that I entered this field. Now I feel, let all things in my life happen that way.
Once when I interviewed Priyadarshan, he told me that all of you grew up together, and you two vied with each other to get the attention of girls.
All collegians do that. Is it that important? He might have been talking about his adventures.
Come on, there is nothing wrong in trying to get the attention of girls.
See, when one’s young, we might have done many such things which we were not supposed to do.
In those days, you were trying to get the attention of girls, now girls are after you. Do you find their attention a burden on you now?
No, not at all. I love their attention (laughs).
In Iruvar, your heroine was Aishwarya Rai (right). Were you bowled over by her beauty?
The thrill vanishes once you really meet the person. She was acting with me all the time. She was my heroine. I found her to be a very down to earth girl. As an actress also, she is very good. Since we were acting together, I did not feel fascinated at all. But then I know that there is no point in having a fascination! (Laughs).
There is nothing wrong in admitting that you were fascinated by her beauty.
I am telling you the truth. I am one person who admires beauty. If I had not seen Aishwarya Rai at all, I might have had a craving to see her because she was a former Miss World, But in reality she was acting with me.
What motivated you to produce films?
Mammootty, I V Sasi and Seema started a film company and made quite a few films. Much later, I started my own company, ‘Pranavam’. That was because I wanted to make movies which I like. If I had asked a producer to make a film like Kalapani, he would not have agreed. It might have been the case with many other movies too, like His Highness Abdullah, Bharatam or Kamaladalam.
Are you committed to making only good movies?
Definitely. By good movies, I mean movies with a message. It is not that I don’t have an ambition to make a movie that will be appreciated all over the world. But with our budget, we will not be able to. I feel happy and good if I can make some good films; within our budget of course.
Most film-makers say they have no responsibility towards society. Do you agree?
No, no. As a producer, I will say that my film should carry and convey some message. No, I don’t want to just make any kind of movies, my primary duty is to see that my movies carry some message.
Is making money not the first criterion?
Of course, money is also important. Because we have to give money to all those involved in a movie. But we made Kalapani (right) to prove to people that we too can make technically good movies. Whether it ran well or not is another matter. But it was well appreciated. It gave us a lot of satisfaction. It brought to us five national awards and seven state awards. I am happy about it.
Do you like your profession very much? Is it because as an actor you get to live the lives of so many people?
Yes. I am fortunate to be an actor. See, you get to see so many people, you interact with so many people and above all you get to play so many roles or live the lives of so many people which otherwise would not have been possible, even if you are to be born again and again.
It is really an experience to don so many roles in one life. Every day is an experience for you as you are a different personality every day. I never felt bored in my life. I do not know what boredom is. That is why I feel actors are very fortune. I don’t know about what others feel: this is my perspective, my opinion.
Will you ever get bored with films?
I don’t think so. I love my profession so much that I will never feel bored. But people might get bored of me after some time and throw me out! (Laughs).
What do you think is the reason for the crisis in filmdom?
Blame lies on producer and stars. Producers should take film-making seriously. Joint responsibility to bring good films is needed.
Are only producers responsible?
Producers along with directors-actors-cameraman should discuss a full script and each should explore ways to improve it. After a film is released each one comes with suggestions about improving the film. Hereafter I will act only in films which have full script. Once my present assignments are over I will demand a full script.
You could have demanded it earlier?
When I ask for a script they say it will be ready on the day of shooting. On the day of shooting the script is not ready. Even after one schedule the script is not ready. We need directors like Padmarajan-Bharathan – Aravindan who gave cinema a serious thought.
Are today’s directors to be blamed?
Today’s directors need to be more serious and a joint responsibility among the film workers to give good cinema is the need of the hour. My forthcoming film Udayananu Tharam is about filmdom and gives out a message of how cinema can be saved from perils. Vadakumnathan has a story of love – sentiment and element of suspense. After that I will do a film for Sibi Malayil, Bhadran and Renjith.
Your shift to superhuman roles and the public not receiving your films open heartedly like before…
You are right. Srinivasan and myself came out with realistic films and comedy films but today we have changed and public has changed. Yet we are planning to come together with Nadodikattu part four to suit todays’ masses. About superhuman roles, yes is not cinema a make believe? Does anyone sing and dance as in films? Cinema is falsehood.
How do you retain your youth?
Thanks for your compliment. The secret is that beauty comes from the heart. Keep your heart filled with goodness. Think positive, don’t brood over the past and don’t think too much about the future. Spread happiness all over and youth will be with you.
Have you thought about retirement?
Artistes and performers like politicians do not have retirement. When the public does not want you then I will think about retirement.